Mission Viejo's Mark Gleason had always enjoyed team sports from a distance. He admired the group effort that made football, baseball or basketball so appealing, but he didn't have much experience celebrating with teammates.
Gleason usually had to depend on himself to achieve the feeling of success. Running track and cross-country and wrestling did involve team competitions, but that hardly affected Gleason's individual performances.
All that changed during his senior track season, when he was asked to stretch his abilities and sacrifice individual accomplishments in favor of team goals.
Instead of running in two events at the Orange County Championships, he would run three. Instead of getting a nice break between the 1,600 and 3,200 at the Southern Section divisional championships, he would run the 800 in between.
Gleason's extra efforts paid off with South Coast League, Orange County and Southern Section Division II titles for the Diablos.
"I chose to triple because it got me excited for the team," said Gleason, The Times Orange County boys' track and field athlete of the year. "Even though it did hamper my performances at Masters and state, I would do it again in a heartbeat."
At the Orange County Championships in April, Gleason broke two meet records while winning the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 races. It was one of the most memorable performances in the 24-year history of the meet and lifted Mission Viejo to its first boys' county title.
"My best race and favorite race this season was the 800 at the Orange County Championships," Gleason said. "That was my middle race and it was probably the first time I had run the 800 in a very competitive style."
Four weeks later, Gleason became only the second athlete to win section division titles in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200.
"The 3,200 at [the divisional final] would have probably been my favorite race, but I was hurting too bad," Gleason said. "I was delusional, not caring what I did."
With three team titles in hand, Gleason finally began to show some wear the next week at the Masters Meet. After qualifying for the state finals in the 1,600, he finished last in the 3,200.
The following weekend he culminated his impressive season with a fifth-place finish in the 1,600 at the state championships.
"I wouldn't want to go back and change anything," said Gleason, who will attend Utah State next season. "If I was gunning for state, I would have doubled in the mile and two-mile only. But it's high school, make it fun. I wanted a variety. I never got tired of one thing."
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ALL COUNTY BOYS' TRACK AND FIELD
Mission Viejo, Sr.
Only second runner to win the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 events at the Southern Section divisional championships. Won same three events at the Orange County Championships. Finished fifth at state in the mile.
Mater Dei, Sr.
Won section Division II titles with the county's top times in the 100 (10.55) and 200 (21.17) this season. Also swept both events at the Orange County Championships and qualified for state in the 200.
Villa Park, Sr.
Recorded the county's top hand time (48.8) while winning the Century League title, then won the section Division II championship with the best electronic time (49.33).
Mission Viejo, Jr.
Defeated Gleason for the South Coast League title by running the top time in the county this season (1:54.86). Finished second at Division II championships. State qualifier in 1,600.
JAMES BROWN III
110 high hurdles
Dana Hills, Sr.
Placed first at Trabuco Hills Invitational and Orange County Championships. Won Division II title with county's second-fastest time (14.25). Finished second at Masters Meet, sixth at state.
300 intermediate hurdles
Only state champion in Orange County this season. Ran fastest time in state during qualifying (37.14), then second best (37.17) in finals. Won Orange County and Division II titles.
El Modena, Sr.
Jumped county-best 6-9 at Masters Meet, which was top qualifying mark for state. Finished third in state. Won Orange County title, was second in Division II. Cleared 6-8 1/4 early in season.
Mater Dei, So.
Had the three top marks in county this season. Jumped 22-3 in first week of season, 22-4 1/2 in dual meet vs. San Clemente and 22-11 3/4 in Division II finals, which placed him second.
Multi-event athlete finished third at Masters. Also finished third in Division I. Won Sunset League titles in triple jump and both hurdle events. Had third-best mark in county (46-1).
Had top mark (60-3) and was only county athlete to clear 60 feet. Finished third in Division I, third at Orange County Championships and second in the competitive Sunset League.
Huntington Beach, Jr.
Won shot put and discus at Orange County Championships, then finished fourth in discus that night at Arcadia Invitational. Placed second in Division I. Had county's top mark (174-10 1/2).
Fountain Valley, Sr.
Finished fourth at Division I championships with season-best vault of 14-0. Only county vaulter to qualify for Masters Meet, where he finished seventh. Placed second in Sunset League.
GENE GURULE, Coach
Led Diablos to first title at Orange County Championships and first divisional title in 29th season at Mission Viejo. Directed squad to decisive 208-point effort at South Coast League finals.
ANDRE ALLEN (Jr.), DANTE MAXEY (Sr.), JULIUS WILLIAMS (Sr.), DeSHAUN FOSTER (Sr.)
400 relay Tustin
Finished first at Orange County Championships and won Division II title. Finished sixth at Masters while running fastest time in county this season (42.20).
TYLER THOMPSON (Fr.), NIC BRUTOCAO (Sr.), GARRETT THOMPSON (Jr.), MATT BROOKS (Sr.)
1,600 relay Santa Margarita
Undefeated vs. county opponents. First at Orange County Championships and Division II. Sixth at Masters while running fastest time in county this season (3:19.23).
THE SECOND TEAM
DeShaun Foster, Tustin, Sr.
Time: 10.75. Finished second to McNair at Orange County Championships.
Matt Brooks, Santa Margarita, Sr.
Time: 21.67. Finished third in Division II. Won Sea View League titles in 100 and 200.
Steve Hilferty, Mater Dei, Jr.
Time: 49.40. Finished second at Orange County Championships and second to Davis in Division II.
Mark Gleason, Mission Viejo, Sr.
Time: 1:54.92. Won Division II and Orange County titles. Dropped event after divisional finals.
Christian Kemp, Mission Viejo, Jr.
Time: 4:13.54. Placed seventh in state, second at Orange County Championships and Division II.
Jose Herrera, Loara, Jr.
Time: 9:13.19. State finalist. Second to Gleason at Orange County Championships and Division II.
110 high hurdles
Al Williams, Irvine, Sr.
Time: 14.23. Chased Brown all season but produced county's top time at Sea View League finals.
300 int. hurdles
Jim Bittner, Katella, Sr.
Time: 38.78. Finished third at Orange County Championships, fourth in Division II.
Time: 42.29. James Rankin (Jr.), Nic Brutocao (Sr.), Garrett Thompson (Jr.), Matt Brooks (Sr.) and Phil Sardis (So.). Placed second at Orange County Championships and third in Division II., *
Time: 3:20.32. Jeff Hall (Sr.), Jason Arellano (Sr.), Kyle Quatman (Sr.), Hodari Garcia (Sr.) and John Moos (Sr.). Finished fourth in Division I and eighth at Masters. Had second-best time n county (3:20.32).
Robert Fuentes, Saddleback, Sr.
Height: 6-7. Won Division II title. Produced county's second-best mark.
Dante Maxey, Tustin, Sr.
Length: 22-2 1/4. Placed first at Orange County Championships and Irvine Invitational.
Ian Jennings, Edison, Sr.
Length: 46-5 1/2. Placed first at Orange County Championships and had county's leading mark.
Bobby Sparks, Esperanza, Jr.
Height: 15-2. Produced county's top mark vs. Marina. First at Orange County Championships.
Sam Lightbody, Huntington Beach, Jr.
Distance: 56-1 1/2. Placed first at Orange County Championships, second in Division I.
Distance: 173-5. Division I champion finished third at Orange County Championships.