CCS Top 8 article - 04/20/07

Nico Weiler came to Los Gatos in August as a transfer student from Stuttgart, Germany, who was an accomplished pole vaulter ready to make his mark in the Central Coast Section.

He had no idea about St. Francis senior Casey Roche, who finished third in the state last year and set a CCS record by clearing 17 feet, 5 inches, in the Junior Olympics last summer.

The friendly rivalry pushed Weiler, a junior, to new heights Friday as he won the pole vault competition at the 28th annual Top 8 Track and Field Classic at Los Gatos High.

Looking strong from the start, Weiler set a new personal record by clearing 16-8, the second-highest vault in the state and third-highest in the country this year. Roche has a state-best 17-foot mark, but he couldn't get past 16 feet Friday.

Weiler opened at 15-6 and cleared the height easily, as he did at the 16-foot mark on his first attempt. He then went for the Top 8 meet record of 16-8, making another impressive effort to thrill the crowd. The first person to congratulate him was Scott Slover, a pole-vault coach who was working the pits. Slover cleared 16-7 for Leland High in 1993.

"I didn't expect to have someone like Casey to compete against when I came here, but it's always fun to jump against him," Weiler said. "He's always hard to beat. I felt different out there today - it seemed like the pole was taking me and shooting me up."

Weiler missed on three tries at 17 feet, one-quarter-inch. Roche had an uncharacteristic performance, missing on three attempts at 16 feet, including his second when he ran right through to the pit.

"I'm disappointed, but it happens in this event," said the Stanford-bound Roche. "But Nico and I are going to be pushing each other - the results speak for themselves."

Castilleja senior Tori Anthony, the defending state champ, set a meet record in the girls pole vault at 13-8. She took three solid attempts at a national outdoor record of 14-1 but came up short. Her season best of 13-10 is the eighth-best outdoor mark in the world this year at any level.

Leigh freshman Jordan Diaz showed why she is considered one of the up-and-coming middle-distance runners in the section by winning the 1,600 meters in 5 minutes, 3.40 seconds. She trailed Renisha Robinson of Archbishop Mitty until making a strong move with 300 meters left. Leland's Stephanie Barnett was second in 5:08.48.

Another freshman, Pinewood's Angela Gradiska, won the 100 meters, edging Milpitas' Eileen Nguyen by one-hundredth of a second in 12.36. Gradiska was fourth in the 200, behind winner Dahyls Marshall (24.85) of Valley Christian.

North Monterey County's Reggie Topps, who is headed to the University of Utah on a football scholarship, won the 100 (10.94), 200 (22.30) and the long jump (22-5). Last season, Topps qualified for state in all three events but failed to medal.

"This felt good because I have been in a slump," Topps said.

Oak Grove's Sebastian Sam won the 800 in 1:53.79, the third-best mark in California this year and the best in CCS.

"I was right where I wanted to be after the first lap and felt strong at the finish," Sam said.

Los Altos hurdler Eric Hersey cruised to victories in the 110 hurdles (14.39) and 300 hurdles (38.25).