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Sara Pettinger’s double-win day helps Mission Viejo girls capture O.C. Championships title

MISSION VIEJO — Mission Viejo shot put and discus thrower Sara Pettinger competed Saturday in her home environment.

The Orange County Championships were held at Mission Viejo High. That might seem to make one of her less-stressful competitions, being among familiar surroundings and throwing surfaces.


“I think it’s the most pressure I’ve felt,” she said. “Most eyes here are on me.”

The eyes watched Pettinger win the shot put and the discus. Her throws of 43 feet, 7¾ inches in the shot put and 148-10 were not her season’s best, but plenty good enough for victory in both.

Orange Lutheran junior Rebel Tuinuknafe finished second in the shot put at 42-2½. Trabuco Hills senior Abby Klinge was second in the discus at 141-6.

Pettinger, who signed with Cal, was the Orange County leader in both events going into the meet, with a 44-3 in the shot put and 155-10 in the discus.

That leader status was a major reason she felt pressure to have a great day.

“I always liked being the underdog in sports,” Pettinger said, “and that wasn’t the case today.”

Pettinger was named the top girls field event athlete of the meet. Fountain Valley junior Kaho Cichon was named the meet’s best distance runner. She who won the 800 at 2:11.16. San Clemente junior Caroline Hawkes, the winner of the 200 and 400, was named best sprinter

Mission Viejo won the girls team championship with 80 points. Dana Hills was second at 50 points and Santa Margarita was third at 44 points.

Mission Viejo senior Haley Johnson won the 100 meters. She wanted to put up her season’s best time and she did. Her 12.74 was significantly better than her previous best of 12.99.

“My plans was to ‘PR’ (personal record) and I did above that,” Johnson said. “I just wanted to get out with head head down and follow through and trust my training. It feels amazing. It’s my senior year, and I wanted to go out with a bang.”

Hawkes figured she might have run even faster had the county leader in the 200 and 400, Beckman’s Jocelyn Niemiec, been in the meet.

“I definitely run better with better competition,” Hawkes said after the 400. “I’m just happy I ran a decent time. I got first place and I got a good workout in.”

Cichon ran her personal best in the 800 for the second week in a row. Last week she finished fourth at the Arcadia Invitational with a time of 2:13.29. She improved upon that Saturday while winning the event in 2:11.16, which came close to eclipsing the meet record of 2:10.47 set by Anne St. Geme of Corona del Mar in 2006.

Cichon led Saturday’s 800 from the start.

“After Arcadia last week I knew had to get out faster, although I really don’t like leading early,” she said. “I didn’t expect to get out that fast but I’m glad I did.”

Aliso Niguel senior Emily Richards was a double winner. She won the 1,600 in a personal-best of 4:55.21 – her personal best and the fastest time in the county this season — and the 3,200 in 10:49.45.

She looked fresh in the 3,200, the second of her distance runs, taking an early lead and expanding it during the eight laps.

“I knew that I’m a little bit better at that (3,200) distance,” said Richards, a senior who will run at UC San Diego. “I wasn’t’ sure if I’d have a finishing kick, so I just wanted to try to form a gap. It’s been a dream of mine to be O.C. champion. I’ve been thinking about it all week, and to come away with a championship at both events makes me very happy.”

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