Tracy High alumna Chaunte Mitchell vaults in this year’s conference finals. She finished her career at Stanislaus this year as a four-time California Collegiate Athletic Association champion.
Q: What do Fresno State and the University of California, Los Angeles, have in common
A: Losing in track to California State University, Stanislaus — in no small part thanks to a Tracy High product.
The star-studded UCLA team, featuring former California High (San Ramon) track phenom David Klech, was only one of the more notable Division I track programs to finish behind the Stanislaus 4-by-400 relay team this past season.
The team is anchored by U.S. Olympic hopeful and Stockton native Joel Stallworth, but had a new face this year in 2006 Tracy High graduate Brendan Thaler.
With Thaler joining the relay team as its sole freshman, the team broke the school record by eight seconds with a time of three minutes, 16 seconds at an indoor meet in Boise, Idaho, in February, and then came back the very next week to break that record by another two seconds, in 3:14.75.
“Brendan’s done an outstanding job as a freshman,” Stanislaus coach Kim Duyst said recently. “He came in improving quite a bit on his high school times.”
Brendan Thaler barrels down the stretch run of a 400-meter race while wearing Tracy High green and gold. Though he missed qualifying for the CIF State meet his senior year with the Bulldogs, Thaler became an All-American as part of the California State University, Stanislaus, 4-by-400 relay team in 2007.
“He has a great work ethic, and he’s tough mentally — he didn’t let any freshman pressures get to him.”
“Send us more Tracyites,” she added.
By besting the 3:17 mark, the team’s runners were named All-Americans. Thaler and the team raced at the NCAA Division II Track and Field Indoor Championships in Boston in March, where they took fifth.
The relay team won an outdoor California Collegiate Athletic Association title this past spring, and Thaler recorded marks of 48.72 seconds in the 400-meter race, 22.04 in the 200, and a 3:12.70 outdoors in the relay.
The road to elite track status began last year for Thaler, right after he missed qualifying for the CIF State Track and Field championships as a Bulldog senior. He spent much of last summer in the weight room, pushing hard to be ready for the track season. He made a name for himself in practice, enough so to beat out more experienced runners for a spot on the relay team.
“At first, it didn’t even hit me how big everything was — not until about two hours before my race at nationals,” said Thaler, who is currently studying business. “It’s real special to be on a team like that.”
Thaler made an impact on the program as a freshman, but fellow Bulldog alumna Chaunte Mitchell — whose mother, Suzette, used to coach Thaler — set the bar high well before his arrival in Turlock.
After what she called a “mediocre” high school career, in which she qualified for the State meet twice, Mitchell finished her collegiate career as the school record-holder in pole vault, with a hop of 13 feet, 5¼ inches to her credit outdoors and a leap of 12 feet, 9½ inches indoors. She has cleared the 13-foot, 6-inch mark.
Mitchell approaches her next vault.
She was an NCAA Outdoor All-American in 2003, 2004 and 2005, and won an NCAA national title in 2004 and 2005. She redshirted in 2006 to get stronger.
While her career ended on a down note, with a no-height jump in this past season’s NCAA Division II national championships in North Carolina, she was the California Collegiate Athletic Association champion in each of her four years of eligibility.
“She’s a gamer. She does well at championship meets,” Duyst said. “She was shocked (at the no-height), and we were, too.”
“But because of her, we had four girls in the pole vault national championships — a lot of them came because of her,” she added. “We were very happy to have her.”
And Mitchell’s not through yet. After graduating in a semester from Stanislaus with a degree in liberal studies, she plans to move to Los Angeles and jump with an elite track and field club there.
“I still have a few feet left in me,” she said.
To reach Sports Editor Chris Roberts, call 830-4267 or e-mail email@example.com.