Saddleback College assistant track and field coach Simon Arkell was recently named as the California Community College Assistant Track and Field Coach of the Year by the state track coaches association.
Arkell, who recently completed his eighth season as the pole vault coach with the Gauchos, has coached two state champions, three Southern California regional champions, and 10 conference champions at the college, including this year’s state champion in the men’s pole vault, Nick Jennings. Jennings cleared 16’ 8” to win the state title while teammate Cameron Savage cleared 15’ 8” to place fifth. Andy Miller won the state pole vault title in 2008 with a vault of 16’ 3”.
Since Arkell started coaching at Saddleback, the school record for men’s pole vault has been elevated from 15’ 6” to 17’ 1”, a mark set by Jennings this season. Arkell has had eight pole vaulters reach the 15’ 6” height or higher. He has also had five women pole vaulters reach or exceed the previous school record of 9’ 0”, including the current school record of 11’ 8” set by Alissa Miller in 2005.
“Simon means a lot to this program,” said Matt Sherman, a long-time assistant coach who was recently hired as the women’s cross country and track coach. “He could be the best pole vault coach at any college level, two-year or four-year. It’s unheard of to take a vaulter and improve their best mark by two feet, but he’s done that with almost all of our vaulters.”
Saddleback’s head track and field coach Mark Blethen agrees: “The most telling part of this award is that I did not nominate Simon for the honor this year. His colleagues from other colleges realized what he has done with our student-athletes and actually nominated him for this award. That alone speaks volumes about his success as a coach and the impression he makes amongst his peers.”
Two more Saddleback athletes have picked up recognition for their efforts as the state’s sports information governing body handed out its monthly awards. Women’s tennis player Michelle Neville and men’s track & field star Nick Jennings were both recognized by the CCCSIA and CCCAA for the month of May.
The California Community College Sports Information Association announced its athletes-of-the-month and both Neville and Jennings were garnered honorable mention status. The two were instrumental in both teams having historic finishes to their respective seasons.
Neville was part of a women’s tennis team that captured its first-ever state title, defeating De Anza, 5-2. She finished 15-0 in doubles play during the course of the season and won 17 straight singles matches on the season. Neville was a Scholar Baller athlete for the Gauchos and was the schools female scholar athlete-of-the-year.
Jennings was a part of the men’s track & field team that finished 10th in the state, largely in part because of his winning the state individual title in the pole vault. He jumped 16’ 8” on his final jump of the day at the state meet, breaking the school record by 10 inches. Jennings was selected the Orange Empire Conference Field Athlete-of-the-Year for his efforts.
The Saddleback men’s track & field team had a solid performance at the state meet in Antelope Valley over the weekend, finishing 10th overall on a windy weekend in Lancaster. The Gauchos were led by Nick Jennings, who captured the state title in the pole vault.
Jennings was down his final attempt at 16’8” and nailed it to capture the individual championship. It ended up being a tremendous event for the Gauchos, as Cameron Savage finished 5th in the event with a vault of 15’8”. Savage had the third best jump of the day, but finished fifth due to meet rules which goes on total misses to break the ties.
Earlier in the weekend, Ray Lian finished 2nd in the javelin throw to get the Gauchos off to a good start on Friday. Other top-10 finishes over the weekend included David Hanlin finishing 4th in the high jump (6’8.25”), D.J. Naumann finishing 8th in the 1500 meters (4:11.55) and Dillon Bales finishing 10th in the discus (153’10”).
The 10th place finish was the fifth best performance in program history and the best performance since 2005 when the Gauchos finished 7th in the state.
The California state track meet has finished one day of competition and javelin thrower Ray Lian had a big day for the Gauchos. On a windy day at Antelope Valley College, Lian finished second in the state in the javelin with a throw of 198’ 9”.
Lian was considered one of the favorites and was the top seed from Southern California heading into the competition and the No. 2 seed in the state. Lian’s throw finished second behind Cody Allen of Sacramento City College, who had a throw of 206’ 5” to capture the state individual title.
On a day with very few events, Saddleback also finished 10th in the discus throw with a throw of 153’ 10” by freshman Dillon Bales.
The Gauchos are tied for 7th place in the team competition after day one of the state meet.
The Saddleback men's track team took advantage of its home facility, placing fifth at the Southern California regional finals with help from Ray Lian and AB Shaheen who both captured individual events as Saddleback served as the host to the regional championship event.
