This is it. The Thousand Oaks Lancers and Agoura Chargers are neck-in-neck. If the Chargers win the 4 x 400 meter race, they win the Marmonte League title outright. Junior James Galindo blasts off at the gunshot. He keeps pace with TO, but lags behind by a few steps. Seniors Christian Williams and Drehan Mahaarachchi trim the Lancers’ lead in the next two legs. When senior captain Darren Wainer receives the baton for the last lap, AHS is still behind. Wainer sprints persistently, but by the final bend, he is about a meter behind TO. Then something magical happens. Wainer, energized by some divine power, overtakes the leader. As if destiny herself were pulling the strings, Wainer launches out of the turn like a rocket and wins the race for the Chargers. The boy’s track and field team wins their first Marmonte League title since 1993.
Behind this epic league championship is a diverse group of decorated athletes, but as we will eventually see, one stands above the rest. Let’s start with field. Junior Kushaal Tadepalli is an elite shot-put athlete. Throwing since age 10, Tadepalli is one of the most reliable point-getters for the boy’s varsity team. “I had been running sprints [when I was young], but at the time, I was a little heftier, so I wasn’t doing that well. I decided I’d try something that suits my talents more.” While Junior Tara Davis brings national-level talent to the girl’s team, Tadepalli does so for the boy’s team. “When I was 13, I won my 3rd national championship, which was definitely my proudest moment,” reflected Tadepalli. Other boy’s field athletes who have helped the team to the league championship include junior Ryan Harrison who does the triple jump and junior Will Fleming who competes in the high jump. Next we have the distance runners. Seniors Josh Pattiz, Logan Grove, Cole Hoff and juniors Johnny Lee, Dylan Majerus, and Sam Dennis are all distance (1600 meters and higher) runners. These are the athletes who make the transition from cross country meets of three miles to much shorter distances at track meets. For some, like Duke-commit Hoff, the transition from hill to track is easy: “As far as training goes, not much changes. In workouts, you’ll run shorter distances to get some speed work in. But it’s pretty much the same in how you take races and prepare.” For others, like Pattiz, the transition is tough: “I’m kind of the opposite. I’m a cross country runner, but for track, I run shorter-to-middle distances. I’m running less than 1/10 the mileage of cross country, so the first few weeks [of track] are tough].” Sprinters comprise the backbone of the team.
In addition to the blazing 4 x 400 team, AHS has a group of highly talented short-distance sprinters. Jonathan Deluca, a starter for varsity baseball, specializes in the 4 x 100 meter relay. Deluca, who committed to the University of Oregon for baseball as a freshman, is rising to the challenge of two sports. “It’s been fun and interesting [balancing two sports]. The hardest thing is recovering. I have a baseball game, then a track meet, then a baseball game the next day- back to back to back,” said Deluca. That schedule is not for the faint of heart. Nevertheless, Deluca embraces the differences between his two sports: “Track is more ‘go out and run’ while baseball is a lot of mental processing. It’s fun to just go out there and be free.” 100 meter sprinter Ryan Satou, junior hurdler Steven Imes IV, and 800 meter specialist Rafael Wilson have also played key roles in this championship. Finally, the closers- the 4 x 400 team. Galindo, Williams, Mahaarachchi, and Wainer are regarded as the fastest sprinters on the team. Wainer owns the 11th-best 800 meter time in California, 1:56.13. Williams was the starting runningback for varsity football this past fall, and Galindo plays wide receiver. Mahaarachchi is arguably the most prolific student-athlete at AHS, boasting a 4.2 gpa, 2320 SAT score, and all 5’s on AP tests taken during track season.
At the 2015 CIF Finals, this group broke a 22-year-standing school record for the 4 x 400 with a ridiculous 3:20.98. “We were by the high jump, waiting for the scoreboard to refresh to see if we broke it, and once we saw we had beaten it by 0.3 seconds, we started screaming. It was a surreal moment,” recounted Wainer. That was a marvelous accomplishment, but these talented sprinters are still chomping at the bit. “It’s all about improving. We’re hoping to break the record again, Hopefully we can go a long way with this and make it to state,” said Mahaarachchi. Thanks to this dedicated group of boys, AHS has returned to the track and field powerhouse it was in the early 1990’s. Most will go on to compete in CIF Finals this month, with many contending for individual, CIF Masters championships.