Updated May 22, 2021 - 4:23 pm
Bishop Gorman’s Zachariah Branch is drawing plenty of recruiting attention as a wide receiver. Whichever school the sophomore eventually chooses likely will get a top athlete for its track and field program as well.
Branch provided a strong hint to which school that might be, wearing an arm sleeve Saturday with “SC” on it to represent Southern California.
“USC is definitely a top choice, but I’m looking everywhere in the country,” he said.
Whether it’s USC or another top athletic program, Branch showed at the Class 5A Southern Region meet at Liberty High School what he could do on the track. He won the 100- and 200-meter dashes with times of 10.43 and 21.14 seconds, respectively, and the long jump with a personal best of 24 feet.
Branch could have made it four-for-four, but opted not to compete in the triple jump to focus elsewhere. His best leap of 46-4¼ on April 30 is the state’s best.
Not “competing at regionals or state last year due to COVID, it was really exciting to get this atmosphere,” Branch said. “Feeding off the crowded energized me and pushed me to run faster, so it was a great experience.”
His performance helped lead the deep Gorman team to the boys title. The Gaels totaled 191.5 points to beat second-place Palo Verde, which had 85. Coronado was third with 83.5 points.
Gorman coach Bree Thorpe said her school benefited from holding in-person classes, allowing the Gaels to put together a more complete team.
“I think that’s allowed our team to look stronger than maybe the other teams in the area right now,” Thorpe said. “If you look closely at the other teams, it’s not the depth right now. I think that’s due to COVID, not that their teams are actually weaker. Usually, it’s more of a dog fight, but we’ve maintained the depth.”
The girls side had a familiar winner in Centennial, which won its 11th consecutive regional championship. Because of COVID-19 concerns again canceling the state meet, the Bulldogs won’t be able to extend their streak of a record nine consecutive state titles for at least another year.
But given all the challenges this season, the Bulldogs will more than take this title. Coach Roy Session is used to having 200 to 300 students try out, but only 50 came out this year.
Those who competed had to find creative ways to stay in shape, even if that meant training at a local park.
“They persevered,” Session said. “It would’ve been so easy to just give up. To still be able to come out and compete (with lower numbers) and win a title on the girls side is really satisfying for them, too.”
The Bulldogs totaled 136 points to beat out second-place Coronado, which had 99. Liberty was third with 97.
Centennial’s Xiamara Young won the 100 (personal best 12.31) and long jump (18-8). She finished second in the triple jump (37-8).
“Our coaches stayed on top of us to stay in shape and don’t just sit around the house, even with COVID,” Young said. “It really helped us, and you could see it.”