Lian won the javelin with a throw of 204' 11" while Shaheen captured the hammer throw with a toss of 180' 2". Lian also added a fifth place finish in the discus (148' 0") with Dillon Bales placing seventh (144' 7"). Saddleback also scored well in the pole vault as Nick Jennings placed second (16' 7") and Cameron Savage placed sixth (15' 7").
David Hanlin placed third in the high jump (6' 9") while DJ Neumann placed fourth in the 1,500-meters (3:58.47) and Terry Tanner placed fifth in the 200-meter run (21.67 seconds).
The Saddleback women's team placed 13th at the regional with Meagan Johnson winning the high jump (5' 5") and Kelley Breen placing fifth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (11:21.98).
The top finishers advance to next weekend's state championship meet hosted by Antelope Valley College in Lancaster.
Full meet results
The men’s track & field team was impressive on the grandest stage of all over the weekend when they finished 6th out of 30 teams at the prestigious Mt. SAC Relays. The Gauchos had two school records fall and had 12 top-10 finishes on the day.
Saddleback was dominant in the field events as A.B. Shaheen and Nick Jennings set school records. Shaheen threw the hammer 173’4” to capture the meet title. Jennings completed a jump of 17’1” in the pole vault as the Gauchos finished 1-2 in the event, with Cameron Savage finishing second.
Shaheen’s throw was the fourth record-breaking performance of the year, breaking the record of Rick Fenton in 2009. Jennings’ record vault was his third record-setting performance, breaking the record of Andy Miller (16’3”) in 2008. Shaheen has the 6th best throw in the nation in 2010 while Jennings vault of 17-plus is the second best jump in the nation this season.
Saddleback had other great performances on the day as Ray Lian and Dillon Bales finished 4th and 6th place finishes respectively in the discus throw. Jeremy Gathright and Anthony Cabrera finished 6th and 9th in the triple jump while Andrew Carlson finished 10th in the long jump. D.J. Neumann finished 8th in the 1,500 meter run while Andrew Kokinakes was 8th in the 400 meter hurdles. The Gauchos were also impressive in relay events, finishing 5th in the 4x100 relay (Grimmett, Warner, Terry, Vazquez) and 8th in the 4x400 relay (Vazquez, Kokinakes, Copeland, Gathright).
Saddleback will compete next at Cerritos this Tuesday and Wednesday at the SoCal Multi Meet.
The Saddleback track teams won the 5th annual Prairie War against Cuyamaca College on Friday afternoon, easily outdistancing the Coyotes in both men's and women's competitions for a 182-103 victory.
Tia McFarlane won the 100- (12.51) and 200-meter (26.33) dash events as well as the long jump while Kelley Breen won the 800- (2:34), 1500- (5:28) and 3000-meter (11:25) distance events as the Saddleback women built an 82-49 cushion.
The men's team posted a 100-54 edge over the Coyotes as DJ Neumann won the 1500- (4:02) and 3000-meter (9:09) distance events, Danny Warner captured both the long jump and triple jump, and Ray Lian (pictured) posted victories in both the discus and javelin.
The Saddleback College men's track and field team is ranked No. 4 in Southern California and No. 4 in the state according to the recent rankings posted on GoCollegeTrack.com which were posted yesterday. The recent fourth place showing at the Cerritos Invitational helped secure the Top 5 ranking for the Gauchos.
Saddleback's women's team is also recognized in the poll, getting the No. 11 slot in Southern California and No. 19 in the state.
The Saddleback men had an impressive showing at one of the top meets of the year this past weekend when it finished fourth overall out of 38 teams at the Cerritos Invitational. The Gauchos had a number of tremendous individual performances, led by Ray Lian in the javelin.
Lian had a throw of 203’3” in besting the second place finisher by over 34 feet. It was Lian’s second best throw of the season as he tries to catch Bill Sargenti, who set the old school record (220’3”) back in 1980, and Roberto Vasquez, who set the new record (211’7”) in 1989.
The Gauchos had a number of other stellar performances as they improved their standing in the California state rankings to No. 4. Nick Jennings finished tied for first in the pole vault when he cleared 16-feet to tie Samuel Sampson of Cuesta College. Andrew Kokinakes finished second in the 400-meter hurdles with a run of 55.63 seconds while the 800-meter relay team of Christian Adkisson, Edgar Vazquez, Tanner Terry and Jeremy Gathright finished second overall with a time of 1:30.73, just a hair off the school record set in 2005 (1:30.58).