Ask any of the five boys’ track and field head coaches from Crescenta Valley High, Flintridge Prep, Glendale, Hoover and St. Francis for an assessment and there’s a common theme for the schools.
Hope is high as are numbers for the teams, who are prepared to challenge in league and perhaps make a deep postseason run.
Crescenta Valley enters the season with heavy aspirations within the Pacific League thanks in part to a senior-laden squad headlined by its distance corps and highlighted by Gabe Collison, Nick Beatty, Matt Manalo and Andrew Hart.
“There’s no question that the backbone of this team is the distance group,” Falcons Coach Mark Evans said. “We expect big things.”
Collison returns as the Pacific League champion in the 3,200-meter run, having held off Burbank’s Bernie Corea for the title in 9 minutes, 30.51 seconds.
Like Collison, Beatty is also a league titlist as he won the 800 crown in 1:58.12 and was runner-up in the 1,600 (4:21.27). When healthy, both Manalo and Hart both have top-five distance potential in league, which may be the type of scoring that puts Crescenta Valley over the top this year.
Outside of the distances, Evans believes he has a pair of invaluable seniors in Kyler Chin, who’s slated for both the 110-meter and 300 hurdles, and sprinter Christ Ordookhanian.
“I expect that meet [on April 22] against Arcadia to be very important and likely for league,” Evans said.
As for Flintridge Prep, the Rebels opened the season with a strong effort in claiming the Prep League cluster meet on March 4, winning the boys’ meet, 87-55, over Pasadena Poly.
The Rebels are coming off a third-place finish at the CIF Southern Section Division IV championships and boast a strong one-two punch in senior Alan Yoho and sophomore Jack Van Scoter.
Yoho, who won a CIF-SS Division V cross-country individual title in November, finished runner-up last year in the division in the 1,600 (4:16.60) and is coming off a victory in the 1,600 (4:43.53) and 3,200 (10:28.23) at the cluster meet.
Van Scoter also notched a victory, winning the 800 in 2:07.14.
Maybe the biggest lock for a league championship is the Rebels’ Barrett Weiss, the reigning Prep League pole vault champion (13-8), who returns with brother Gareth Weiss.
Year No. 2 in the tenure of Glendale Coach Andrew Dakopolos has seen a spike in his squad’s numbers as the Nitros have 190 athletes among both the varsity and frosh-soph teams.
“We’re really building this program and the ultimate goal is to win a league championship,” said Dakopolos, who waved goodbye to CIF State 200-meter fifth-place finisher Michael Davis. “We’re putting the right pieces in place and this year we’re going to take a bigger step in being able to compete.”
Dakopolos isn’t bashful in saying he’d like his squad to be more like Crescenta Valley, which is to say more well-rounded.
As for now, the Nitros will lean on senior Brian Shieh, who finished 10th last year in the league’s 3,200 finals in 10:24.38.
Glendale also has a pair of intriguing runners in junior Daniel Jung, who is coming from the gridiron, and from Belmont transfer Jesse Torres, who is a senior.
“Brian is coming off a strong cross-country season healthy and ready to run,” Dakopolos said. “Jesse is a utility runner who can go anywhere from the 400 to the 1,600, while Daniel has got some wheels on him and I think he can really put together some great times in the sprints.”
Glendale will have a trump card in its pocket during this season’s league meet as the squad has a more than adequate pole vaulter in senior Michael Williams, who also competes in the triple jump.
With 85 athletes in the program, St. Francis second-year coach Marvin Williams is optimistic about 2014.
“I think we have a lot of talent and speed and some distance guys who are doing pretty well,” Williams said. “Our pole vault is our weak spot, but we’ll be strong in the high jumps.”
Williams is hoping that senior Eric Knowles can be a little more consistent and prove even more valuable in the jumps, where Knowles was third in the triple jump (44-6) and fourth in the long jump (20-10 3/4) at the Mission League finals.
One challenge to Knowles will come from junior Glenn Ramos, who was third in the frosh-soph long jump (19-5 3/4) and fourth in the frosh-soph triple jump (37-8) last season.
One wild card in the jumping equation is freshman Izaiah Adams, who leaped 18 feet in the long jump while in middle school.
“Izaiah is probably going to do some sprinting in the future,” Williams said. “Right now, it’s open and we’ll see how we do.”
As for the distances, Williams has a trio of cross-country runners in junior brothers Adam and Jack Lyons, along with junior Griffin Taylor.
At Hoover, there appears to be a balance of youth and experience for veteran coach Jack Sallakian.
There’s no doubt the Tornadoes were dealt quite a blow with the graduation of seniors Kenneth Trejo and Jeremy Zadoorian.
Yet, senior Daniel Ramas and junior Vladimir Climasevschii are trying to make up for the losses in the distances.
Senior hurdler Andrew Alvarado and senior sprinter Sangwook Ha are also two capable runners within the Pacific League.