Track and Field Preview
Cross Country Stars Lead 2017 Track Team
SAN LUIS OBISPO (March 21, 2017)— The Cuesta Men’s and Women’s Track and Field teams are building on a historic 2016 Cross Country season. The Cougars have depth and talent in all of the long distance events and should break several school records before the end of the 2017 CCCAA State Championship in mid-May. The Cougars are also expecting to be strong in the pole-vault, their other traditional strength, however they have also put together the program’s strongest group of throwers in years. The Cougars should have success all over the meet. The men won their program’s first conference title ever in 2016 and are in strong position to repeat. The women may lack the depth to be title contenders, but should remain in the loop’s first division and could crack the Top 10 at the CCCAA State Meet for the first time in over a decade.
Coach Brian Locher (7th Year) has assembled a top-flight training staff for his program. Locher, who is also the Cougars’ cross-country coach, specializes in the distance events and is joined, as he has been for the past six campaigns, by distance coach and current Mathematics Professor Mike Kinter. Former UCSB Assistant Coach Tara Kulikov is back for fourth season on the staff. Kulikov handles the short distances and works with the sprinters and hurdlers. Former All American Decathlete David Burton will tutor the multi-sport athletes and the jumps. Throws Coach Zach Wales returns for his second season on staff and is building the foundation for a strong unit. He will get some help in the javelin from Karin Smith, who is back after a year off. This year’s newcomer is Brad Pickett, who takes over the Cougars’ vaunted pole-vault program.
MEN’S TRACK AND FIELD
The men’s team was the 2016 Western State Conference Champion for the first time in the program’s history and the Cougars have no plans to make it a one-time thing. The Cougars will be strong in the distance events, pole vault and, throws, but could also surprise in the sprints too. Coach Brian Locher demurred about his usually ambitious goals for his defending champions by saying, “The early season results look good for Cuesta. We hope to be top three in conference and between 5-10 in the state. The guys need to be ready to compete.”
Decathlon- 2016 CCCAA State Qualifying Decathlete Aaron Cheek (Fresno) finished last season in 5th place, one spot off all-State Honors, and is primed for a huge sophomore campaign. He holds the Cuesta Decathlon record with 6,373 points and is expected to break that mark and compete for a CCCAA State title. Locher is very glad to have Cheek back for another run at a title. He says, “He is so fit! It is awesome! Our goal is a State title, but he will do whatever we need.” Cheek has already run a career-best :15.29 in the 110 hurdles, 6th all time at Cuesta, and is among the team’s leaders in the 400-meter run, long jump, shot put, javelin, discus and, pole vault.
Distance (800-10K)- Cuesta brings back most of the talent from the cross-country season and, as usual, the harriers will score a ton of points for the Cougars. 2016 CCCAA State Cross Country Champion Sean McDermott (Kings Beach) is poised to win the team’s first individual CCCAA State title since 2011. He has already set a Cuesta record in the 3,000-meter run (8:31.36) and also ranks in the school’s Top 5 for the 5,000 and 10,000-meter runs. He is a mileage runner and is the man to beat this season. Locher says, “He is the best in the State. He has a mazing fitness.” McDermott will run all of the distance events and may also slip back into the Steeplechase. He missed a Cuesta record in that event by less than half a second and finished 5th at the 2016 CCCAA State Championship, one spot off all-State Honors. McDermott also qualified for the 2016 CCCAA State Meet in the 10,000-meter run and will lead a bunch of his fellow harriers on the track. All-WSC Cross Country selections and CCCAA State Cross Country Meet veterans Cam Goldstone (Tahoe City), Aramis Knox (SLO HS), Cody Griffith (Yreka HS) and, Kobi Kelly (SLO HS) will join McDermott in the longer events. Locher has a vision on how to get the most out of this talented squad around McDermott. He says, “Kobi is going to be our 10K-guy and Cam and Knox can span the 5K and 10K,” he added, “Cody is in his best shape ever!” 2016 All-State Harrier Trevor Stangle (Camarillo HS) will concentrate on the 800 and 1,500-meter runs and should also challenge for a State title.
