Wildcats senior Matt Gladney has the section's third fastest time in the 110 meter hurdles and 10th best mark in the 300 hurdles this season. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Before the start of every practice, the Los Gatos High track and field program—that’s 167 boys and girls for those wondering—gather together for a minute of silence. 

It’s one of the ways the coaching staff prepare their athletes for peak performance. 

“The message is there’s 1,440 minutes in a day, and we’re going to take one as a team,” Wildcats coach Danny “Doc” Colton said. “And you get 167 kids completely quiet. This is mental exercise preparation. If you look at the pros, they all do that, they take a minute or two of mental prep, or meditation. It’s not a religious thing, it’s a mental thing. It’s a drill that prepares you to be mentally prepared and tough (for the workout or race ahead).”

This year, the girls team is aiming to do what the boys squad did last year—win the Central Coast Section championship. The season is just five weeks old, but one thing is clear: the Wildcats have stamped themselves as one of the favorites to take the title. 

All three of their relay teams—the 4×100, 4×400 and 4×800—entered the week ranked in the top three in their respective events. The 4×800 meter relay team of Sarina Salzer-Swartz, Elise Greenstreet, Taylor Chesarek and Shea Elmore/Bridget Moore has a time of 9 minutes, 26.90 seconds, which ranks first in the CCS by a whopping 12 seconds.

The 4×100 squad of Madison Kohli, Emma Arbitaylo, Alex Hanson and Vanessa Leathem has the second fastest time in the section at 49.24. The 4×400 team—identical to the 4×100 except Elmore runs in place of Arbitaylo—has the third best mark at 4:07.45.

Colton is high on all three relay teams, and projects the 4×400 as having perhaps the best opportunity to not just make State but do well there. That’s because Los Gatos has five girls who have run a sub 60 second split in the 4×400. 

“Elise is gunning for Alex, they’re all gunning for each other and it’s a good problem to have,” Colton said. “And here’s the thing: none of them are graduating this year, so that’s a scary team this year and an even scarier team next year once they get their chemistry going.”

Kohli, the freshman sensation who helped lead the Los Gatos girls soccer team to a CCS championship in February, is the fastest among the fleet-footed 400 runners. Her 58.09 time in the open 400 meters ranks seventh in the section this season. 

“I think Madi can go 56 by the end of the year and that will put her on the podium [in the CCS Finals],” Colton said. “I think as she matures, she will be one of the strongest 400 runners in the Bay Area. She listens, she’s really coachable and a good student, too.”

For a school to win a CCS team title in track and field, it needs a combination of multiple first-place finishers and talent in both the running and field events. As stacked as the Wildcats are in the girls running events, they’re certainly not bereft of talent in the field events. 

Katie Steiner and Moore went 1-2 in the high jump in a league duel meet against Los Altos High on March 20, and Leathem is a potential CCS finalist in the long jump. However, it’s two-time State shot put finalist Nicole Steiner who has Colton particularly optimistic on the team’s potential CCS title chances. 

“Obviously, we’ll be challenged by Mitty, St. Ignatius and Los Altos,” he said. “Los Altos is strong in the distance [events], but we can get them with Nicole in the throws. Nicole is the neutralizer. She’s going to neutralize St. Ignatius, she’s going to neutralize Mitty, because of her points coming in (from the shot put and discus). And if I can get Vanessa and Alex going in the jumps, that right there is a power setup for a CCS title for the girls.”

Colton said if Nicole Steiner can make dramatic improvement in one aspect of the shot put, a top-three State finish is well within reach. 

“If Nicole learns how to rotate, look out, it’s over,” Colton said. “Because she’s tall and has a lot of momentum and can put it all together.”

Meanwhile, the Los Gatos boys team also has some athletes to keep an eye on, including senior Matt Gladney, who has the third fastest time in the 110 hurdles and 10th best mark in the 300 hurdles. Gladney barely missed qualifying for the CIF State Championships last season in the 110 hurdles, taking fourth in the CCS Finals. 

Gladney has continued his rapid ascent, establishing a personal-record 14.88 seconds in the 110 at the St. Francis Invitational on March 16.

“Matt just beat one of the guys that got him for State last year, and his times are dropping,” Colton said. “If we get Matt to 14.2, that’s a state level (podium) time. And we think Matt can go 14.2 by the end of the season for sure.”

The Wildcats’ 4×800 relay team of Aydon Stefanopoulos, Cooper Codding, Ben Klarich and Jensen Bidmead have the top time in the section at 8:05.86. Stefanopoulos was a State podium finisher in both the 1600 and 3200 meter events last season, and Colton can’t wait until the junior standout hits his peak. The prestigious Arcadia Invitational is April 5-6, and Stefanopoulos

“We anticipate Aydon to start cranking it up, because Arcadia is going to start looking at him,” Colton said. “He’s already said, ‘OK, Doc, I’m going to do a 400 and an all-out 3200 just to show them what I have.’ His (800 meter) Dublin split was 1:56, which is scary. He’s got it; he’s just got to use it.”

Senior Jaylen Thomas, a San Jose State football-signee, is tied for the ninth best mark in the long jump, at 21 feet, 5 inches. Colton said if Thomas gets dialed in, 22 feet plus is within his reach. Colton said he has an amazing coaching staff, including Andre Chapman, a former UCLA hurdler; Ibet Allan, a highly accomplished Masters distance runner; Morgan Iverson, a former Division I hurdler and jumper; and throws coach Kent Kappen, who is the head coach for Fisher Middle School’s track and field program.

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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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