Last year's Deer Valley girls team won both the Bay Valley Athletic League title and the North Coast Section championship and the boys turned in a fantastic season of their own. Three of the seven Wolverines who competed in last year's state championships - Ashley Hodges, Lisa Ma'ake and Jasmine Cox - return to this year's talented squad.
"I think that the reputation that Deer Valley has in track and field at this point, sometimes people set their standards for their season on defeating you. I think the kids have to know and they have to understand that. We've been blessed with student athletes with a lot of talent and a lot of desire," head coach Bernard Stephens said of his renowned program. "It doesn't matter what you did last week, it's what you do today. They have to come every week and compete. That's the emphasis that we put on them."
Sprinter and football standout Taiwan Jones is putting together another outstanding season on the track, running the 100-meter dash in just 10.92 seconds at the Deer Valley Invitational March 31, the third-best time posted by any runner in the area. Jones shattered that mark just four days later, turning in a time of 10.64 in a BVAL dual meet against Liberty last Wednesday in Brentwood, usurping Jahvid Best's North Coast Section leading time of 10.67 and staking claim to the eighth-fastest time in NCS history.
"Taiwan was a track athlete before football. He doesn't want people to know - but he was actually an age-group national champion in the 400 meters as a youth," Stephens said of his multi-sport star. "That kid has so many things he brings to the table. I'd like to see him focus on running the 400, but he wants to run the 100, so we'll see how that all works out. He's put on a lot of weigh - a lot of muscle - over the last year. He's able to carry it in football gear, and I don't think that (the weight) has really affected him on the track. Week in and week out he rises to the occasion."
Lisa Ma'ake is building a strong case that she's the best female thrower in NCS, ranking among the leaders in both the shot put and the discus throw. Her distance set in Wednesday's meet against Liberty - 44 feet, 3 inches - bests her closest NCS competitor, Dominique Oglesby of Granada, by nearly 10 feet. Ma'ake is also an accomplished discus thrower, and her distance of 110 feet, 10 inches is second best in the NCS this year.
"It's about time for Lisa to have a breakout year," Stephens said. "I think she likes the shot put more than she likes the discus."
Kinsley Akali is putting up some impressive numbers in the boys throwing events. His shot put distance of 47 feet, 5 inches currently ranks third in the NCS.
Tony Palermini edged out Liberty's Wyatt Landrum by just a single second in the 3,200 meters on Wednesday, posting a time of 9 minutes, 56 seconds to claim first place.
"Palermini has set some standards in the mile this year," said Stephens. "Last year he had an injury that kept him out, but he's healthy this year and running very well. He was actually voted the athlete of the meet in Martinez, as well as being voted athlete of the meet at the Deer Valley Invitational - he's running real good."
Deer Valley won all but four events against the host Liberty Lions last Wednesday. The varsity girls bested the Lady Lions 90-44, while the varsity boys won 104-32.