LAHS distance runners Cohan and Sage commit to Harvey Mudd

LAHS track
Courtesy of Adam Cohan
Adam Sage, second from left, and Adam Cohan, third from left, commemorate their success at a cross-country meet last fall.

By Marie Godderis
Town Crier Editorial Intern

For many students, graduation is a time when classmates embark on new journeys. Two newly graduated seniors from Los Altos High School who share the same first name and a passion for running will be taking a similar path in the fall.

Adam Cohan and Adam Sage plan to run cross-country and track at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont.

Although they attended different elementary schools, Cohan and Sage have known each other since they were kids.

“We met one day at the JCC pool and hung out,” Sage said. “Then afterwards, we kept bumping into each other in weird places. So Adam would have a trumpet lesson right after my piano lesson with the same teacher, or we would go to Tin Pot in Los Altos and just like, ‘Oh, it’s that Adam again.’ We went to the same taekwondo place for a while, and it was just a bunch of spots where we met over and over again.”

At the start of their sophomore year track season, they bumped into each other again. Since then, Cohan and Sage have run together for the Eagles, sharing many memorable experiences along the way. Cohan has been on the varsity boys cross-country and track team for three years, and Sage for four.

In their final cross-country season, the varsity boys team won league. Cohan and Sage advanced to the state cross-country championships in Clovis, where they both set personal records and Sage set the school record for the course. Sage was voted team MVP and Cohan was named Most Improved.

One day they won’t forget is Dec. 13. The two Adams were getting ready to hang out that night when they both received an unexpected notice that their admission results were available – two days earlier than expected.

“Adam was coming over in half an hour,” Sage said. “I got my response and I texted him and he immediately responded back, like, ‘Yes, I’m in as well!’ And then we both got to celebrate because he was coming over soon. It was really great.”

Cohan and Sage were accepted through the early-decision program. Although students apply undeclared to Harvey Mudd, the boys have an idea of what they want to study: Sage is interested in computer science; Cohan plans to major in math. They toured Harvey Mudd together several times, both drawn to the school’s balance of academics and athletics.

“When I visited, I found something quite similar that I found with the team at Los Altos, where everyone there is pretty fast and cares about running and is competitive,” Cohan said. “But it’s also (NCAA) Division III, so everyone there is still a student first.”

Cohan and Sage both said they are excited to spend the next four years running together and sharing new experiences in college.

“Obviously, one of the biggest worries about going into college is finding a group of people you feel connected with, and it’s really great going in already knowing that you’ve got part of that group set up,” Sage said.

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Season dashed, but Zaeske will sprint again

Anna Zaeske
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier File Photo
Anna Zaeske races for Los Altos High last season. The senior specializes in the 200- and 400-meter dashes.

By Pete Borello
Staff Writer/This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The season Los Altos High sprinter Anna Zaeske envisioned – setting a school record or two and qualifying for the finals of the state track and field championships – didn’t happen. The coronavirus pandemic made sure of that.

But the senior will run again. Zaeske is bound for Baltimore after committing to Johns Hopkins University, which has winter and spring track seasons.

“I’m very excited,” the Los Altos resident said. “They have an indoor season in the winter, and I’ve never had that before. It will give me a chance to try out different events, because the track is shorter and there are different types of races.”

Zaeske primarly ran the 200- and 400-meter dashes at Los Altos and was also a member of the Eagles’ 4x400 relay team. A varsity athlete since her freshman year, Zaeske qualified for the state meet the past two seasons and the Central Coast Section finals the past three years.

Zaeske seemed on her way to another stellar season this spring, excelling in Los Altos’ one and only meet.

“I was happy with my performance,” she said of the March 4 meet at Homestead. “I ran a 59 (second) split in the 400 relay and ran a good time in the 200. It was exciting and promising.”

Zaeske, who trains with the Fox Athletics track club in the offseason, was looking to make school history this year. She had her sights set on the 200 and 400 records.

“One of the disappointments of the season being cut short was that I didn’t get to grab those records,” said Zaeske, who came 0.13 seconds shy of the 200 record her sophomore year by running a 25.51 at the league finals. “That was definitely one of my goals this year – that and getting to the finals at state.”

Dave Barth – Zaeske’s high school and club coach since she was a freshman – left little doubt that those records were within her reach this year.

“There is no way to know for sure what would have happened on the track this season, but I think it’s safe to assume after watching Anna work out and prepare for meets that both the 200 and 400 school records had a strong shot of being broken,” he said.