Throws (Discus, Shot Put, Hammer, Javelin)- The Cougars have their deepest group of throwers in years and the unit should make a big impact on the team’s success. Freshman Evan Stork (SLO HS) has been a surprise for the Cougars this year and already ranks #2 all time at Cuesta in the Hammer (145-8). He is less than eight feet off the mark of 152-10 set by former NCAA All American Matt Godbehere in 1993. Stork is currently the team leader in shot put and discus, which could be his best event. Locher also has high expectations for former mid-distance runner Cristian Rojas (Vista) and thinks he has the potential to eclipse both Stork and Godbehere in the hammer. He says, “He is a good athlete and super motivated in the hammer.” Sophomore Jake Smith (Atascadero HS) has worked all off-season and is ready for a big sophomore season. Smith should score at conference and make a run for the CCCAA State Meet in several events. Colorado School of Mines transfer Jack McGee (Atascadero HS) also shows promise in the discus.
Pole Vault- The Cougars should once again dominate the Pole Vault and send more athletes to the CCCAA State Meet. Cuesta has qualified fourteen vaulters, including two last year, for the CCCAA State Meet since 2001. The men’s team has won four individual CCCAA State titles in its 51-year history and all have been in the pole vault. The Cougars have a new vault coach and a new group of vaulters, but expect the same results. Freshmen Mike Escobar (San Mateo) and Cian Fernandez (SLO HS), the former PAC-7 Champion, are both potential state meet qualifiers. Locher sees them both over 15-feet, which should earn them all state honors. Of the 14 CCCAA State Qualifiers over the past 15 years, ten have earned All State Honors (Top 4), including Joe Dreyer and Joe Reeves in 2016.
Sprints (100-400)- Decathlete Aaron Cheek (Fresno) is the Cougars’ top sprinter and should form solid relay teams with Pole Vaulter Mike Escobar (San Mateo) and natural sprinters Nick Maldonado (SLO HS) and Long Beach State transfer Zachary Arthur (Port Hueneme). Locher says of Escobar, “He is looking fast and can sprint.” Maldonado will handle most of the short distance duties as the Cougars wait for Arthur to shake off some early season injuries. Maldonado earned Most Improved honors for the Tigers and looks set to make a move in the 200-meter run. Locher says, “He will run everything from the 100 to 400, but looks strongest n the 200.”
WOMEN’S TRACK & FIELD
The women have built a solid team that, while short on depth, should score at the Western State Conference Meet and send a few talented individuals to the 2017 CCCAA State Championships. Coach Brian Locher says, “We are young on the women’s side and need to mature over the season.”
Distance (800-10K)- The Cougars’ distance events begin with 2016 CCCAA Cross Country State Champion Miranda Daschian (Atascadero HS), who has not lost a race to a California Community College Athletic Association during her sophomore campaign. The Cougars expect Daschian to continue her historic dominance and add to the Cuesta Record Book. She sat out the 2015 cross country season, but qualified for the 2016 CCCAA State Track & Field Championships and appears to have spent the past season getting faster every week. Daschian qualified for the 1,500-meter run last season and finished in 5th place, one spot off all-State Honors. She has already set new Cuesta records in the 3,000 (9:55.72) and 5,000-meter (17:01.47) runs and is in range to post new records, or at least Top 10 marks, in the 400, 800 and, 10,000 meter runs. Coach Locher says, “She is running with a lot of confidence and could sweep the distance events at state. We would also love to sweep them in conference. She is very fit and is going to be chasing records.” Savannah Rigney (Lake Arrowhead) has been battling injuries since she arrived on campus. She only competed in two races during cross country season, but earned all-WSC Second Team at the conference championships and finished 38th at the CCCAA State Meet. Locher says, “She likes the distance events and is solid in the 5K and 10K.” A healthy Rigney will be a bonus for the Cougars, however Cuesta does have depth on the track. Freshmen Grace Booth (Bakersfield) and Briana Nunez (South Pasadena HS) are both very solid in the 10,000-meter run and should score in any event of a mile. Harriers Kirstyn Mills (Oceano: Arroyo Grande HS) and Samantha Duston (Los Osos: Morro Bay HS) are also expected to score points in the distance events. Mills is a two-time CCCAA State Cross Country Meet qualifier and is in her final season of competition for the Cougars. Locher says, “Kirstyn is a fighter.” Duston enjoyed an impressive rookie season in cross country and Locher thinks she can enjoy a break-out spring, “She is fit, very fit. She is very improved and has a fantastic level of grit.” Freshmen Diana Drew (Walnut Creek) and Ellie Estrada (Torrance HS) will add depth in the distance events.
