I have an affinity for track and field. I appreciate its Zen, since the whole idea of a race is not to beat the other runners but to compete against the little voice inside of you that wants you to quit.
For more than 30 years, I was the “clerk of the course” for the Glendale Community College track program. I coordinated the timers and judges at dual and invitational meets.
The experience was extraordinary because I witnessed a program that was undefeated for 14 consecutive years. Since I was the faculty adviser for the athletic program, many of the athletes were my students.
Last April, I was excited to attend a track meet between La Cañada and Monrovia high schools. I heard about this kid, David Miketta, who was tearing up the league in the pole vault. His father, Brett, was my former student and also an accomplished vaulter at Glendale Community College.
There is a definitive aura about a track meet, an undefined spirit that is aptly captured in a quote from the movie “Chariots of Fire.”
“Everyone runs in her own way or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? ... From within.”
That’s the magic of track and field.
Track and field at La Cañada High is burgeoning and allows 100 students to partake in an endeavor that feeds their bodies, minds and souls as they learn that all accomplishment evolves from risk.
The coaches of La Cañada track and field — Andy Di Conti, Pete McGill and Dave Appleton — inspire this competitive philosophy and the athlete’s quest for excellence.
They are former student-athletes and coaches of GCC . Head coach Di Conti and assistant coach McGill were former students of mine, and Appleton was Glendale’s vault as well as long- and triple-jump coach.
The meet against Monrovia was a reunion. Former La Cañada High School and GCC pole vault record holder Bob White attended to see if David Miketta would beat his record of 15 feet, 6 inches (15:6) back when he vaulted for the La Cañada Spartans.
Incidentally, Appleton coached both White and Brett Miketta when they vaulted at Glendale College.
The La Cañada track coaches were eminent athletes. Di Conti, a La Cañada High School graduate, still holds the Glendale record in the mile and 1,500. He was an All-American both in cross country as well as track and field.
McGill, also a La Cañada graduate, was an All-American in cross country and track and field and the Southern California Champion in the 5,000 during his Glendale days. He currently is a world-class runner, competing at the master’s level.
McGill is also a contributing writer to Runner’s World and the Running Times and the author of “Speed Runner,” “Build Your Running Body” and “The Born-Again Runner.”
Appleton holds the long-jump record at Occidental College, and he coached GCC record holders in the high jump and triple jump.
Such resumes account for the success of the La Cañada track and field program. They are assisted by coaches Rodemich, James and Johnson.
Let me return to the pole vault event where David Miketta would attempt to break White’s record. Initially, the young athlete broke his current vault record at 15:3. He cleared it by 1 foot. Subsequently, the bar was set at 15:6. He planned to tie White’s record then break it.
“Concentrate on technique,” Appleton said. From the sidelines, former teammates Brett Miketta and White shouted encouragement.
David Miketta took a deep breath and sprinted down the runway. He planted the pole and up he flew. He cleared the bar, but it wobbled. Everyone breathlessly stared as the bar fell. The record held. White turned to me and said, “This kid’s good. He’ll get it next season.”