La Jolla News Nuggets: Track and field titles; coyotes; Business People of the Year; COVID research; more

Local athletes win track and field titles, highlighted by state championship

La Jolla High School’s Payton Smith overcame a foot injury to win the girls 400-meter gold medal at the CIF State Track & Field Championships in Clovis on May 25.

Smith’s time, 53.39 seconds, was the second-fastest ever in the tournament and gave her the school record, which had been held by 1974 state champion Janice Wiser at 53.53.

“I went out like never before, and I started to think I went out too fast,” said Smith, a senior who is headed to the University of Michigan. “But the foot held up.”

Earlier last month in the CIF San Diego Section Division III finals in Valley Center, Smith won the girls 400-meter title with a time of 54.57.

La Jolla’s Chiara Dailey won Division III titles in the girls 800 meters (2:13.49), 1,600 meters (4:55.69) and 3,200 meters (10:58.79).

Fellow Viking Leed Smoole won the boys 200 meters with a time of 22.18.

La Jolla swept the 400-meter relays, with Smoole, Alex Brand, Oliver Kincaid and Elijah Vaz taking the boys title in 3:29.11 and Dailey, Elena Farrar, Sienna Gustafson and Abigail Plezia winning the girls championship in 4:06.35.

Siena Bateman of La Jolla Country Day School won three Division III girls titles: the high jump with a 5-foot-2-inch leap, the long jump (17 feet, 10.25 inches) and the triple jump (37 feet, 1.2 inches). — The San Diego Union-Tribune and La Jolla Light

Coyotes seen near Torrey Pines Road

A coyote is seen near the 2400 block of Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla.

(Lillian Chang)

Following a series of sightings from Bird Rock to Windansea, coyotes have been spotted near the 2400 block of Torrey Pines Road and the 7900 block of Caminito del Cid in La Jolla, according to residents.

Two residents told the La Jolla Light they have seen coyotes in their yards and surrounding areas and wanted to alert others in the neighborhood.

In the past year, sightings have been reported near Bird Rock Elementary and Muirlands Middle schools, near the La Jolla Bike Path and in other residential areas, even during the daytime, when coyotes typically aren’t seen. An additional sighting was reported in Windansea when a coyote was seen chasing a stray cat in a resident’s backyard.

Wildlife experts say the biggest risk from coyotes in urban areas is to small pets, and they recommend steps to avoid attracting coyotes, such as not leaving food out or leaving small animals outside in an area where there are sightings.

Motion-activated lights can be used to scare coyotes away in residential areas, officials say.

Bowers Jewelers owners given Rotary honor

Bowers Jewelers co-owners Larry and Sheila Combe have been named the 2024 Rotary Club of La Jolla Business People of the Year, an honor given to businesses that “embody the traits we look for in Rotarians,” according to club President Cindy Goodman.

Those traits include “integrity, character, compassion, service to the community … just generally good people who represent our community well,” Goodman said.

In mid-May, the Combes were presented with a plaque by the club in appreciation for their service to the community. Previous recipients included Warwick’s bookstore and Girard Gourmet.

Bowers Jewelers has been in operation in La Jolla since 1945, first on Wall Street and then at its current location at 7860 Girard Ave. Larry Combe began working there in the 1970s, first as a designer and then as a bench jeweler. He eventually became a gemologist and took over running the store with Sheila Combe, his wife, when the original owners officially retired in 1981.

La Jolla institute looking at COVID immunity from ‘breakthrough’ infections

New research from scientists at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology suggests people who received COVID-19 vaccines and then experienced what is known as “breakthrough” infections are especially well-armed against future SARS-CoV-2 infections, the researchers say.

By analyzing blood samples from study volunteers, the LJI researchers said they discovered that people who experienced symptomatic breakthrough infections develop T cells that are better at recognizing and targeting SARS-CoV-2, including the Omicron and Delta variants. The researchers describe this increased protection as an “immunity wall.”

“The virus evolves, but importantly, so does the immune system. T cells do not sit idle. Instead, they learn to recognize the parts of the virus that mutate,” said LJI professor Alessandro Sette, who co-led the study in Cell Reports Medicine with LJI professor Shane Crotty and assistant professor Alba Grifoni.

The research also is seen as an important step toward development of new vaccines against future SARS-CoV-2 variants and many other viruses with pandemic potential.

University City blueprint would double its population

University City got a step closer to becoming more urban and heavily populated when the San Diego Planning Commission approved an aggressive new growth blueprint for the area on May 30.

The blueprint for La Jolla’s neighbor, which aims to double the area’s population within 30 years, now moves to the City Council’s housing committee in mid-June and then the full council in July.

The proposal for University City would add more than 64,200 residents, nearly doubling its current population of 65,400. It would do that by adding just over 30,000 housing units. It also aims to add about 72,000 new jobs by changing zoning in many places to allow developers to build 20 million more square feet of commercial projects.

