The Los Gatos High boys 4×400 meter relay team is running for keeps this season.
The quartet of Jake Bohane, Brady Kamali, Levi Romero and Wil Brennan clocked a swift 3 minutes, 21.01 seconds in the St. Francis Invitational on March 18, easily the top time in the Central Coast Section and more impressively the No. 4 time in the state.
Just how fast can these guys go?
“Our first goal is to break the school record which is 3:18.9, and I think we’ll do that in a couple of weeks at Arcadia,” said Brennan, who runs the anchor leg. “And later at State, hopefully we’ll get down to the 3:17s and make a run there, which should be pretty exciting.”
Exciting indeed. Not only is California tops in the nation when it comes to prep track and field talent, it’s also one of just two sports—wrestling being the other—that doesn’t break up teams/individuals into different divisions for the section and State tournaments.
Meaning, if you win an event at the CIF State Track and Field Championships, you’re the best of the best, period. That’s what makes the sport so exhilarating for an athlete like Brennan, who had a breakout season at wide receiver last fall during football season.
As intense as football is, Brennan said he gets equally pumped blazing around the oval faster than the rest of the competition.
“Nothing matches the feeling of winning a race or getting a PR [personal-record],” he said. “It’s pretty unmatched.”
And that’s exactly what the 4×400 team has been doing, both collectively and individually. All four relay members have hit PRs this season in the open 400 meter run. Romero has a personal-best of 48.84 (No. 1 in the CCS), Brennan a 49.22 (No. 3), Kamali a 50.55 (No. 6) and Bohane a 51.65 (No. 16).
It’s easily conceivable that Romero and Brennan could finish 1-2 in the CCS Finals in late May. Before the season started, a top two finish for Brennan was the expectation given he was the runner-up in the Championships last year.
A couple of races in, Romero has that same expectation. His 48.84 is nearly three seconds faster than his best from last season, a 51.17. That type of improvement for a short-mid distance event like the 400 represents a huge improvement.
Brennan saw it coming all the way. Track athletes who come to the sport later tend to see a huge jump from year one to year two, which is exactly how things have played out for Romero.
“This is our first off-season of Levi and I training together,” Brennan said. “Since football season ended, I’ve witnessed his progression and his times getting closer to me. I saw him making the same jump this year I did last year so I just knew our 4×400 would be insane this year.”
As two of the three fastest in the 400 this season—Serra’s Parker Harrison being the other—Brennan and Romero are in the unique position of being teammates and possibly finishing 1-2 in the CCS Finals.
“It adds a little bit of pressure having your teammate being the main competitor every race, but I love it,” Brennan said. “We’re boys. He gets PRs, I get PRs, we’re going to be pushing each other every race and practice as well. I think it’s a great thing for both of us.”
More recently, Brennan (22.18) and Romero (22.21) nailed PRs in the 200, and rank No. 4 and 5, respectively, in the CCS.
Kamali, who is coming off a tremendous soccer season in which he earned the SCVAL El Camino Division Offensive MVP award, also has the No. 5 mark in the high jump, clearing 6 feet, 1 inch in a league meet vs. Lynbrook on March 2.
The versatility of being a top 400 runner and high jumper is a testament to Kamali’s athletic ability.
“I spend time on both, but definitely focusing on the sprints a little more because of the potential of the 4×400 team,” he said. “At this point, it’s hard to gain a lot of strength [for the high jump], but I can work on my run up and jumping ability for sure.”
Before the season started, Kamali was eager to see who could fill the fourth spot on the relay team, as he, Brennan and Romero all returned. In came Bohane, whose improvement has been nothing short of spectacular. Bohane has shaved nearly five seconds off his previous best from last year’s 56.03.
“I was ecstatic for what Jake has done this year,” Kamali said. “I came in not knowing who that fourth guy would be, and when I saw his time I was pumped. He was just what this 4×400 team needed.”
Kamali said he’s proud of the team because they’re posting times with relay teams that are traditionally the state’s fastest, schools that are known for their sprinting.
“All the other 4×400 teams that are ranked super high, they’re ranked there every year,” Kamali said. “But we kind of came out of nowhere. That’s what’s unique and special about this team. We happened to get lucky that all these guys came at the same time and we’re going to try to take advantage of it as much as we can.”
Outside of pure talent, relay races are won on the three baton exchanges. That’s where a squad can either extend a lead or make up a deficit, more so in the 4×100 but still important in the 4×400. Kamali credits the Los Gatos sprints coach for helping elevate their performance.
“The most important part of the exchange is building chemistry with the guys who you’re exchanging with,” Kamali said. “So for me, it’s Jake and Levi and generally knowing what their pace is going to be. It’s critical.”
Brennan and Kamali raved about Danny “Doc” Colton, who is in his first season as the Los Gatos coach. A board certified surgeon, Colton has infused the athletes in the track and field program with a great mental approach and technical acuity.
“Coach has been great,” Kamali said. “His No. 1 skill is organization and that probably comes with being a doctor. Getting all those moving parts organized is the most important thing about being a high school track coach. He’s also easily one of the most knowledgeable coaches that I’ve ever been coached by. He really knows what he’s doing and really helpful when it comes to technical ability.”
Said Brennan: “He’s very organized and always keeps us in line and communicates with everybody, which is great and something you need as a head coach. He’s also brought a lot of experience, especially to the jumpers and to sprinters. He’s brought new machines for us to train, as well as having a lot of college connections. That will help a lot of us, especially me and Levi later in the season when we try to get recruited. He brings a lot to the table and a completely different dynamic this year than last year.”