May 18, 2009

2009 Season In Review

May 18, 2009

The Santa Clara Track and Field season may be over, but the coaches, head coach Tom Service (TS) and assistant coach Felipe Montoro (FM), are excited for the future. The 2009 season was one of the most successful seasons ever with many records falling throughout the year. SantaClaraBroncos.com sat down with Coach Service, and asked him to reflect on the season.

SCU: How do you feel the track season played out?

TS: It was amazing. This is by far the most successful season in the Track and Field program. We broke records at every distance this season. One of the positive things we saw this spring was the depth of the program. It was not just that one person set the record, but the next one is the second best and the third on the record list. At almost every event it is two and three people deep from this class, and I think that shows our progress as a program more than just one athlete breaking a bunch of records.

SCU: What goals did you have coming into the year? Did you meet them?

TS: We met them without a doubt. We talked about running on a consistent basis week to week and not just having one really strong meet. We don't have a championship at the end of the season, and it is difficult to keep focus throughout the year. So we use meets like Brutus Hamilton to create our own championship atmosphere. We made our own set of standards that the student-athletes had to meet by the Azusa-Pacific Invitational and those student-athletes who those times were allowed to continue on to `our championship' part of the season.

SCU: Who impressed you the most this season?

TS: That is really hard to say. Maybe the biggest surprise was Whitney Porter. She is a very dedicated member of the team, and she may be the first student-athlete I ever had who had a personal record in every race in a season. In every single race at three different distances: 1500m, 5,000m and 10,000m. She ended up breaking two school records and is No. 2 all-time in the third event. If I had to pick one individual it would be her, but Noelle Lopez and Stephanie Wilson also had good years.

FM: Robbie Reid had a very consistent and competitive sophomore season running school records in the 800m (1:54.29) and 1500m (3:54.16) in addition to breaking the 15:00 barrier in the 5k in his first attempt at the distance. Junior John Laughlin ran the No. 2 time is school history in the 800m running 1:54.34 and the No. 4 time in the 1500m running 3:59.38.

SCU: Was there an individual performance that sticks in your mind?

TS: The two top 5,000m marks were the two top performances. Stephanie Wilson right out of the gate took 22 seconds off the school record, and was only 10 seconds off the NCAA regional mark, with a time of 17:02. And then at the Occidental meet at the end of the year Whitney Porter ran extremely well and ran a 17:05. Those are probably the two top individual performances. I would also like to include Kazimir Brown who had the best sprint day ever for Santa Clara at the Brutus Hamilton Invite. She finished strong, and ran a 12.19, our current school record, in the 100m. She worked really hard all year long.

FM: Junior Stephen Koch rebounded nicely from compartment syndrome surgery to run 9:32.87 in the 3000m Steeple. He steadily improved all season despite limited training and I attribute much of that to his mental toughness and ability to focus. Also, Senior Brian Fisher closed out his collegiate track career with a win and a personal record, I was very proud of him as well.

SCU: Was there a top performance for the team in a meet?

TS: There is no specific meet that sticks out, but there were so many weeks in a row where we kept running personal bests.

SCU: Anything you want to improve on for next season?

TS: We want to go to the NCAA Regional meet. We had one regional qualifyer last year, and we wanted to be consistent with at least one runner in the regionals. We are proclaiming that 2009 will be the last year we don't have at least one runner in the NCAA Regionals.

FM: We have a lot to look forward to on the men's side in regards to the future. A trio of freshmen posted good marks. Richard Zhu is No. 5 on the 800m list at 1:56.13; Evan Hennessey is No. 5 on the 1500m list at 4:00.23; and Nhu-Nguyen Le is No. 4 on the 3000m Steeple list at 9:49.08.

SCU: What was the most important aspect of the team's success this year?

TS: The incredible senior leadership. They are so tight knit, and are such good friends. They had a tremendous amount of fun, and they were outstanding role models for the younger members of the team. They showed it in the way they practiced and the dedication to their lifestyle, training and racing. I could not have asked for four better assistant coaches and I think they had a lot to do with the success.

FM: The most important aspect of the men's track season was that the depth of good marks as well as the quality was better than every other season here at SCU. We have a long way to go to get to where we want to be but we made significant strides this season. Most encouraging is we are returning all of our top athletes, have a very solid recruiting class coming in and have a slew of young Broncos ready to make the jump to being competitive D 1 track athletes.

SCU: Is there a story of an athlete that sticks out in your mind?

TS: Anna Wheatley. She is just as important as the other seniors, even though she didn't set as many records. She is a really unique person in the way she bridged the gap between the upper and lower classmen. She has an incredible sense of humor. She left the program to go abroad during the middle of her time at Santa Clara, but she has been such a valuable addition since she returned to the team. Her value can't be measured in wins or losses, or times, but she is so outgoing and accepting, and all the members of the team look up to her. Joanna Gistand was also very accommodating. She stepped up a couple times and was there to run for us whenever we needed her and performed really well for us.

SCU: Anything else you'd like to add? A funny story.

TS: Well, sometimes a Rhodes Scholar can be clumsy. Noelle Lopez broke her hand, or we thought it is broken, during our `shake-out run' before our last meet. She tripped, fell and landed on her hand. But she didn't want to tell me and use it as an excuse because she really wanted to run in her last college meet. She ran her race and did a pretty good job, but she had a better race in her, and at the end she said, `Tom I feel down during the shake out run this morning.' We found out later it was just badly sprained.