Track and Field: The Final Stretch

Haley+Juarez+%2810%29+and+Ashley+Petersen+%289%29+taking+team+pictures+as+track+season+comes+to+an+end%2C+one+of+the+last+times+this+school+year+wearing+their+uniform.+

Kaitlyn Kittredge

Haley Juarez (10) and Ashley Petersen (9) taking team pictures as track season comes to an end, one of the last times this school year wearing their uniform.

Kaitlyn Kittredge, Sports Editor

As the school year wraps up, the track season is coming to an end, leaving many athletes satisfied with all the new records they accomplished this year. 

From heavily improved personal records to receiving a spot in California’s top fifty times, it’s amazing how far these athletes have come. 

Starting off strong, senior Josh Kato set a new pole vaulting record for SJHHS at the Arcadia Invitational with a 14’9”. He has been in track for three years, focusing strictly on pole vaulting since he was a sophomore. 

“I started pole vaulting 3 years ago, and at the time, it was just so I had something active to do. But I started doing really well, and during my sophomore season, I realized that I could actually get a shot at the school record. I have been so close to that record mark for about two years now, and finally hitting it felt like lifting a weight off my shoulders. I’ve been so thankful to have such a supportive team behind me the whole time, and I’m glad I could reach the heights I knew I would be capable of,” mentioned Kato, proud of finally reaching his goal. 

Although Kato is very satisfied with his latest marks, he is always striving to do better, as any good athlete should. As of right now, his  goal for the end of the season is 15 feet. This was also his goal last year, however due to COVID he was not able to reach it. 

“Although it’s definitely cool, setting school records isn’t really why I do track. I just do it to have fun, so at the end of the day, as long as I’m having fun, I don’t care what happens in terms of breaking records and hitting big heights,” said Kato. 

The pole vaulting coaches this year are Brian Okumura and BJ Vandrovec, and many members of track have mentioned that they wouldn’t be anywhere close to where they are today without their guidance. 

Both of them are more than just my coaches to me. They are some of my best friends, and fostering that relationship with them and my teammates has been one of the biggest reasons as to why I love pole vaulting and track as a whole so much”

— Kato

“Both of them are more than just my coaches to me. They are some of my best friends, and fostering that relationship with them and my teammates has been one of the biggest reasons as to why I love pole vaulting and track as a whole so much,” adds Kato. 

Adam Salen, a senior and member of track for three years, has also made quite the impression this season. Salen competes in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 4X100m, and the 4X400m. At the moment, Salen is ranked third best in the 100 and 400 meter here at SJHHS, working to rank third or better in the 200 m.  

Salen is currently pushing himself to place in the top fifty in California for all of his events, currently standing in the top 50 in California for the 200m, as well as in the 400m. 

“Knowing that I’m the third fastest person in the 100m, that’s been on the track team since San Juan Hills became a school is a huge deal for me. I also just recently placed third fastest at SJHHS for the 400m as well, which is super exciting for me. But I couldn’t have done it without the help of coach Summers and my teammates because we always push each other every practice to work harder,” said Salen. 

As each athlete has different tactics of motivation and perseverance for themself, they also have traditions and superstitions related to their performance. 

For Salen specifically, “Having a ritual or superstition is definitely what makes [him] as fast as [he is]. So [he] always has Chick-Fil-A or Canes before a race (always) and has [his]man Adam Elshiwick pray for [him]!”

Another athlete that has been a part of track for three years is Shirin Dunker, a junior currently competing in the 800m and 4 x 400 relay. Shirin has always performed well in her races, and this season is placing emphasis on bettering herself each race, improving her times each meet. 

Most of the time it’s a mental game with yourself to see if you are willing to push yourself to be faster. Even when I’m at my limit, I know that I can go faster if I focus in on my strides and breathing”

— Dunker

“Most of the time it’s a mental game with yourself to see if you are willing to push yourself to be faster. Even when I’m at my limit, I know that I can go faster if I focus in on my strides and breathing. So when someone is in front of me, those thoughts run through my mind and help focus me to beat them,” said Dunker. 

A repeating theme that came up in every interview with the track athletes was the team aspect and how different it is from other sports. 

“Track is interesting because we are all competing against ourselves to do the best we possibly can. How well other people do has no effect on how well you can do. So at least for pole vaulting, it creates an environment where when someone does well, everyone cheers, even vaulters on the other teams. We are all in it together, as cheesy as that sounds. There aren’t many other sports where you are happy when your opponent does well,” mentions Kato. 

Although at first glance it may seem as if track is really an individual sport, it is actually the total opposite. Each individuals’ times are put together to form the rankings for the SJH team as a whole, literally and metaphorically bringing every athlete together. 

“Even though it’s an individual sport, the team aspect of track is so fun! I love my team! We motivate each other by cheering for each other at the meets and running recovery days together,” said Emili Peo, a junior on the track team. 

As incredible as it is to set a new school record, track is all about breaking your individual record, referred to as a ‘PR’. Track takes tons of talented students and brings them together to push one another and compete for San Juan Hills. Make sure to check them out here on the SJH Athletics website.