Track Primed for a Big 2016 Season


SAN LUIS OBISPO (February 12, 2016)— The Cuesta Men’s and Women’s Track and Field teams began their season at the Battle of the Regions and have already posted two total All Time Top 10 Cuesta Marks. Both Cuesta teams finished in the Top 10 in the Western State Conference in 2015 and should climb higher this season, especially the women, who were 7th. The women bring back 2015 CCCAA State Pole Vault Champion Augusta Thomason (San Diego) and have enough quality athletes in the fold to score at the 2015 CCCAA State Track & Field Championships this May; they finished 28th last year. In 2015 the men finished a solid 4th in the Western State Conference circuit before becoming the first Cuesta team in history to land in the Top 10 at the CCCAA State Track & Field Championships. The men’s team returns three athletes from the 2015 CCCAA State Meet team that finished 10th and have added enough talent to move into the single digit standings this May.

         Coach Brian Locher (6th Year) has assembled a top-flight training staff for his program. Locher also coaxed 1972 Olympic Bronze Medalist Jan Johnson for his 11th season with the Cuesta pole-vaulters. Locher, the Cougars cross-country coach, specializes in the distance events and is joined, as he has been for the past five campaigns, by distance coach and current Mathematics Professor Mike Kinter. Former UCSB Assistant Coach Tara Kulikov is back for third 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. The Cougars also brought back Jani Johnson, the former Cuesta Head Coach and wife of the Pole Vault Coach, to help with the mid-distance runners, while newcomer Zach Wales will mentor the throwers.



The men does not have last year’s depth, but has a enough talent to send a strong contingent back to the CCCAA State Meet. Coach Brian Locher says of the team, “We have a lot of guys with state potential. We are not as well rounded as a team and lost depth in the throws. We should be in the mix for conference.”

Decathlon- 2015 CCCAA State Meet Qualifier Matt Tyler (Livermore) is one of three Cuesta returners back for another run at a CCCAA State title. Tyler scratched himself from the state meet competition for personal reasons, but is back for his sophomore campaign both stronger and faster. Coach Locher says, “He could challenge the school record and (compete for) a state title.” Tyler ranks 10th all time at Cuesta for both the long jump (21-8.5) and high jump (6-4.75), but is 7th all time in the decathlon. His score of 5,727 points trails record holder Geoff Bradshaw’s 1989 mark of 6,246. Freshmen Aaron Cheek (Fresno) and Jaron Thexton (Pleasanton) also have the all around athleticism to compete in the most demanding event in track & field. Locher says of Cheeks, “He will be solid in the Decathlon. He does everything well and is a possible state qualifier. He will run the sprints and hurdles too.” Thexton had a rough fall, but should be running all around the meets if healthy. Locher says, “He will do pole vault and the high and long jumps. He is out best shot putter and decent in the hurdles, javelin and discus. He has potential in the Decathlon.”

Sprints (100-200)- Freshmen Raymond Smith (SLO HS) and the aptly named Robert Fast (Stafford HS, VA) join fellow newcomers Yoel Campos (Fairfax) and Joshua Querfurth (Carmel Valley HS) in the sprints. Locher says of Smith, “He is kind of a beast! He can do anything from 100 to 800. He will also do the relays and hurdles. He has good form and he may run 400 doubles (400 run and hurdles).” Fast is best suited for the 200, but can still compete and win in longer and shorter races. Locher says, “He is a racer for sure! He will also run the opening leg of our relays.” The Cougars can also pull in their decathletes and All State Pole Vaulter Joe Dreyer (Lafayette), if needed. Locher says of Dreyer, “He could be the best sprinter on the team.”

Middle Distance (400-800)- All-WSC Performer Devon Hallinan (Fairfax) is already running at his 2015 pace and joins two-time CCCAA State Cross Country Meet Qualifier Daniel Van Beurden (Los Osos: Morro Bay HS) to give Cuesta a pair of top-flight runners in the middle distance events. Locher says of Hallinan, “The sky is the limit with him. He knows how to win and when he moves up to the 800, he will have state meet potential.” Van Beurden’s fall success should lead him into a big spring. Locher says, “He is in great shape.” All the Decathletes, as well as Sprinters Robert Fast (Stafford, HS, VA) and Raymond Smith (SLO HS) can extend into the 400 meters, while distance runners Roberto Bazan (Buellton: Santa Ynez HS) and Lawrence Stokes (Las Vegas, NV) both have enough burst to drop to the 800 meters.

