With an all-comers track and field meet, one never quite knows who exactly will show up.
Meet officials, participants and spectators alike got a pleasant surprise at the San Diego Summer Nights all-comers meet held July 19 at Sweetwater High School. Present either on the track on in the infield were American race walking legend Tim Seaman, NAIA All-American Ryan Maize, 2014 California Community College Assistant Coach of the Year Lyle Barton and 2012 Paralympic medalist Blake Leeper.
Tim Latham, who recently announced his retirement after 30 years as Sweetwater High’s cross country and track and field coach, served as meet director.
It made for a highly intriguing evening of competition.
“It’s a fun meet for everyone, we do it as a fundraiser,” explained Latham, who will serve as a volunteer coach this coming season with San Diego City College’s men’s cross country team.
The San Diego Summer Nights series wrapped up July 26 at San Diego City College. The five total meets offered an opportunity for competitors of all ages to indulge in their favorite events – or even try new ones – in a relaxed but still competitive environment.
The summer meets are fun to watch as well as participate in. All ages are welcome.
The Summer Nights series kicked off June 7 at University City High School, followed by meets June 21 at San Diego Mesa College and July 5 at Hoover High School.
There were five running events and four field events contested at the Sweetwater meet.
Running events included the 100-meter hurdles, 200- and 400-meter dashes and 1,500- and 3,000-meter runs.
Field events included the pole vault, long jump, high jump and shot put.
Barton, who grew up and attended schools in South County, has served as Cuyamaca College’s pole vault and decathlon coach for the past 17 years. He has reaped success wherever he has coached at the prep level, including West Hills, Grossmont, El Capitan and El Cajon Valley high schools.
He earned recognition as the 2014 Assistant Coach of the Year for Men’s Track and Field by the California Community College Cross Country and Track Coaches Association. The award recognized him for his collegiality and willingness to coach other athletes when their institutions were unable to provide qualified personnel.
Barton said the honor “really means a lot” to him.
“I was a former athlete and I never had any coaching to help me get to that next level,” he said in a profile posted on the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District website. “That always bothered me. I always felt that if I would ever get the chance, I’d jump at the opportunity.”
Barton said becoming a good pole vaulter is something that is developed.
“It’s not natural to run as fast as you can, throw your hands over your head, and jump straight up,” Barton related in the district website profile. “Then, if you think about it, you’re putting your faith in a pole that is less than two inches in diameter.
“It really takes a unique person to do it.”
Barton, who ran the San Diego Multi-Event Championship meet for 18 years, currently serves as an assistant coach at El Capitan High School and Cuyamaca College.
He brought several promising pole vaulters to compete at the July 19 meet. They were able to soak up valuable experience while enjoying the camaraderie of their teammates.
“It’s a lot more fun,” Barton said of competing in summer meets. “The kids are a lot more relaxed, there’s not the pressure of the high school meets and stuff,” Barton said. “They seem to excel a lot better without all that pressure. It makes it more fun for them during the season as well. They take a little break from this after the summer and come back more refreshed, renewed and ready to jump.”
So far, Barton said he’s seen a lot of potential so far this summer that could translate into success during the high school season.
“I’ve got a good group of freshmen who will be sophomores next year; I’ve got a solid core of juniors who will be seniors this year,” he said. “I’m looking to have a good solid season next year with El Cap.”
Andrew Higgins is an incoming senior at El Capitan; he’s among those looking to improve in the pit.
“To have fun is the mainly it,” Higgins said of competing in the summer meets. “I come here for the camaraderie with the follow pole vaulters, and the other events, the hurdles and distances, hang out with those guys.”
His high school best is 10-6. He is building toward eclipsing that in the upcoming season.
“I’ve been training,” he said. “I’ve picked up water polo and wrestling. I should get the actual muscle.”
Former Carlsbad High vaulter Trevor Martin cleared 12-6 to place third overall in the SuHi meet field behind Jacob Rice (Rancho Bernardo) and Charles Kendall, who both cleared 13-0.
Martin picked up the pole on a whim. He had not competed for two years since setting a personal record at 13-7 at the Escondido Invitational his senior year in 2016.
“It’s great to be back,” he said. “I go to school (now) at San Luis Obispo and coach up there. My athletes there said I couldn’t do it again it, so I came out here and decided to jump. It’s a lot harder than I remember it being. I haven’t worked out since CIF finals, so it definitely shows me what I have to work on.”
Walk, don’t run
Seaman serves as Cuyamaca College’s head men’s cross country coach during the fall and women’s head track and field coach during the spring. He was present at the July 19 meet to gauge the competition as well as watch his daughter Isabella compete.