A subcommittee of the University Community Planning Group suggested adding a more modest 22,500 homes and 55,000 jobs.

For details on the University City proposal, visit

Library Summer Reading Program begins

With activities, outdoor adventures and prizes, the San Diego Public Library kicked off its annual Summer Reading Program last weekend.

The theme of this year’s program is “Read, Renew, Repeat,” encouraging readers of all ages to learn more about protecting, maintaining and restoring habitats, ecosystems, wildlife and natural resources.

This year’s program runs through Saturday, Aug. 31. Participants can earn prizes by completing 10 books or a combination of reading and activities. The activities include attending a summer reading event or story time at a library branch — including the La Jolla/Riford Library — going on a nature walk, visiting a community garden and keeping a nature journal.

The Summer Reading Program offers age categories for children (0-5 and 6-11), youths (12-17) and adults (18 and up). Reading and activities can be tracked online or on paper logs available at any of the 36 San Diego Public Library locations.

To register online, view a list of activities and recommended books and find a Summer Reading Program event, visit

MCASD launches extended hours

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego campus is at 700 Prospect St. in La Jolla.

(Maha Bazzari)

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla has introduced new extended hours, making MCASD the only large museum — a classification used by the American Alliance of Museums based on operational budget and staff size — in San Diego with regular evening hours.

MCASD is now open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays at 700 Prospect St.

Previously, MCASD’s visitor hours were 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays to Sundays, with two days of each month offering free admission. Only the third Thursday of every month offered special hours, with galleries closing at 8 p.m.

In the new model, galleries will close at 7 p.m. on the third Thursdays, and they remain free. The other free day remains the second Sunday of each month.

UC San Diego given $10M from NASA

NASA is giving UC San Diego $10 million to develop competitive proposals for using satellites to study the often-subtle and sometimes dramatic ways in which climate change is affecting Earth.

The money will be evenly split between researchers Helen Fricker and Sarah Gille, who are pursuing separate but related concepts at UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.

UC San Diego said Fricker, a glaciologist, is developing a proposal to use satellites to observe the three-dimensional structure of terrestrial ecosystems, including forests and the surface of glaciers, ice sheets and sea ice. She’s specifically interested in changes tied to human activity.

Gille, a physical oceanographer, is working on a proposal that UC San Diego said would measure ocean surface currents globally for the first time, and simultaneously measure winds over the ocean.

UCSD professor sues county in wake of Fletcher allegations

The legal repercussions surrounding the sexual assault and harassment allegations against former San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher continue to broaden more than a year after he resigned.

A UC San Diego professor last week sued San Diego County, alleging that officials wrongly pushed her out of her roles in two contracts after she reported to university leadership that a student told her Fletcher harassed her.

Lecturer Juli Beth Hinds says in the legal complaint that county officials interfered with her contracts last spring, after she formally reported what she had been told by the student.

Hinds first made her allegations public last year, when she filed a legal claim against both the county and Fletcher. The claim, which is required to be lodged before a civil lawsuit can proceed, was rejected by the county late last year.

The demand for a jury trial, first reported by CBS-TV/8, was filed in Superior Court in San Diego and names the county as the only defendant. The lawsuit does not give a specific amount of damages, but in her claim last year Hinds sought some $280,000 in lost income.

San Diego County spokesman Michael Workman said last week that he had not seen the complaint and declined to comment about the allegations. — The San Diego Union-Tribune

The San Diego Writers and Editors Guild has released “Traversing Life,” its 12th annual anthology. The collection features selected short stories, memoirs, essays and poems from 39 members of the Writers and Editors Guild, including one from La Jolla native Patricia Daly-Lipe.

Daly-Lipe is the author of 11 books, each in a different genre. She is a past president of the National League of American Pen Women’s La Jolla branch.

Her memoir “Traversing Life,” which appears in the anthology, is an ode to nature and her love of the ocean.

The anthology is available as an e-book and a paperback through Barnes & Noble, Amazon and

Peace Run coming through La Jolla

The Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, an international torch relay, will be going through La Jolla the morning of Tuesday, June 4, as part of an 87-mile run from Mission Beach to Long Beach, including a stretch along Torrey Pines Road.

Runners will offer educational presentations that promote self-esteem and the oneness of humanity, organizers said.

For more than 35 years, the Peace Run has traversed over 160 nations.

A team of runners left New York City in April and is passing the torch along the more than 10,000-mile route. The continuous relay also will run through three provinces of Canada during the four-month journey before arriving back in New York in mid-August.

The Peace Run was inspired by athlete, philosopher, artist, musician and poet Sri Chinmoy to give people a way to express their hopes for a more harmonious world.

— Compiled by La Jolla Light staff

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Local athletes win track and field titles, highlighted by state championship
La Jolla High School’s…