Distance (1500-10K)- 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. All State Harrier Sean McDermott (Kings Beach) and two-time CCCAA State Cross Country Qualifier Roberto Bazan (Buellton: Santa Ynez HS) lead a pack. McDermott is the third Cuesta Harrier to earn All State Honors in the past four seasons, but only the fifth in the team’s 44-year history. Locher says, “He has a DI (NCAA) mentality. He is going to challenge records. We are just going to have to see what (event) he is best at. He has the potential to win at state and conference.” McDermott ran the 800m in high school, where he was state runner-up, but will extend his distance this year. Sophomore Roberto Bazan (Buellton: Santa Ynez HS) already owns marks in Cuesta’s Top 10 for the 3K, 5K and 10K runs and should push up the rankings this year and challenge for a state meet berth.  Locher says of Bazan, “He has thoroughbred talent. He is a step away from the state meet. He has fitness and can still improve.” Freshman Aramis Knox (SLO HS) and San Jose State transfer Samuel Ryan (Clovis) are both also coming off big cross country seasons. Knox earned all-WSC Second Team honors and was the Cuesta’s second harrier across the finish line at the CCCAA State Meet. Locher says, “He is slaying the miles! He has been learning patience and we are looking at him for the 10K.” Ryan joined McDermott as an all-WSC First Team Harrier and will join him in the front of the pack in most of the distance events. Sophomore Adam Driedger (Canyon Country) and fellow Harriers Lawrence Stokes (Las Vegas, NV) and Rhys Couser (Ladera Ranch), who were part of Cuesta’s best-ever cross country team in 2014 (10th Place), are back for track this season. Stokes and Driedger will hold down the steeplechase. Stokes reached the 2015 CCCAA State Meet as a Steepler and finished 8th at the event. Locher says, “He is coming off a hip injury (which derailed his cross country season), but we expect him to make a push for the (school) record and return to state.”    Injuries have also held Driedger back and Locher says, “He has never really been healthy. We are looking for consistency from him. He is really working hard now.” Couser will be a miler for the Cougars.

Hurdles (110-400)- Decathlete Matt Tyler (Livermore) was only the fourth best 110m hurdler at Cuesta College in 2015, however the three faster hurdlers, who are all part of Cuesta All Time Top 10, have moved on. Tyler missed the Top 10 by less than three-tenths of a second, so this event shall continue to be a strength for the Cougars. Freshmen Aaron Cheek (Fresno) and Jaron Thexton (Pleasanton) are also multi-event athletes with potential in the hurdles. Sophomore Thomas Stehly (Valley Center HS) and Freshman Max Raunegger (Vienna, AUS) add more depth and talent to give the Cougars a powerful hurdle crew. Stehly specializes in the 400m Hurdles and should score points in the event this year. Locher says, “He is faster and fitter.” Raunegger could be dangerous as the season progresses. Locher says, “He has the best hurdle form on the team.”

Jumps (High Jump, Long Jump, Triple Jump)- The Cougars do not have a jumps specialist this year, so they will count on their Decathletes to score points in these events.   2015 State Qualifier Matt Tyler (Livermore) and Freshmen Aaron Cheek (Fresno) and Jaron Thexton (Pleasanton) are legitimate contenders in these events. Tyler already ranks in Cuesta’s All Time Top 10 in both the long and high jumps.

Throws (Discus, Shot Put, Hammer, Javelin)- Sophomore Jordan Holst (Tahoma) and Freshman Knute Meyer (St Helena HS) are the Cougars’ only pure throwers and have shown improvement early in the season. Holst is the Cougars’ Team Captain and should score consistently is his best events, the hammer and discus. Meyer and the Decathletes also have the potential to score in all of the throws.  

Pole Vault- The Cougars should once again dominate the Pole Vault and send more athletes to the CCCAA State Meet. Cuesta has qualified a dozen vaulters for the CCCAA State Meet since 2001 and all four of Cuesta’s individual state titles have been in pole vault. 2015 All State Pole Vaulter Joe Dreyer (Lafayette) finished 4th at the 2015 CCCAA State Meet, but his leap of 15-4 was well below his season best of 15-10.25. Locher says, “He is killing it! He is jumping better than ever, consistently over 16-feet.” The Cougars expect Dreyer to be back in the State Title mix this May.   2015 All Western State Conference performer Parker Johnson (Middleton HS, WI) is back and ready to follow Dreyer into the state’s elite. Locher says, “He is finding consistency. He is focused and really strong right now. He has the potential to go to state.” Freshman Joe Reeves (Arroyo Grande HS) is the newcomer to the group, but Locher feels he may be the best. Locher says, “He is the real deal! He is a state (State Meet) guy and should challenge 17-feet.”



The women have built a solid team that, while short on depth, should score at the Western State Conference Meet and a few talented individuals are expected to advance to the 2016 CCCAA State Championships.  

Heptathlon- 2015 Cuesta College Soccer MVP Christen Engel (Forest Hill) will also be the key to Cuesta Track & Field’s team success. Engel’s versatility and talent will fill a lot of holes in the Cougars’ line up. Coach Locher raves about Engel and knows she is raw, but with a lot of potential. He says, “I love her attitude. She is willing to try anything and picks things up quickly. She does not have experience, but she is developing and will work them out. She is a worker and has good power. She will score all over, especially throws, and can score at SoCal (CCCAA Regional Meet) in the hep (Heptathlon).”