Seaman is excited about the upcoming community college cross country season, especially after Cuyamaca College recently unveiled its new track.
“It cost the school $2.5 million to put in,” explained Seaman, calling the money well spent. “It’s nice, and safe for the athletes to train on.”
Seaman competed in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic games while representing the United States. He made a habit of winning the 5,000-meter race walk distance at the USA Track and Field Championships. He won 10 consecutive indoor titles from 1998 to 2007 and then added championships in 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014.
He competed in the grueling 20 km race walk event at both the Sydney and Athens Summer Games.
He won seven U.S. titles in the 20 km distance and the 2010 title in the 10 km distance.
His American record in the 10 km race walk of 39:22.7 still stands.
He retired from active high-level competition in February 2014 with an astounding eight national records.
“I finished my career on a high note by winning indoor nationals for the 14th time,” Seaman said. “I won by less than one-half second.”
The 14 indoor championships are the most by any American in the event.
As a distance runner/walker, he obviously has a keen eye for talent.
Former Otay Ranch High School standout Harold Thomas is Cuyamaca College’s star recruit for the upcoming men’s cross country season. Seaman lists former Helix standout Robert Marin as the Coyotes’ top returner.
Former West Hills’ standout Ryan Modica is Cuyamaca’s top East County high school recruit.
“We’re going to have a very young team,” Seaman assessed. “That’s OK. We’ll build and go from there.”
Many athletes are finding that competing at Cuyamaca College can open doors for them at the next level. Steven Lepe, a former standout at Monte Vista High School, signed a letter of intent to compete at Missouri Valley College at the end of last season.
Lepe posted the fourth-fastest time at the 2016 state community college cross country championship meet to help the Coyotes finish fourth overall in the team standings.
Located in Marshall, Missouri, the Vikings are coming off their best season in program history. Missouri Valley College won the Heart of America Athletic Conference and finished 11th at the NAIA Cross Country National Championships.
Another Cuyamaca standout, Alexander Bellavance, converted to race walking after advice from Seaman. That road led him to the World Race Walking Team Championships in Rome.
Bellavance is hoping to qualify for the 2020 Olympic games in the race-walk discipline.
The Sweetwater meet featured several former prep and college San Diego County notables still very much in their prime.
Maize, a former El Capitan High School and Cal-State University San Marcos standout, competed in the 3,000-meter run. The NAIA All-American at CSU-San Marcos lapped the field (midway through the race) to win the event in 9:05.84.
Former Sweetwater High School and Cuyamaca standout Bryan Alvarado finished a close second in 9:06.27.
Alvarado competed in both the 1,500 and 3,000 running events on his old home track. He won the 1,500-meter event in 4:06.37 — nearly a second ahead of his nearest competitor, Charlie Gamble.
Maize will join the Cuyamaca College coaching staff this fall as an assistant coach.
Top showings in the pole vault at the Sweetwater meet also included Jackson Kadowaki at 11-6, David Pfeifer (El Capitan) and Trent Clark (Oceanside), both at 11-0, Andrew Raleigh (El Capitan) at 10-6. Garret Brown and Dedrick Girley, both at 10-0.
Raleigh tied his career best previous set in June’s San Diego decathlon at University City High School.
Olympian High School standout Kolumbia Page scored high in the 200- and 400-meter dash events.
Page, who capped her junior year by an appearance at the state prelims in the 4x400-meter relay with teammates Jasmine Simmons, Adaeze Noble and Alexis Meeks (the quartet placed 15th in 3:54.97), timed 26.47 in the 200 and 58.60 in the 400.
Page’s time in the 400 was second best in the field of 12 runners and a new personal record; her time in the 200 was third best in the field of 21 runners.
She set a personal record in the 200 dash with a time of 25.96 at last May’s San Diego Section prelims and recorded a then PR in the 400 at 58.80 also at the CIF prelim meet.
Former Grossmont High and Cuyamaca College standout Nick Christie captured the men’s racewalk in 5:53.09 at the San Diego City College Summer Nights meet while Bellavance finished third in 6:25.20.
Seaman, 45, recorded the fourth-best time in the event named in his honor in 6:26.20 while Maize finished sixth in 9:41.82.
Maize won the open mile at the SDCC meet in 4:29.00 while Alvarado won the 5,000-meter race in 15:42.81.
For complete results of the San Diego Summer Nights series, visit the website at www.sdtrackmag.com.
Leeper, whose name is familiar to anyone who has followed international competition over the past two Paralympic Games, competed against able-bodied runners in both the 200 and 400 dashes at the Sweetwater all-comers meet.
