The men’s track and field team anticipate victory at the 2016 Orange Empire Conference Championship Finals taking place at Orange Coast College. As a team comprised mostly of freshmen and sophomores, they hope to surpass their best personal records this Friday April 29. Events run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and range from 400, 1,500 and 5,000 meter relays to 110 meter high hurdles to 200 meter dashes.
Coach Mark Blethen has been coaching track and field at Saddleback College for 16 years, nearly half of his 31 year coaching career. Under Coach Blethen’s leadership, the Gauchos have taken athletes to the state championships every year where they have come home victorious for the last seven years as individual state champions.
“They have been training very hard,” Blethen said. “It’s not just a matter of coming out in January and starting. Most of them have been going at least since last August, and our sophomores really since the August of their freshman years. So it’s non-stop, a 12 month out of the year process.”
Sophomore student athletes Miles Brubacher and Ulysses Orozco train with the men’s track and field team for two and a half hours per day, six days per week. Brubacher has spent the last six years running track, two of which he has dedicated to Saddleback College’s athletic program. He has recently been accepted to Biola University where he will continue to run track, focusing on steeple chasing and long distance.
“It’d be awesome,” Brubacher says of winning at Friday’s Orange Empire Conference. “All the hard work will finally come together and it’d just be something to have underneath your belt. Especially when you’re moving on to a four-year university.”
Ulysses Orozco has also spent the last two years running long distance with the Saddleback track and field team. Orozco anticipates eventually moving on to Missouri Valley University where he will run cross-country and track. He is looking at Conference as a chance to beat his current 5K and 10K records which are 14:55 and 31:28 respectively.
“This year I can hopefully defend it,” Orozco says. “It really means a lot because I put a lot of time and work into track and cross country. It just means a lot that the hard work is paying off.”
Track and field is less of a team sport and more dominantly a sport where individual athletes thrive on outperforming their personal best records. Coach Blethen anticipates taking at least a dozen student athletes to the state championships this year, which is the third and final competition out of the Orange Empire Conference Championships and regional championships.
“If everyone does well in their race, then as a team, as Saddleback, then we’ll all do well,” Orozco says.