Sprints (100-200)- Sophomore Roisin Andrews (San Diego) was the Cougars’ top sprinter in 2015 and is back after enjoying a strong soccer season in the fall. Andrews  should be faster this year and she will need to be, because the Cougars are counting on her to score points. She posted the Cougars best times in all the sprint events in 2015- 100m (:14.18), 200m (:29.39), 400m (1:06.34) and, 400 hurdles (1:12.31). All-WSC Performer Christine Moreno (Oceano: Arroyo Grande HS) is also back, and faster, after redshirting in 2015. Moreno already earned herself another spot on the Cuesta's All Time Top 10. She dropped down to the 200-meter dash at the season-opening Battle of the Regions and her time of :26.81 landed her in 5th place all time at Cuesta College. Locher says, “She is our Team Captain. She is steady, very fit. She should return to regionals.” Freshman Claire Kristo (Palmdale) and Heptathlete Christen Engel (Forest Hill) will add depth in the sprints and help with the relays.

Middle Distance (400-800)- 2014 CCCAA Regional Qualifier Christine Moreno (Oceano: Arroyo Grande HS) reached the CCCAA Regional Meet in the 400-meter run. She ranks 3rd all time in the event and is one of only three Cuesta women to break a minute in the race. She is also very solid in the 800m (2:24.45) and with an extra year of training she should also improve her time in that event. This should be a big year for Moreno. All-WSC Harrier Claire Farrell (Paso Robles HS) used her cross country season to build a base for track. She qualified for the CCCAA State Meet in cross country and should join Moreno to give the Cougars a strong brace of middle distance runners. Locher says, “She is a dark horse with regional potential.”

Distance (1500-10K)- 2014 Cross Country MVP Josselyn Beutler (Monterey HS) demonstrated her versatility in 2015 by running the gamut from 800m to 10,000m. She has a great base after qualifying for the 2015 CCCAA State Cross Country Meet and will use her endurance to wear down competitors in the long distance events. Locher says, “Her focus is on the 10K.” Beutler already ranks 9th in Cuesta All Time Top 10 in that event. The shorter distances will be the domain of freshmen Taylor Witcher (Nipomo HS), Madeline Ogle (Morro Bay HS) and, Miranda Dashian (Atascadero HS). Witcher was named to the 2015 All-WSC Second Team as a harrier and enjoyed her best race at the 2015 CCCAA State Cross Country Meet. Locher says, “She is a competitor! She could be our steepler. She has good form and a good chance to make state.” Ogle appears to be poised for a big season. Locher says, “I am really enjoying working with her. She loves volume training.” Ogle, the former Las Padres League 1600-yard Champion, has already made her mark at the collegiate level and earned a spot on Cuesta’s All Time Top 10. In the first competition of her collegiate career, Ogle moved into 8th place all time at Cuesta in the 3,000-meter run and, although it is not a CCCAA State Meet event, her time of 10:55.04 compares with other all time runners in both the mile and 5K. Daschian is a miler with post-season capability. Locher says, “She could be good!” Freshman Ashley Keading (Rio Nido) adds depth in all of the distance events. She was injured all fall and is making her way back this spring.

Hurdles (110-400)- Soccer players Roisin Andrews (San Diego) and Christen Engel (Forest Hill) will join Freshman Claire Kristo (Palmdale) for all the hurdle events. Andrews was the Cougars’ top 400 hurdler in 2015. She ranks 10th all time at Cuesta in the 400 hurdles (1:12.31).     

Jumps (High Jump, Long Jump, Triple Jump)- Heptathlete Christen Engel (Forest Hill) is the only athlete currently slated to compete in these events.

Throws (Discus, Shot Put, Hammer, Javelin)- Heptathlete Christen Engel (Forest Hill) is the only athlete currently slated to compete in these events.

Pole Vault- Defending 2015 CCCAA State Champion Augusta Thomason (San Diego) signed an athletic scholarship to attend and compete for Texas A & M in 2017. She was selected as the 2015 Western State Conference Field Athlete of the Year and led all of community college with her season-best leap of 13' 4.75". She won both the WSC title and the CCCAA State title almost unopposed.  The standout freshman won her state title by more than a foot, yet her victory did not require her best effort. Thomason’s state winning mark of 12’ 4” left her a foot short of her record mark. Her CCCAA State title marked Cuesta’s tenth individual winner and fourth pole vault crown. She is also the 14th Cuesta pole vaulter to earn All State (Top 4) honors. Thomason claimed Cuesta’s 13th Western State Conference pole vault title, which includes a ten-year streak from 2002-2011. She is one of only seven Cuesta Women’s Track and Field athletes to ever earn conference MVP honors.



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