The South Pasadena High School track & field team has more student-athletes than any other High School sport, about 130 participants. Student enrollment is at about 1,300 students so this squad represents about 10 percent of the student body. Courtesy photo

Undefeated is a word seldom used because it’s rarely realized. It’s a word, however, that can be used for the South Pasadena High School track & field program.

The boys track program has been crowned league champs 12 times since 2003, while the girls track program has taken league 12 times since 2004.

Moreover, when they recently swept Alhambra this year on all four levels – boys, girls, frosh/soph and boys, girls varsity – it extended their winning streak to 148-0 in dual meet competition since 2013.

Yes, the word undefeated is most certainly applicable to the So Pas track program.

Under the leadership of CB Richards since 2011 when he took over as head coach, the program also has become a regional powerhouse that is favored every year to win it all. This season is no different.

“We’re looking pretty good,” Richards said before the Alhambra meet, which was the first home-meet of the season. “I don’t know if we are going to win but for somebody to beat us, they have to go above us. We’re going to be out there so I don’t know, I can’t say win or lose, but we are definitely going to be ready. For somebody to beat us they have to put together extraordinary measures. We are not going to go below our standards.”

So far this preseason, So Pas has been doing what it usually does, which is dominate in all areas of the sport that features 16 different events. Also, more So Pas High School students come out for track & field than any other sport. Richards estimates his squad for boys and girls has about 130 students. The squad is broken down into four teams, boys and girls frosh/soph, which is the junior varsity level, and varsity boys and girls.

This year’s squad, though, is short on experience because they lost some graduating seniors. What the squad may lack in experience, he said, they more than make up in talent. 

“We are pretty balanced to be honest,” Richards said. “When I say we are young, I’m comparing ourselves to our high standards from previous years. We don’t have a senior boy sprinter, except for Kai (Dettman). Kai can come down and run with the best of them. Everybody else is juniors. So, we’re kind of young in a couple spots there. I think our junior and sophomore class are so strong. Like I always say the CO is not the oldest guy in the building.” Dettman was a standout cross-country runner and is running track for the first time this season.

But the lack of experience is a coach’s challenge in track & field, Richards said.

“Experience is huge in track & field because for one thing kids are nervous, so experience helps us so much,” Richards said. “We have the state finalist in TH Wei. He was the state finalist in the triple jump. He’s just a junior. He basically has a lot of experience from last year and he has a lot of swagger since he’s been to the big meets. He was CIF champion last year as a sophomore in the triple jump. His experience will help others.”

The same lack of experience also plagues the girls varsity, Richards said, but again the talent is there. It’s just going to be a matter of harnessing it.

“We’re a little thin on the seniors, even on the girls side” Richards said. “Some kids are going to have to step up. We do have Christina Taylor, Ashley Hugasian, who are captains on the girls. And from there it’s a lot of young kids that are going to need help. Gianna Beasley is also a captain and a senior. She’s a phenomenal CIF finalist. Those three girls have to help with the young girls. They can see it. But we also, and it’s really cool, we had three soccer seniors that have decided to come out and do track for the first time. They look great.” The three new soccer players were all standouts this past season as the squad made it into the playoffs but were defeated in the first round. The three girls are Rainey Tilley, Booch (Emma) Barrera and the prolific-scorer Uma Hornish.

“We got all three coming out and it’s the first-time they’re doing track,” Richards said. “We got to find out what they can do. My only concern is that we got some kids that are good athletes but no experience yet. We’ll get them going fast. We’ve already been to a meet last week. Got a meet this week. Next week at Rosemead.”

Richards also pointed to his coaching staff as being instrumental in the success of the program, saying his track coaches are special.

“The school give me one head coach for all four teams and two assistants,” he said. “The Booster Club helps us out a lot and we are able to bring in volunteer coaches through honorariums. So we have about six other coaches as well. They’ve been here for a long time. I have a great staff. They are so dedicated. They come from faraway. All told we have about nine coaches.”

The program, as earlier mentioned, has about 130 kids. The school’s enrollment is 1,300 students.

“That’s about 10 percent that are in the track & field program,” Richards said. “The kids come out because, one, we’re successful. People like that. Two, we keep it fun. Track is kind of a combination of hard work, dedication, and I think that’s kind of filtered through and success breeds success and people want to be part of this. And this sport makes your other sports better. I have soccer players, I have about 12 football players. We have basketball kids. Volleyball. So we have a bunch of those kids.”

At the end of the season, Richards said he wants to look back and realize his student-athletes have excelled at both sport and human development.

“Character is so important,” Richards said. “I really think the kids understand that. If we do hard work and push character to the level that we are doing, great things happen. We hold them accountable and the life-lessons they take with them. I think we give them a sense of pride here. The know they have to hold that bar up high. There’s a great history behind this. So, people know this is South Pasadena track. You can’t just go through the motions out here. They have to come out here and represent us well. They do a great job. They represent the city well. We were at Covina last week and I told them that some of these people don’t know anybody from South Pas and you represent the city right now when you are out here. They understand that. If they work hard, if they’re accountable, if they have good character, success follows.”

Finally, Richards encouraged everybody to come out and support the track & field program.

“It’s great,” he said. “We are like the mini-Olympics out here. They are great kids. Come out.”

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Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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