Pole Vault- The Cougars have won five CCCAA State Titles in this event since 2004 and qualified 25 vaulters for the CCCAA State meet since it became a championship event in 1999. Pole Vault is the program’s signature event. Two-time CCCAA State Champion Augusta Thomasson (Texas A&M) has moved on, so it is up to a new crop of skyjumpers to bring home the hardware. Former Los Padres League Champion Roxanne Nolan (Morro Bay HS) leads talented group of newcomers at the pit. Locher says, “She is a hard worker and very fit. She has All State potential. She could be the champ.” The Cougars should have three vaulters at the 2017 CCCAA State Meet with Nolan and fellow all-LPL Vaulter Krista Trigueiro (Lompoc: Cabrillo HS), along with Macy Rivas (Bakersfield), a former stand-out in Bakersfield. All three vaulters should be well over the 10-foot mark. Freshman Zoe Hignel (Salinas) is working on her technique and strength and gives the Cougars a quartet of young vaulters capable at scoring at the championship meets.
Sprints/Relays (100-200)- The Cougars do not have a natural sprinter in the stable, but have enough team speed to pull other athletes out of the best events to help in small meets and on relays. Long Jumper Tatum Smith (Lockwood: Templeton HS) will handle the sprint duties and be joined by the vaulters on the 4x100 Relay. The Cougars can also drop down middle distance star Kirsten Purcell (Atascadero HS) for the relays and the 200-meter dash. Fellow Middle Distance Runner Amanda Bourgault (Templeton HS) and Hurdler Gwen Lundy (Paso Robles HS) will also play a role on the relays. Distance Stars Miranda Daschian (Atascadero HS) and Savannah Rigney (Lake Arrowhead) may also drop down to put in a leg on the 4x400 Relay.
Middle Distance (400-800)- Freshmen Kirsten Purcell (Atascadero HS) and Amanda Bourgault (Templeton HS) will handle the Mid-Distance events for the Cougars. Purcell has state potential and will threaten Cuesta’s 400-meter record, while Bourgault could also reach the Top 10 in the event. Locher says of Purcell, “She is very talented and could be one of the best. The 400 is her best event, but she will also run the 200 and 800, as well as anchor our relays.”
Throws (Discus, Shot Put, Hammer, Javelin)- Freshman Kylie Phillips (Colfax HS) is the only athlete currently slated to compete in these events. Phillips has been improving quickly and has the ability to make the Top 10 list in both the Discus and the Shot Put. Locher says, “She is improving in all her throws and will score in conference.”
Hurdles (110-400)- PAC 8 Champion Gwen Lundy (Paso Robles HS) is joining the team late after basketball season. Lundy also missed the first half of basketball season, due to injury, but appears to be back in shape. She averaged 4.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in 13 games and was back in the starting line-up for the last four games of the season. Locher says, “She is a legitimate hurdler and could make state.” Lundy’s specialty was the 300-meter hurdles, so the Cougars expect her to run both the 100 and 400 hurdles at the collegiate level. Lundy’s athleticism lends to putting her in other events, she also high jumped for the BearCats, however the coaches plan to take it slow as she continues to return to 100% after her injuries.”
Jumps (High Jump, Long Jump, Triple Jump)- Freshman Tatum Smith (Lockwood: Templeton HS) is the Cougars’ jump specialist, but will also get some help from Pole Vaulter Roxanne Nolan (Morro Bay HS). Locher says, “Tatum came in late, but is running fast.” The Cougars expect Smith to challenge the program’s Top 10 and she has the potential to advance beyond the conference meet in the long jump. Nolan will focus on the pole vault, but will also slide over to the high jump pit. Her best leap, so far, is 4’ 9”, which is only two inches off the Cougars’ Top 10 and would score at the WSC meet. Hurdler Gwen Lundy (Paso Robles HS), if healthy, could move over and be the team’s top leaper.
Cuesta College Athletic Programs are funded through a combined effort of the College District, Associated Students of Cuesta College, and The Athletic Booster Club.