Competing at an all-comers meet in National City might a bit humbling for a talent of his magnitude, but it represented another leg on his comeback trail after falling into a void following his greatest achievements on the oval.
Turn the clock back five years and Leeper was on the same track challenging South African megastar Oscar Pistorius at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
Leeper, dubbed the “American Blade Runner,” is back in training for the upcoming track circuit in Europe. He was unable to compete in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics while serving a ban for using an illegal substance but is now focused on regaining some of his former majesty on the track.
He placed 12th at June’s USA outdoor national track and field championship meet in Sacramento while running against able-bodied athletes. His time was an American Paralympic record 45.25 seconds for 400 meters.
Leeper is gaining ground on Pistorius, who now sits in a South African jail after being convicted of murdering his girlfriend in 2013. Pistorius’s personal best time in the distance is 45.07.
Texas A&M’s Fred Kerley won this year’s USA outdoor title in the 400 meters in 44.03.
Leeper posted the top times in both the 200 and 400 events at the Sweetwater meet while competing against able-bodied runners. He timed 21.76 in the 200 dash and 46.73 in the longer 400 distance.
He also competed in the summer-closing event at San Diego City College, posting the third-best time in the 100 dash (11.26) and winning the 400 dash (46.70).
A resident-athlete at the former U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista (but who is now living in Hollywood and training at UCLA), Leeper captured the silver medal in the 400 dash and the bronze medal in the 200 dash at the 2012 London Games.
He retains a positive outlook about his future endeavors on the oval.
“I was at the 2012 Paralympic Games,” he said with a big-hearted smile. “You have to understand there were 85,000 people in the stands. It was my first Paralympic Games. It was just amazing to represent my country.
“Just to go over there first was amazing. But to come back with two medals, to say that was a great experience, I was happy, but I was hungry for some more, and that’s what leads me to being here right now.”
Preps on parade
The 2017 high school cross country season steps off Aug. 26 with the Vaquero Stampede at Lindo Lake Park in Lakeside, followed Sept. 1 with the West Hills Wolf Pack Invitational.
The Mustang Invitational steps off the season for preps in South County Sept. 8 at Rohr Park in Chula Vista.
The South Bay Invitational follows Sept. 22, also at Rohr Park. Jaime Romero and Latham will serve as meet co-directors for the long-running event, now in its 44th edition.
The San Diego Multi-Event Championships took place June 10-11 at new host University City High School.
Calvin Christian alumnus Ryan Thomsen won the 10-event boys decathlon with a score of 6,320 points while Westview’s Alexxis Brown topped the seven-event girls heptathlon field with 3,718 points.
Calvin Christian’s Jordan Thomsen finished second in the 16-deep decathlon with 5,543 points, followed by El Capitan’s Alex Breisacher (third with 3,875 points) and Pfeifer (fourth with 3,823 points).
Serra’s Konane Gurfield finished second in the heptathlon with 3,091 points while Rancho Bernardo’s Kelly Marsh placed third with 2,752 points. El Capitan’s Carolinh Calvert finished fourth in the 10-deep field with 2,743 points.
El Capitan was well represented in the decathlon field with 12 athletes and in the heptathlon with five athletes.
San Diego Multi-Event Championships
Boys Decathlon Top Scorers
1. Ryan Thomsen (unattached) 6,320
2. Jordan Thomsen (Calvin Christian) 5,543
3. Alex Breisacher (El Capitan) 3,875
4. David Pfeifer (El Capitan) 3,823
5. Jared Sarrge (El Capitan) 3,685
6. Gabriel Robledo (El Capitan) 3,588
7. Matt Machnov (El Capitan) 3,538
8. Adam Friszell (El Capitan) 3,249
9. Leland Hayley (El Capitan) 3,217
10. Andrew Raleigh (El Capitan) 3,191
11. Aren Cobb (Serra) 3,013
12. Elijah Maxcy (El Capitan) 2,910
13. Max Reed (El Capitan) 2,728
14. Kevin Herrera (Serra) 2,589
15. Trey Brown (El Capitan) 2,572
16. Andrew Higgins (El Capitan) 2,529
Girls Heptathlon Top Scorers
1. Alexxis Brown (Westview) 3,718
2. Konane Gurfield (Serra) 3,091
3. Kelly Marsh (Rancho Bernardo) 2,752
4. Carolinh Calvewrt (El Capitan) 2,743
5. Jordi Niederberger (El Capitan) 2,548
6. Jennifer Carbajal (El Capitan) 2,475
7. Madeleine Masser-Frye (University City) 2,144
8. Abrianna Sebastiani (University City) 1,934
9. Erin Williams (El Capitan) 1,253
10. Courtney Reiter (El Capitan) 1,236