Track athletes participating in several events are nothing new. It’s not unusual to see a sprinter run the 100, 200 and the 4x100 relay. Distance runners will usually train for the 1,600 and the 3,200. Shot putters and discus throws almost always compete in both events.
And then there is Sequoia’s Abby Goetz, who was a double winner at the Peninsula Athletic League championships-Central Coast Section qualifying meet, winning what seem, on the surface, contradictory events. On the day of the field championships, Goetz captured the pole vault, soaring to 11 feet to win by nearly 3 feet.
Two days later, Goetz took to the track for the running events and sped her way to the win in the 100 meters, posting the only sub-13 time and finishing with a 12.97.
Goetz recently completed her freshman year at Sequoia, which is technically not over, as she will be competing in the CCS trials at Soquel High School Saturday.
“I’m trying to go in (to CCS qualifying) with an open mind. Just trying to qualify for (the pole vault) finals,” Goetz said. “In the 100, I’m just trying to PR.”
If Goetz was going to prioritize the events, pole vaulting is No. 1. Sequoia pole vault coach Dave Stahler, who also runs the Peninsula Vault Club based at the school and coached both the current boys’ and girls’ school record holders, said Goetz and her family expressed interest in pole vaulting last summer, amid the pandemic.
Stahler said she went right to work.
“Luckily, the powers-that-be didn’t shut us down,” Stahler said. “She showed from Day 1 she was coordinated and real easy to teach.”
Whether socially distant workouts in person or meeting online, Stahler said Goetz has been committed to the sport like few he has seen.
“Sprint workouts (on the track), Zoom workouts together in our garages, Abby never missed,” Stahler said. “She was right there from the beginning.”
There is no real interesting story about how Goetz got into vaulting. It’s not like the event runs in her family. In fact, the Goetzes, who own Goetz Brothers Sporting Goods in San Carlos, are a big baseball family. Abby played soccer and baseball for 10 years growing. Older brother Dillon, a junior at Sequoia, is a standout for the Ravens baseball team. But a dislocated knee playing club soccer for Juventus caused Abby Goetz to reprioritize what she wanted to do athletically.
So she started weight training in eighth grade and one day, while running around the track at Sequoia, saw the pole vaulters. She was intrigued by the sport and, with her new-gained strength from weight training, made huge strides in pole vaulting.
“My family is a very dedicated family. I wanted to give it my all,” Goetz said. “When I find something I like, I try to stick to it.”
While Goetz was progressing by leaps and bounds in the pole vault, Sequoia sprints coach Tricia Lord was looking to fill out her sprint roster and started looking to other events to find runners.
“We had, like, 10 girls (on the roster). It wasn’t easy to find people because there were so few,” Lord said.
When Lord saw Goetz’s sprint approach on the pole vault runway, she knew she had to get her on the track.
“I saw her running form and said, ‘OK, I can work with this.’ I knew she was fast. … I didn’t know that she would be that fast,” Lord said. “Her form is really good. Through training pole vault she’s learned real good body mechanics for sprinting.”
Goetz’s first varsity 100 race, she clocked a 13.2. Her 12.97 in the PAL finals? A new school record.
“I had this little notecard with my goals on it (for my high school career). It’s still hanging in my room. I had 9 feet on it (for pole vault). My goal (in the 100) was to run a sub-13,” Goetz said. “It’s really humbling.”
For anyone else, setting a record in a race considered their secondary event might cause them to re-evaluate their priorities. But the Sequoia pole vault record is within reach and Stahler thinks she can go much higher.
Stahler said the current girls’ school record, also set in 2019, is 11-6 by Julie Trundle, who was a senior at the time. Goetz went 9-6 in her first meet and has added on in each subsequent meet.
“(Trundle’s record) was the culmination of three years. Very good athlete, high-level gymnast; was pretty strong. She progressed over three years,” Stahler said. “I thought that (mark) would last a long time and then next thing you know, Abby walks on the field and she’s already at 11.”
The Ravens participated in six meets, including the PAL championships. She debuted with a 9-6, went over the 10-foot mark in her third meet, 10-6 in the regular-season finale and 11-0 at the PAL championship.
While she fell short of the school pole vault record, she did take her shot.
“In PALs, there was a very narrow field. … She won the meet on, like, three jumps,” Stahler said. “So then it was like, ‘Let’s have some fun.’
“We set it at 11-8 and she was very close.”
Stahler believes Goetz has an excellent chance for a podium finish at the CCS championships, as her 11-0 foot ranks her third in the CCS this season and, if she sticks with the vault, has a chance to make a real name for herself in the discipline.
“I honestly think she can be a 13-foot pole vaulter. Thirteen feet is a pretty high benchmark for female vaulters,” Stahler said. “Thirteen feet in high school would put her on the map nationally. Any college Division I (program) would drool over a 13-foot female pole vaulter and a 12.97 100 (sprinter). Even as a freshman, she’s probably going to get attention.”
Both Stahler and Lord believe Goetz’s focus and desire to get better is a huge part of her success, but so is her athletic ability. While “only” vaulting and sprinting for Sequoia, Lord wonders what she could do in other events.
“She’s really coachable. She has all the right tools. The sky is the limit for her,” Lord said. “I’d love to see her hurdle. I’d love to she her throw.
“She is an exceptional athlete.”
Added Stahler: “She probably progressed faster than any athlete out there (that I’ve coached), even the boys. … It’s hard to imagine this kind of athlete coming around in the last 10 years. … I think she is a very special combination (of speed and strength).”