Boys Track athlete of the year - San Jose Mercury News

Weston Strum is a miler at heart with the kind of kick that has worthy opponents constantly checking over their shoulder.

But the Pioneer High senior can also excel at longer distances, as he proved in the fall by winning the Central Coast Section Division III cross country title.

During track season, Strum, the Mercury News boys track and field athlete of the year, usually stuck to the 1600 meters, but he decided to take a shot in the 3,200 at the Top 8 Track and Field Classic in April. Despite not being pushed, Strum ran an 8:59.50 to win easily.

That result got Strum thinking about where he should run in the state meet. He felt the longer distance suited him well.

After pulling off a stunning double by winning the 1,600 and 3,200 meters at the CCS meet, Strum scratched the shorter race at the state meet.

With his focus solely on the 3,200, Strum came through with a sizzling final lap to pass a handful of runners and finish second in a personal best time of 8:56.42.

"I'm more of a miler, so I knew I shouldn't go out fast, " said Weston after the race. "I tried to pick off runners one by one. I was aiming for a top-five finish, so I'm really happy with the outcome."

It was a fitting end to an incredible season for Weston, along with his fraternal twin brother Nathan, who finished third in the state 800-meter finals with a time of 1:50.43, the second fastest time in CCS history.

Nathan was born a few minutes before Weston in 1992, and the twins still seem to be seconds apart whenever they compete. The brothers will part ways to compete in college with Weston heading south to Loyola Marymount, while Nathan competes at UC Davis.

Weston and Nathan both doubled at the CCS meet, with Nathan winning the 800 title and finishing third in the 1,600. The twins were Pioneer's only entries, and they finished third in the team standings by themselves.

In the CCS 1600, Weston was facing off with two other runners known for their ability to finish with a strong kick: his brother and Palo Alto's Philip MacQuitty.

Weston made his move with about 300 meters left. The hard-charging MacQuitty kicked into another gear with 200 meters remaining. But Weston managed to hold him off for the last 50 meters to win in 4:12.16. MacQuitty was on his heals at 4:12.97, with Nathan (4:15.24) in third.

He later cruised to an easy win in the 3,200 meters.

"Pulling a tough double like that shows how much team spirit he has," said Pioneer distance coach Lisa Yap. "And both brothers are such hard workers on the track and in the classroom. We talk about honoring the game, and they have such respect for the sport, their opponents and coaches. It's rare to find that kind of combination of a student and athlete. They have represented Pioneer so well."

Weston's talent has blossomed under the tutelage of his private coach Willie Harmatz, the highly-regarded former Los Gatos High coach who still works with a number of talented distance runners.

Harmatz was impressed with Weston's work ethic and enthusiasm.

"He is a really nice kid who did everything we asked for trainingwise. He never missed a workout," Harmatz said. "After the Top 8 meet, we thought 'Why don't we try both races and then make a choice?' It was a tough decision because we had to make it quickly right there on the infield after the CCS 3,200. Weston ran a great finals race at state. That last lap was 59 seconds. If he had another 30 yards, he would have won it."

Boys Track and Field capsules - San Jose Mercury News



Sprinter of the year

The junior finished second to Valley Christian's Byron Marshall in the Central Coast Section 100 meters in a photo finish with a time of 10.664 seconds to Marshall's 10.662. Travis won the CCS 200 meters in 21.83 and also ran a leg on Gilroy's winning 400 relay team, which set a school record with a time of 42.42.


Hurdler of the year

The senior held off Westmoor senior JohnPaul Williams to win the CCS 300-meter hurdles with a time of 38.84, the first time he had broken 39 seconds in his career. He also won a medal in the CCS 110-meter hurdles, finishing fifth in 15.24. At the El Camino league meet, Kubozono won both hurdle events and also won the 200- and 400-meter races.


Distance runner of the year

The twin brother of Weston Strum, Nathan successfully defended his title in the CCS 800 meters with a time of 1 minute, 53 seconds. Strum also was third in the 1,600 meters (4:15.24). Strum was at his best at the state finals, running personal bests on back-to-back days. In the finals, he finished third in the 800 with a time 1:50.43, the second fastest time in CCS history. He will run at UC Davis.


Horizontal jumper of the year

One of the top-ranked sophomores in the country, Marshall did it all for the Warriors. He won the CCS 100-meter title (10.662) and finished third in the long jump (22 feet, 11/2 inches) and fourth in the 200 meters (22.21) at CCS. Marshall also stars on the football field, where he is one of the top young recruits on the West Coast. His sister Dahlys runs for Arizona, and his brother Cameron plays football at Arizona State.


Vertical jumper of the year

The senior had never won a section medal, but he came on strong to take home the gold in the pole vault at this year's CCS meet after clearing a personal-best height of 14-8 in the final. Berthet cleared 14-9 at the state meet preliminaries. He carried on a Wildcats tradition of excellence in the event. becoming the fifth athlete in school history to win a CCS crown.


