The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

Track and field athletes break records

Gold medalist, All-American, All-State and U20 National competitors recall their experience and prepare for what’s next
Courtesy of Coach Dominique Guinnane
De Anza College Men’s track and field on June 12 at De Anza College.

The meets this season were unusually wet. Head coach Nick Mattis has led De Anza College track and field for nearly 20 years and used his background from the colder Midwest to safeguard the athletes from muscle injuries. As a result, the athletes missed a few events, in the end paying off as the team became nearly undefeated.

“We stayed in tents, huddled up. It wasn’t ideal, but we competed well,” said Mattis. “In the last three meets of the year, when the weather got good, our times dropped, we got better and we were hitting really big marks.”

Mattis grinned when he said that his team only lost when they decided to stop competing due to the rainy weather, or when few athletes competed. This year they defeated Hartnell College of Salinas, their conference’s only true competition.

Before competing among the best track and field athletes of California, De Anza Mountain Lions earned first place for mens and second place for womens in the Coast Conference. The Coast Conference serves as the first filter of outstanding athleticism in community colleges from the Alameda to Monterey counties.

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After showing out in the Coast Conference, some of De Anza College’s men and women qualified for NorCal Championship in early May. Out of 22 teams, the men took home first place. Out of 23 teams, the women took home third place.

Winning titles and low times led athletes to the 3C2A State Championships. Both men and women brought home All-American titles, All-State, one gold medal and two glass trophies, one for fourth place and another for 13th place.

Kai Burich, 19, kinesiology major, competed undefeated throughout the season. He won the State Champion in hammer-throw, winning a gold medal.

“Being surrounded by such a strongly bonded and enjoyable team (makes it) easy to be relaxed and ready to make big moves,” Burich said. “Rather than just be in your head.”

Track and field is known for being an individual scoring sport but the mountain lion’s stand out as a team.

“The guys on this team, as well as the girls, are really close,” said Antoine Moret, 20, aerospace engineering major and All-American athlete. “I talk to a lot of guys (from) a lot of different teams and they tell us that our team is the tightest knit out of the bunch.”

Moret competed in two events at all three major events; 3,000 meter steeplechase and 5,000 meter distance running. The athlete placed first place at both Coast Conference and NorCal for the 3,000 meter steeplechase and ended in second place at the state championship.
In the 5,000 meter event, Moret earned third place in the first two major competitions and fifth place in the state championship and broke De Anza’s school record in steeplechase.

“My favorite event is the steeple,” Moret said. “I have the school record … It was one of the most powerful moments of my life, being surrounded by my friends (and) a big hug from Coach… Nine minutes seven seconds and 69 milliseconds.”

Moret will be running for UC Berkeley in the fall and is looking to amp up his running regime from 80 miles a week to 90 miles. His dream is to compete in the U20 Nationals.

Joselyn Joya Camacho, 20, nutrition major, had fun running with her teammates. She finished first in the NorCal Championship for the 10,000 meter event and later finished eighth place at the State Championship.

“I never did any sports in high school,” Joya Camacho said. “It was more of an impulse thing. I tried sprints my first year, I was not good. I did cross country and track and it turns out this is what I’m good at.”

She urges students to leave their comfort zone, try new things and never doubt themselves.

Giovanni Lancellotti, 21, urban planning major, said he joined the track team as a “joke.” He was unaware of De Anza’s legacy in track and field and the community he would join that inspired him to try harder.

“Mattis is really good at being just hard enough that you know, this isn’t a game,” Lancellotti said. “While respecting you because he knows the pressure of making a name and placing.”

De Anza College track and field athletes attribute their success to the empathetic coaching of Mattis, as well as coaches Dom, Wade, Gabe, Kevin and many more.

Mattis’s father coached track for 50 years.

“I was going to track practices as a kid and knowing how to coach things,” Mattis said. He now uses the knowledge, a lot of research and experience to avoid “cookie cutter” techniques and to assemble the coaching squad.

“Most of my staff (are) actually (my) former athletes,” Mattis said. “It’s people who have gone through my program, trained the way I want and know my system.”

