Defending champions and rising stars are expected make both San Lorenzo Valley High and Scotts Valley High strong competitors in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League’s 2012 track and field season.
Scotts Valley Falcons
With state Cross Country Champion Vanessa Fraser leading the way, the Scotts Valley High School track and field team plans on being more than mere competitors in the highly-talented Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League. To clarify the stakes, Falcon miler Abby Utic ran the 24th fastest mile in the entire state of California last season, but in the SCCAL finals, Utic finished just sixth overall.
“It is amazing the level of the talent in this area,” said Falcon Head Coach Jeremy Ball. “And still through it all, the schools track teams are so collaborative with each other. This is one of the few sports where it is totally acceptable to root for the other teams.”
Distance coach Doug Chase agrees.
“The competition in this area is just amazing,” said Chase. “There are so many blazing fast distance runners that the whole league just pushes itself to be better.”
While Utic, a senior miler has proven herself to be a burner in the distance events, she is not even the fastest in her school. Fraser, a junior, holds that position. Yet even Fraser, the Division IV state cross country champ, finished third in the league finals behind Aptos’ Nikki Hiltz and San Lorenzo Valleys’ Anna Maxwell in the mile event in 2011.
“Vanessa is such a great ambassador for the sport,” Chase said. “She is really a coaches dream in that she is so teachable, and so committed. It makes my job so easy.”
Sophomore Scott Edwards will lead the charge for the boys distance team against what is shaping up to be one of the most talented league pools in recent memory. Edwards finished fourth at the SCCAL cross country meet at Pinto Lake and will look to take that momentum into the track season.
Senior SCCAL defending champion pole-vaulter Alex Benko has his sights set on clearing 15 feet in the event this year and making the state meet.
Lady Falcon Ranae Maloney returns as the defending league champion in the girls 300-meter hurdles and hopes to guide a young group of sprinters toward success. Already, the team toppled Saint Francis in the school’s first dual meet on March 15.
San Lorenzo Valley Cougars
Head coach Rob Collins foresees 2012 as a banner year for the SLV track program.
“We might not win the SCCAL title; this is a very talented league,” Collins said. “But I expect a number of top finishers and broken records this season.”
The SLV boys will be led by junior Lucas Sinnott, who will compete in pole vault, high jump, long jump and triple jump. He will also race in several sprinting events when the team competes in relay meets.
Johnny Cooper will help the Cougars’ sprinters as the SCCAL’s defending 400-meter-dash champion. Cooper is in his senior season and will run several relays with junior sprinter Sid Chi and others.
Senior Amanda Lackides and freshman Josey Wingert are top pole vaulters for the SLV girls.
Junior thrower Cameron Kellogg hopes to retain her title in the shot put and garner the discus crown that eluded her in the SCCAL finals last season, when she took second.
Cody Johnson, also a junior, plans on defending his 800- and 1,600-meter titles from last season, according to his coach.
Johnson won the SCCAL cross country title earlier this year and though he is an 800 and 1600 meter competitor, he could very well live up to that expectation. He finished fifth in the Central Coast Section meet as a sophomore in the 800 last season, his fiercest competitors in league are expected to be his teammates Nick Hicks and Landis MacMillan.
“The boys distance program at SLV is the best boys team that I have ever coached,” Collins said. “We are looking better and better every day, and that is saying a lot, because we were really good to start.”
Hicks is the defending SCCAL champion in the 3,200-meter race. He took 11th place at the CCS finals and finished last season at the state meet, where he placed 22nd in Division IV.
“Cody, Nick and Landis are all on pace to be running sub-4:30 miles this year,” Collins said. “Jacob Hicks is a sophomore who is currently right around 4:43, but Cody ran a 4:23 in practice the other day.
“I have never had a whole group of boys that ran these kinds of times.”