GLENDALE — A bumper crop of talented local boys’ track and field athletes will look to make their mark during the upcoming season. Some will seek personal-best marks, while others will shoot to win league championships in their respective events.
For the first time in four seasons, Zack Torres won’t be a part of the mix. Torres, the reigning All-Area Boys’ Track and Field Athlete of the Year, moved on to UCLA after winning Pacific League titles in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races and advancing to the state meet last season.
“It does seem strange that he’s not here anymore, but you’ve got to move on,” Crescenta Valley Coach Mark Evans said. “It’s always good to have good diversity.”
With the season set to begin, any or all of the five area programs might have somebody in the wings who could equal or surpass what Torres accomplished.
They’ll soon find out.
At Crescenta Valley, the projected top distance runners are sophomores Mike Duncan and Josh Carlos. They will be joined by Zack Balonick on the pole vault, sprinters James Maturan, Devin Cullen and Parker Averill, shot put athlete Nick Psaltis and high jumper Andrew Roide, who won the league title last season.
“I think we’ll have a good mix and we will be stronger in the field events,” Evans said.
As was the case in recent seasons, Flintridge Prep will be stocked with a quality group of distance runners. Many of them helped the Rebels finish third in the Division V race at the CIF State Cross Country Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno last November. Among those on board are Kevin Heintz, Jason Bunn and Omar Martin.
Flintridge Prep will have a new coach in Nick Ponticello, who replaces Kenny Fisher after serving as the team’s distance coach last season. Ponticello said the Rebels might be in position to be one of the top teams in the Prep League.
“I’ve seen our long distance runners perform a lot and they are talented,” Ponticello said. “We are very young and we have a lot of underclassmen who will make up the bulk of the team.”
Flintridge Prep will return steady sprinter Tyler Shum, jumper Daniel Jung and Sam Cook at shot put and discus.
Hoover lost sprinter Harold Tabora to graduation. Tabora, now a member of the Glendale Community College men’s track and field program, won the Pacific League championship in the 400 last season.
All isn’t lost for the Tornadoes, who will return Joseph Roach. Roach, a junior, won the league championship in the 300 intermediate hurdles last season and will be counted on to provide leadership for Coach Jack Sallakian’s squad.
Hoover will have a younger team that will include sprinters Alex Mikhailpoor and Cory Trevino, distance runner Paul Ingram and jumper Luke Tabayoyong.
“We will have a smaller team than we have had in past years, but there’s some talent,” Sallakian said.
Glendale Coach Bob Bailey will seek better results from the Nitros. Glendale appears to have added a bit more depth than it’s had in recent seasons.
The Nitros will have a pair of talented sprinters in Paul Archer and Dillon Fuller to try to help Glendale stay in many of its meets. They will also have distance runners Chris Canlas and John Canlas and hurdler Rasul Landery in the fold.
“We have solidified several positions,” Bailey said. “We have a good group of sprinters who are not seniors.”
St. Francis will once again have a tough challenge on its hands competing in the Mission League against the likes of Harvard-Westlake, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame and Loyola. The Golden Knights will possess plenty of athleticism in several events, led by distance runner Kyle Palazzolo and TJ Tree in the hurdles.
St. Francis will also have a core of Chris Cabrera (throws), David Chirikian (shot put), Max Ruppel (sprints) and Dietrich Riley (sprints).
“Our first meet [against Harvard-Westlake on Thursday] will be a shot in the dark,” St. Francis Coach Pat Donovan said. “It will be a bit of a wake-up call that we are going to need for the regular season.
“That challenges our athletes to be able to put in their best performances.”