*Editor’s note: This is the ninth in a 12-part series previewing Davis High’s spring sports.
With a roster of nearly 200 athletes it’s a wonder Davis High track and field coach Spencer Elliott can even remember all the names.
The fact that he and his staff have not only kept everything running (and jumping and throwing) smoothly, but also have guided the Blue Devils to uncharted section and state success over the past decade, is mind-blowing.
One year removed from a Sac-Joaquin Section boys title, DHS came back strong in 2012, taking third place in both the boys and girls divisions. After qualifying more than 20 athletes to the SJS Masters meet, the locals capped the spectacular season by sending a 4×400 girls relay quartet to the CIF state meet, where they set a school record and finished 13th in California.
With another 180 Devils set to begin the 2013 campaign on Saturday at the Sacramento State High School Classic, Elliott spilled the beans on his secrets for track and field glory:
“Success comes from a philosophy shared across our staff,” the popular DHS English teacher said in an email to The Enterprise this week.
“1. We have high expectations from our athletes and we let them know that;
“2. We create a culture where athletes support one another;
“3. As coaches, we are never too proud to learn something new;
“4. (This is my own philosophy) I surround myself with great event coaches and give them complete control over their respective events.”
Award-winning Devil harrier coach Bill Gregg, who has led the boys and girls cross country teams to 20 section titles, is back to guide a group of distance runners who should score big points come postseason time. International track and field consultant Hideshi Okamoto leads DHS high jumpers, while Holmes physical education teacher Leo Sacramento — himself an accomplished collegiate leaper — coaches horizontal jumpers.
Local hurdlers get instruction from former UC Davis hurdler Jonathan Defty, a kindergarten teacher at Fairfield Elementary. Former Aggie thrower Erin Randolf coaches Devil hurlers and Rick Harper, who still competes himself, shows DHS pole vaulters the tricks of the trade.
Throw in former Blue Devil standouts Tim Groth and Drew Petersen — who ran for UCD — and this coaching staff probably could make noise as competitors in a college meet.
“I’ve said this before but it’s true: I believe that we have the best coaching staff in California,” said Elliott, who was an accomplished Aggie trackster himself.
But even the best group of coaches needs talent to mold — and this Blue Devil squad has it in spades. Buckle up, because the list of athletes expected to do well this year is staggering …
Senior pole vaulter Courtney Meyer tops the list of returning stars as she broke a 16-year-old school record by going 10-9 at last week’s intersquad meet. According to Elliott, Meyer could compete for a state championship — a feat former Devil Ian Rock accomplished in 2011.
The potent group of runners is paced by girls competitors Laney Teaford and Sophie Meads and boys standouts Jack Scranton and Paul Mohr. Freshman Fiona O’Keeffe — fresh off of a state cross country meet appearance — should be a welcome addition.
Teaford joined Ellie Eaton and Han-Ah Sumner — and the graduated Hannah Krovetz — in running 3:56.39 to establish that 4×400 relay record at the 2012 state meet. Just a junior, Meads already has a 2011 Masters 3,200 title and a 2012 section crown in the 1,600 under her belt and has run in four state championship meets (three in cross country).
Scranton missed postseason track competition last season with an injury, but is the two-time defending SJS cross country champion.
“Our distance runners will be a force on both teams,” Elliott said of his DHS boys and girls. “We also have a fantastic group of long sprinters.”
Senior Nick Denton is back with eyes on the state meet as both a shot put and discus thrower. Elliott said Rose Stephens, who burst on the hurdles scene last year as a junior, “had a terrific offseason … and should have a big season.”
Other Davis names to watch are jumpers Kyle Clancy, Liz Lee and Caitlin Mazzoleni — who just finished a stint as a solid contributor to the Blue Devil girls playoff basketball squad — and pole vaulter Spencer LaHaye.
The entire Devil team can take a page from senior jumpers Jeremy Chen and Kunwoo Hong; Elliott says “nobody works harder than” they do.
The Division I section meet is set for May 15 and 17, with the SJS Masters scheduled for May 23 and 25. CIF presents the state meet on May 31 and June 1.
“We’re training for May,” Elliott said. “I expect we’ll have some great performances (before that), but really, we prepare for May. Everything else, Saturday included, is preparation.”
— Reach Chris Saur at email@example.com or 530-747-8049. Follow him on Twitter at @CSaurDEsports