By Julius Pak
Six of eight athletes the varsity track and field team sent to the CIF Masters meet May 25 qualified to compete at the state meet in Clovis, Calif. this weekend. Competitors that finished in the top five of each event or reached a qualifying mark advanced to the State Preliminaries June 1.
“It was a great performance and we were thrilled to get all of those athletes to the State Meet,” Head of Program and Varsity Head Coach Jonas Koolsbergen said. “Today was just another tremendous day and another great step for another great season.”
The team’s performance at Cerritos College followed the CIF Finals a week before, where the track team won a collective four CIF titles.
At Masters, Amy Weissenbach ’12 captured her third title in a row in the 800-meter event, the first female in section history to do so in the event. Weissenbach, who holds the national female high school record for the 800, finished in 2:05.55, the fastest and third fastest time clocked this season in the state and the country, respectively.
“It is a rarified event,” Koolsbergen said. “It is achieved by the best the [CIF] Southern Section has ever seen.”
Coming back from a blister injury that forced her to drop out of several events at CIF Finals, Cami Chapus ’12 won her race in the 1600-meter event. Her 4:43.90 is the fastest time run in the state this year.
The two co-captains, paired with freshmen Imani Cook-Gist ’15 and Shea Copeland ’15, were just edged out from capturing the Masters title in the 4×400-meter relay by less than 0.4 seconds, but they still qualified for the state meet.
Last year, the team finished in first place, but an official disqualified Weissenbach and her team for crossing into her opponent’s path while attempting to make a pass on the home stretch. The coaches called for a video replay, but the disqualification ruling stood.
“Of course our individual events are so important to us, but we really want that 4×4,” Chapus said. “Since there are freshmen coming in with us, we really wanted to go up to the state meet and give them the best shot we have. Our freshmen are so fast, Amy [Weissenbach] and I both know. We’re just so close.”
Standout underclassmen David Manahan ’14 and Garrett Robinson ’15 both narrowly missed out on competing at their first state meet by less than half a second. Robinson missed the qualifying time by forty-six-hundredths of a second.
Despite posting the 15th fastest time in the state, Manahan took sixth place in the heat, and was forty-seven-hundredths of a second away from meeting the state qualifying time.
“Their performances as freshmen and sophomores at that level speak volumes at their overall talent and their future as track and field athletes,” Koolsbergen said. “Both have tremendous and tremendous callings.”
On the field, high jumper Alex Florent ’15 qualified for the State meet with her second-place finish. Although she jumped the same height as the winner at 5’7”, she needed more jumps to clear the bar than her opponent, and thus finished as runner-up.
Ben Gaylord ’13 just made the cut for State in the pole vault event since he met the cutoff height of 15’3”.
The Wolverines’ delegation to the state meet this year includes a record number of four freshmen.
“This is the greatest freshman class in the history of the school,” Koolsbergen said. “In these years there’s been one freshman who has ever run in the Masters meet, and this year we’ve had four. The freshman class is better than ever.”
Chapus said the quality of the freshman class bodes well for the future of the team.
“Especially since these freshmen are getting the experience that they’re getting at the Masters Meet and some of them are going into the State Meet next week, by their junior year, the State Meet will be their traditional meet,” she said.
The weekend before, at CIF Finals, Manahan captured the boys’ 800 title.
“When I was talking with the coaches, we both agreed that [winning] was entirely possible,” Manahan said. “But when it was actually happening, when I came down the final 100[-meter] stretch, and I saw that I was in the lead, I was like, ‘Wow, this is really happening.’”
Co-captains Chapus and Weissenbach successfully defended their individual CIF titles in the 1600 and 800, respectively, as well as the 4×400 relay.
This weekend’s meet will be the last performance for the dynamic duo of Chapus and Weissenbach to represent Harvard-Westlake.
“It’s harder going into the state meet this year as opposed to last year,” Chapus said. “Last year, I wasn’t really ranked at all and nobody really knew I was out there, and I just went for it. But this year, I have to go out there to run instead of other people. It will be fun since the whole atmosphere of the state meet is great. The whole thing has been great.”
With the loss of the duo that has brought to the program more than 25 titles from all levels from league to state, the team will have to begin its transition to a team without Chapus and Weissenbach going into the state competition.
“It’s going to be different with Amy [Weissenbach] and Cami [Chapus], but we’re still looking to be a major player in the sport and to continue the level of excellence we’ve set so far,” Koolsbergen said.