Looking back at the 1970 Los Altos track team, the best ever on the Peninsula

They gathered for a Los Altos High class of 1970 reunion at Alpine Beer Garden in Portola Valley on Saturday. Five of the six who were part of a state track and field title team were present -- Rick Brown, Chris Adams, Bob Thompson, Larry Davis and Jim Andrew. A sixth -- Vic Brooks, who qualified for state in the 120-yard high hurdles -- could not attend.

The state meet in 1970 was held at UC Berkeley's Edwards Stadium in early June. The then-Knights had just blown away the field at the Central Coast Section meet, scoring 60 points to second-place Gunn-Palo Alto's 25, winning their second straight section crown.

"We thought we would win the state title," Adams said. "We didn't know what the other schools were going to come up with, but we knew if we did what we expected to do, we would win."

"We knew we were good," Brown said. "There was a lot going on. For me, I had to be measured because I was doing three events. But, I knew I could do it. I had been doing it all year."

Los Altos, coached by Leo Long, had the title clinched before the mile relay. With Thompson leading off, Davis running second, Andrew third and the electric Brown running anchor, the Knights ran a 3:15.6, putting the icing on the cake with a first-place finish.

"It was stunning to win state," said Andrew, who resides in British Columbia. "It was a lot of work. Everybody did their job. Everyone got the baton to give it to the next guy, so we could get it to Rick, so Rick could do what Rick did."

"My split was slower in the finals than it was in the trials," said Thompson, who lives in Petaluma. "It was a little frustrating. I was trying to pace myself. I figured I was going to be running against some fast guys. I didn't want to get blown away. In hindsight, I could have put more into it."

Thompson had the best view in the house after he handed the baton to Davis.

"Larry got us back in the middle of the pack," Thompson said. "Jim got us towards the front of the pack. As soon as Rick got it, he may have been in second, but it was all over."

The 29-point team total was the highest recorded at a state meet since Jefferson-Los Angeles won with 30.5 points in 1952. Los Altos remains the only team from either Santa Clara County or San Mateo County to win a state track and field crown.

Brown pulled off an astounding triple, also winning the 440-yard and 880-yard dashes, something that hasn't ever been duplicated. His 880 time of 1:50.6 stands to this day as a CCS record, converted to 1:50.1 for 800 meters. Brown was a three-time CCS champ in the 880.

His 440 time at state -- running in the inside lane -- was 47.8, slightly slower than his 47.1 time he ran at the CCS meet. That time broke the section record held by the legendary Lee Evans of Overfelt-San Jose.

Adams won his second straight state discus title, throwing a then national-record 201-3. He added a third place in the shot put at 61-9. Andrew placed fourth in the 440 at state after a second-place finish at CCS.

Davis, second in CCS in the 880 behind Brown, did not qualify for the final on Saturday.

"Davis got boxed in at the trials," Brown said. "He could have taken second. He would have been right there."

"I used to joke, 'I was ranked third in the state, but never won a race,' " said Davis, who lives in Scotts Valley.

Brooks, CCS champ in the 120 high hurdles in 14.5, did not qualify for Saturday's final.

"We were a team," Brown said. "We were bonded. It was a thing that happened over years. Larry, Jim and I went on a vacation when we were juniors. We drove to Texas. We just hopped in the car and took off."

At the CCS meet the week before state, Brooks false-started on purpose to give Brown a few more minutes to get ready for the 880.

"That was Vic's race," Brown said. "I had 20 minutes between the races. I was on the training table when he false-started, jumped over some hurdles and dilly-dallied. He had a false start to give. So, instead of 20 minutes, I had 24 minutes to get ready. It was so cool."

Having Long return to coach the team their senior season was key.

"Leo was a salesman," Brown said. "I was having trouble with his salesman approach, but it didn't matter. He was a zealous salesman, an incredible guy. He had knowledge."

A few days before the state meet, Los Altos held a Senior Cut Day. The bulk of seniors, including Brown, headed to Sunset South Beach south of Santa Cruz. Brown missed practice, but came back to Los Altos to work out on his own in the evening.

"I had the best workout I had all year," Brown said. "I ran 14 quarters, one right after the other. The next day, Leo wasn't happy. He looked like he was faced with a dilemma, like 'I can't let you get away with that.' I told him I worked out and what I had done. You could see it in his face. He was relieved he didn't have to make a decision. There was no way he would have not let me run at state. He would have been crucified."

Brown, Adams and Andrew all went to Cal on track and field scholarships. The big influence was Dave Maggard, an Olympic shot putter who coached at Los Altos when they were sophomores. Maggard left for his alma mater Cal, serving as an assistant coach before becoming head track and field coach in 1970. Maggard was athletic director at Cal from 1972 to 1991.

Since 1970, there have been just seven teams from Northern California that have won the state track and field meet, bringing it all into perspective, over 45 years later.

"We didn't have all that cockiness," Brown said. "We had quiet confidence. We were laid back, like we can do this."