Thrower of the year

One of the most versatile athletes in the CCS, Nwuzi was the Santa Teresa Division MVP in basketball and finished fifth in the triple jump and second in the discus at CCS. He came on strong in the state preliminaries, with a personal-best discus throw of 175-11 before finishing eighth in the finals.

Girls Track athlete of the year - San Jose Mercury News

As a junior last year, Valley Christian High's Hannah Goranson reached the state final in the 100-meter hurdles, running her best time to date on one of the sports grandest stages.

Her mark of 14.23 seconds was good enough for eighth place, but Goranson, the Mercury News track and field girls athlete of the year, wasn't satisfied. She rededicated herself to a rugged training regimen and worked hard to improve all aspects of her race.

The results were dramatic this year as Goranson made a breakthrough and never looked back. She won her second consecutive Central Coast Section 100-meter hurdles title and posted the fourth-best time in the nation at the West Catholic Athletic League preliminaries when she ran a wind legal 13.72.

It was an enormous improvement for Goranson, who said her time of 15.55 as a sophomore failed to qualify for the CCS finals.

"Hannah is very bright in the classroom and that translates into a great work ethic on the track," Valley Christian coach Tammie Marshall said. "She will work on something until she masters it. She may not have the foot speed of some of the top hurdlers, but she makes up for it with her technique over the hurdles."

Goranson said the work she has done with her private coach (and Tammie's husband), Greg Marshall, has been instrumental in her success. Marshall has trained many track and field stars, including his daughter Dahlys, now at Arizona, and son Byron, a Valley Christian sophomore.

"Coach Marshall knows everything about the hurdle technique," said Goranson, who also ran a leg on the Warrior's CCS champion 1,600-meter relay team. "He has really helped me with drills and got me started working out in the weight room."

Hitting the weights helped immensely with her starts.

"My start had been a weakness, but that has improved a lot," the Duke-bound Goranson said. "I'm much more explosive out of the blocks. That has allowed us to really clean up my race, working on my hurdle and sprinting technique. We've been able to be more nit-picky and work on the finer points."

That attention to detail paid off at the CCS finals where Goranson defended her 100-meter hurdles title in a classic duel with Leland's Katie Nelms.

Racing side by side and leading with opposite legs, Goranson and Nelms made plenty of contact as they galloped over the hurdles. Nelms had the edge after seven hurdles, but Goranson came on strong to win by a hundredth of a second in 13.83.

"That's when you have to be competitive," Goranson said after the race. "All the technique you have worked on seems to go out the window over those last two hurdles. You just focus on finishing."

Goranson continued her run of excellence at the state meet, qualifying for the final in 13.84 and then lining up for the most competitive race of the meet featuring athletes who had run six of the top nine times in the nation.

She ran a wind aided 13.68 to finish fourth.

"I had tremendous butterflies in the preliminaries, but once I reached the final I thought it was anyone's race," Goranson said. "I knew I worked as hard as anyone to get there and there was nothing to be afraid of. I ran the best I could."

Now it's on to Des Moines, Iowa, for the junior nationals next week and then to Duke to start her college career.

"It's a little intimidating being so far away," Goranson said. "But it's a great opportunity. I just want to keep getting better and improving my time."

Girls track capsules - San Jose Mercury News



Sprinter of the year

The Stanford-bound senior's season got off to a slow start as she recovered from an injured arch, but she came back strong at the Central Coast Section meet, sweeping the 100 and 200 meters for the second consecutive year with times of 11.92 and 24.60 seconds. But Gradiska, unable to reach top form because of the injury, didn't reach the state finals.


Distance runner of the year

A year after a heartbreaking loss in the CCS 1,600-meter final, the standout sophomore broke through to edge Aptos' Nikki Hiltz with a time of 4 minutes, 59.38 seconds. She also did well at the state meet, reaching the final and running a personal-best time of 4:57.48 to earn a sixth-place medal.


Vertical jumper of the year

A versatile athlete, Armstrong was a standout goalie in water polo and qualified for the CCS track and field meet in the 300 hurdles, the 1,600 relay and the high jump. She won the high jump at the CCS meet with a leap of 5 feet, 7 inches. Armstrong will compete at Long Beach State.


Horizontal jumper of the year

The talented sophomore repeated as the CCS triple-jump champion with a mark of 39-8. As a freshman, Leath reached the state triple-jump final and finished ninth. This year she delivered a personal-best jump of 40-3, to finish third, just ahead of teammate Shanique Walker.


Thrower of the year

The senior, headed for Long Beach State, achieved a personal best to win the CCS discus title with a throw of 151-11 and finished second to Santa Teresa's Meagan McKee in the shot put with a throw of 43-8. She barely made the state final in the discus but came through to finish fourth (148-3). She was seventh in the shot put (42-10).


Hurdler of the year

The versatile Nelms repeated as CCS champ in the 300 hurdles (43.03) and was second in the 100 hurdles (13.84) and the 100 meters (12.09). In the 100 hurdles, Nelms battled to the wire with Valley Christian's Hannah Goranson, losing by one hundredth of a second. At the state meet, the Stanford-bound senior was sixth in the 100 hurdles and fifth in the 300 hurdles.