Zaeske has already earned one place in the school record book. She anchored the 4x400 relay team that set the school record a year ago in the state meet preliminaries. She combined forces with Jessie Bourgan, Jessie Carlson and Thea Mollerstedt to run the race in 3 minutes, 52.47 seconds. Topping a record that stood for 36 years ranks as the highlight of Zaeske’s high school career.

“That was the standout moment for me,” she said. “We didn’t predict we’d break it by 2 seconds and that each of us would run a PR (personal record) split by 1 second. It was such a great atmosphere, and team vibe was so close knit and together.”

While Zaeske enjoys running the relay, it’s not her favorite event.

“It’s the 400, which is very unusual,” she said. “It’s a painful race, but I like how rewarding it is when you do really well. You have to train hard, and it’s a physically and mentally challenging race.”

Zaeske added that “the 200 is actually a close second favorite, because I can use my speed from the end of the 400 to help me out.”

Zaeske isn’t doing much sprinting these days, thanks to the coronavirus restrictions, but she isn’t sitting on the couch all day, either.

“I’m working out as much as I can,” she said. “I run in the hills and on trails; it’s difficult to go to a track, because only a few of them are open. At home, I do strength training.”

None of it compares with training with her team at Los Altos, though.

“What I miss most is the team aspect and the social aspect, and we how push each other at practice,” Zaeske said. “I also miss the coaches and talking to them.”

Zaeske’s summer plans have also changed – the family trip to Alaska is off and a road trip with friends has been postponed – but she’s holding out hope that school will start on time in late August and that Los Altos will be able to have an in-person graduation ceremony before then.

“I hope that happens – it would be a nice surprise,” said Zaeske, who picked up her diploma Thursday. “I’m trying to stay positive.”

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Los Altos High hurdler Melchor hopes to continue her track career at Oregon

Annabriza Melchor
Courtesy of Annabriza Melchor
Annabriza Melchor competes in the hurdles for Los Altos High last season.

By Jenna Webster
Town Crier Editorial Intern

Annabriza Melchor fell in love with the hurdles as a 10-year-old representing Santa Rita School at the Junior Olympics, not knowing it would lead her to become the top hurdler on the Los Altos High girls track and field team. 

Melchor competed in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles – with personal-best times of 15.9 and 47.1 seconds, respectively – before her senior season came to an early end because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Melchor always liked to run, adding the element of hurdles to the mix was a welcome challenge.

“I really liked the idea of the short sprints, but with the hurdles there it just gave me something else to focus on as well,” Melchor said. “They’re not easy to go over.”

She admitted – albeit jokingly – that, “I actually find them really scary. I don’t know why I do them.”

After realizing her passion for track at the Junior Olympics, Melchor joined the Peninsula Flyers Youth Track and Field Club and has been training with the organization for five years.

“I like the community and the family that you make with the team, and it’s not just people with your own event, it can be people outside your event,” she said.

One of Melchor’s favorite races was when she ran her best time in the 300 hurdles, the event that’s also her least favorite of the two.

“I was struggling and I kept getting like 50s, 53s – and all the sudden this whopping 47 came out and I was, like, ‘Wait,’” Melchor said. “That was really huge for me.”

She added that her biggest challenge is keeping a positive mindset, because “it’s not usually your body strength, it’s like a mind sport,” she said. Melchor reminds herself not to think negatively or else that could impact how she runs.

“I just kind of look ahead at the hurdles and I just kind of think, ‘This is it. Just do what you do,’” she said about her pre-race routine.

Robyn Hughes, who has been the hurdles coach at Los Altos for eight years, described Melchor as a great teammate who is dedicated to the sport.

“She has an incredible passion and love for hurdles and track,” said Hughes, also a Spanish teacher at the school. “She just wants to do better all the time and she’s willing to do anything to get better.”
Hughes added that Melchor “would’ve just dominated” this season, had it not been canceled after one meet.

“I was actually really devastated,” Melchor said. “I really wanted to prove myself to colleges and myself, of course. I was really sad for a while, but then I thought I can use this time to come back faster instead of just not doing anything.”

Her club coach sends out weekly workouts for her to do, and every other Saturday she times her sprints. Melchor said she’s seeing improvement in her times. However, she hasn’t been able to run the hurdles because the school tracks do not have them available for use during the closure.

Melchor has been sending videos of her performances to the track coaches at the University of Oregon – the school she is attending in the fall – in hopes of making the team as a walk-on.

“Before this season started, I kind of thought, ‘Do I want this to be the last season of my life or do I want to continue for another four years?’” she said. “When I saw it like that, I knew I’m not ready to stop running track and I’m not ready to stop competing, because I love it so much.”