In track and field there are 20 events.Jeffrey O’Brien, 22, business major, qualified for State Championships in three events, but decided to compete in the decathlon, winning fifth place and discus, winning eighth. He broke De Anza College’s record for decathlon and is transferring to Chico State after being introduced to the program by Coach Wade, their former throwing coach.

Ningning O’Brien, 18, psychology major, recalls the pressure of her hammer throw and discus events, especially since she is considered “small” for her strength. Suffering a shoulder injury made throwing the eight pound metal ball all the more difficult.

“(Coach Wade) has guided me to a place where I’m really confident,” O’Brien said. “He’s helped me navigate my strong suits, my flaws, everything. He’s an amazing person to start any conversation with. It’s never a dull moment.”

Ningning O’Brien is a two-time All-American athlete. At this year’s state championship she placed third in the hammer throw and second in discus.

“This has been my best season ever,” Ningning O’Brien said. “I have more seasons to come, but this is definitely going to be a season I remember forever.”

Ningning O’Brien was recruited to UC Riverside along with Mateo Garcia, 19, history major and shot put, discus and hammer competitor. After finishing his associates degree in just one year, he is relieved to have been scouted during the NorCal Championship.

“They’ve (Coach Wade and Gabe) have both been coaching long and know the different types of athletes and what they will respond well to,” Garcia said. “Having those level of coaches know how to coach me, was very important.”

The team practices as many times as five days a week with meets on the weekend. When they’re not being trained by Mattis, the athletes branch out with their coaches that focus on their individual or team events.

Kristine Nguyen, 19, psychology major, competed in the state championship for 4×100 and 4×400 relay events placing seventh and eighth places respectively.

“I give a lot of credit to Coach Dom,” Nguyen said. “She was a big reason why (track and field) was so enjoyable this year. She’s been really impactful by being that role model for athletes.”

Nguyuen is transferring to UC Berkeley assured that the next class of De Anza track and field athletes are ready for competition.

Jacklyn Velazquez, 20, criminal justice major, and All-American cross country athlete competed in the State Championship this year for the 3,000 meter steeplechase after recovering from a second-degree burn, confining her to five weeks of bedrest. She finished ninth in the state with just under 13 minutes.

“I am very thankful for my coaches,” Velasuez said. She said the coaching she received on diet and overcoming the pressure of the “ideal runners body” stereotype helped her succeed.

James Estrella also competed in the State Championship alongside Moret in the 3,000 meter steeplechase, placing ninth with just under 10 minutes. He credits Coach Dom for ensuring runners are purposeful in their long distance training and beyond.

“(She’s) very supportive,” Estrella said. “Asking us how we are, how we’re doing in school. Running is a passion, but we also have a separate life outside of running.”

All the athletes spoke to the mental challenges of the sport. Liam Brennan, 18, business management major described this season as mentally demanding rather than physical.

“I know that my body’s capable of throwing far, very far,” Brennan said. “But if I’m not mentally prepared to throw like 50 meters, I won’t throw 50 meters.”

Coach Wade is credited by athletes for teaching how to mentally focus and execute during field events. Brennan is the first in De Anza College’s history to qualify for discus at the USATF Under 20 Nationals. He placed 11th in the nation.

More State Championship Stats

Amariah Davidson: Long Jump – ninth – 5.16 meters
400-meter – seventh – 57.87 minutes

Daniel Chen: Hurdle – sixth – 110 meters – 14.82 minutes

Eion Daley: 800-meter – seventh – 1:55.73 minutes

Felicity Alvarado: Triple Jump – 12th – 10.35 meters

Mackenzie MacDonald: 10,000 meter run – 11th, 32CA – 42:29.64

Mia Tarkington: 800-meter – eighth- 2:20.04 minutes

Sam Betz: Men’s javelin throw- sixth – 55.11 meters

Women’s 4X100 meter: seventh – 48.69 minutes

Women’s 4×400 meter: eighth – 4:02.74 minutes

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Xitlaly Martinez
Xitlaly Martinez, Staff Reporter

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