Melchor plans to study human physiology at Oregon and eventually wants to be a physical therapist. She was inspired by her own physical therapist, who last year helped her recover from a stress fracture in her foot.

“I really like the idea of helping people,” Melchor said. “I just couldn’t see myself doing something that doesn’t involve sports.”

Over the past few years, the biggest thing she’s learned from track is how to be more confident.

“I struggled with that a lot before I started running track,” she said. “When I started running track and I knew and saw that I was actually fast, I started gaining more confidence in my running, and that just gave me more confidence in myself.”

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A Player of many talents

Nicole Player
Courtesy of Nicole Player
Los Altos High’s Nicole Player competes in the triple jump.

By Pete Borello
Staf Writer/This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This was going to be the year. So close to qualifying for the Central Coast Section track and field finals last season, Nicole Player was excited and ready for her last chance to make it.

“I really wanted to go and compete at CCS, and maybe even make it to state,” the Los Altos High senior said.

Player even skipped basketball in favor of training for the long jump, triple jump and 300-meter hurdles with her club team over the fall and winter. She was confident that all the extra work, which started last summer, would pay off this spring.

But just as the Eagles’ track season began, it ended due to the coronavirus pandemic. The team’s March 4 season-opening meet at Homestead proved to be its last.

“It’s a bummer, because I really wanted to improve myself before college,” said Player, who missed last year’s CCS finals by one spot in the long jump and was the second alternate in the triple jump. “I guess it wasn’t in the cards.”

At least Player has four more years of track ahead of her. She is bound for Pomona College in the fall. Player also drew interest from Amherst College and made official visits to both schools last fall in her quest to find a place where she could be more of a student-athlete than an athlete-student.

“I had visited Pomona previously and loved it, but I also loved Amherst,” she said. “When I went back to Pomona, I really fell in love with it.”

Because Pomona and Amherst are NCAA Division III institutions, neither could offer Player an athletic scholarship, but she said both coaches promised her a place on their respective track teams if she got accepted. With the support of head coach

Kirk Reynolds, Player said she applied early decision to Pomona and got in.

Player’s grades and extra-curricular activities surely helped her cause as well. The Mountain View resident, who took five AP classes this school year, has a weighted GPA of 4.6.

Player is also part of Los Altos High’s Broken Box Theatre Company, performing in five plays since joining her junior year. Her biggest role came in last fall’s “It’s A Wonderful Life” – starring as Mary Hatch – but that wasn’t her favorite part.

“It was the first one I did, a murder mystery called ‘Don’t Try to Wake Him, Hand Me the Shovel,’” Player said. “I played a batty old southern lady. That was fun.”

Balancing sports, schoolwork and theater can be tricky, but Player has no complaints.

“Sometimes I would go from practice to long tech weeks,” she said of the week leading up to a play’s opening, “but it was worth it.”

Player has kept busy since grade school, when she first took up basketball, soccer and softball. She added track at Graham Middle School, running her first hurdles race in sixth grade. Player was also introduced to the triple jump, which quickly became one of her favorite events.

“No one else did it,” she said. “I made the county meet my first year and stuck with it. It was fun.”

When Player arrived at Los Altos, she narrowed her focus to track and basketball, giving up the latter after her junior year.

“It wasn’t easy,” said Player, whose sister Tessa made the varsity basketball team as a freshman this year, “but I knew I wanted to do track in college.”

Player entered this season with personal bests of 34 feet, 11 3/4 inches in the triple jump, 17 feet in the long jump and 47.94 seconds in the 300 hurdles. She said her best shot of making state would have been in the triple jump, estimating that she needed a 1-foot improvement to qualify.

Dave Barth, her coach at Los Altos and the Fox Athletics track club, noted that Player is all about getting better – and helping others do the same.

“Nicole is a great athlete, always showing up ready to work hard and give it her all,” he said. “She is also a natural leader. As coaches, we can always count on Nicole to demonstrate drills, lead core exercises and be a source of encouragement for her teammates.”

Player said she continues to train during the pandemic. She works on her running and jumping three to four days a week and bikes and does core exercises every day.

“I’m not going to let the quarantine get me out of shape,” she said.

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St. Francis senior vaults to the top

Scott Toney
Courtesy of Scott Toney
An 8-year-old Scott Toney practices the pole vault with dad Steve at St. Francis High. Steve was the state champ in 1986.

By Melody Chen
Town Crier Editorial Intern

It seems St. Francis High senior Scott Toney was destined to be a champion pole vaulter. His father, Steve, was the 1986 state champ in the sport as a senior at Menlo-Atherton High and two of Scott’s older brothers, Marc and Shawn, both made it to state during their illustrious St. Francis careers.

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