Piedmont track teams poised for strong year

Sebastien Swain mid-race in Fresno on Nov. 25, 2023. (Photo: Don Gosney)

Piedmont High School’s track and field teams are looking good early in the season. The Highlanders have several talented runners back as well as one precocious freshman on the boys side. That has head coach Pouyan Assadi excited. He said he has over 100 athletes out and that both the boys and the girls teams are growing.

Sebastien Swain is the aforementioned precocious freshman. He qualified for the California Interscholastic Federation Division 4 championships during cross country, finishing 67th.

“Sebastien Swain is one of the most exciting pieces of the team,” Assadi said. “We just haven’t had a freshman this prolific in a long, long time. He already owns the freshman record for cross country. Just a week into the (track) season the all-time freshman mark for 800 and 1,600 (meters). It’s pretty amazing to watch a freshman not just break freshmen records, but to win races outright. His time of two minutes, three seconds (in the 800) was Parker Long’s time as a junior.”

Long had a huge senior season in the 800 last year, winning at the North Coast Section Meet of Champions and setting a personal best of 1:53.25, dropping his best from the year before by 10 seconds.

Xander Schulte-Sasse (1619) in September 2023.

Swain joins a strong group of returning distance runners. Seniors Xander Schulte-Sasse and Julian Lee will be the top ones.

“We’re hoping they can make a run at the 1,600 and 3,200 title in the (West Alameda County Conference),” Assadi said. “Xander missed the latter portion of the cross country season with a hip injury. He’s fired up and ready to take on those Berkeley and (Bishop) O’Dowd kids. He’s always running, he’s always working out. He came to some of our workouts and worked on his explosiveness which will help him close out races.”

About Lee, Assadi said, “Simply put, Julian’s one of the hardest workers on a team of very hard workers. We as coaches try to get him to take a day off from time to time. I have a pretty good feeling he’s going to take a leap alongside Xander.”

Julien Lee at the WACC championships in 2022.

Junior Sam Shelby will be the top sprinter. Sam came on the team last year and made an immediate impact. He was the missing piece of the (1,600 relay). He anchored that team and we got into the CIF state meet. All three of the other runners graduated. Were going to try to build some relays around him. He’s keen on finishing at the top of the WACC in the 100 and 200.”

Assadi said Shelby was just 0.06 off his personal best when he ran 11.34 at the Skyline Invitational on Feb. 24. He also made his debut in the long jump and leaped 19 feet, 6 ½ inches.

“Within two or three hours of work he’s already one of the best long jumpers at Piedmont of the past 10 years,” Assadi said.

Sam Shelby competes in May 2023.

Junior Miguel Long is the hardest worker on the team, according to Assadi. Long is a jumper – long, triple, and high – and will try the 300 hurdles this year. Long set a personal best of 20-2 ½ in winning the long jump at the Grizzy Invitational on Feb. 17.

The girls team is led by seniors Jamie Schwarz and Breah Bell. Assadi said both have been strong pieces in growing the track and field program.

“The impact Jamie has had on the program, we are going to feel the positive impact far longer than after she graduates,” Assadi said. “She has helped grow the team from 20 to 40 or so. Jamie is working super-hard pushing the girls around her, making friendships that go beyond skill, beyond gender.”

Schwarz made the NCS Meet of Champions in the 800 last year. She also will run the 1,600 and on the 1,600 relay team.

Bell made the NCS Bayshore championships in the triple jump and as part of the 400 relay.

Breah Bell sprints in March 2023.

“Breah has helped to break down some of the barriers around gender,” Assadi said. “She leads the girls in the weight room, she teaches them good form, she pushes them to get better. When we have all 50 of our sprinters including boys, she’s leading warmups, she’s leading cool downs. That’s the sort of leader we need on the sprint side since we’re light on seniors.

She’ll also run the 100 and compete in the long jump.

Junior Alina Shahid is the Highlanders top girls thrower. She made the NCS Bayshore championships in the discus and threw a PR there of 73-8.

Skylar Best and Jamie Schwarz in October 2023.

Sophomore Skylar Best made the CIF championships in cross country as a freshman. Assadi said she can race any event from the 400 up to the 3,200. She was part of the 1,600 relay team that made the Meet of Champions in track.

“I think she looks stronger than ever,” Assadi said. “She was with us in the off season working on her explosiveness to close that last 200-400 meters.”

Ella Yasar in May 2023.

Junior Ella Yasar is a hurdler and sprinter, who made the NCS Meet of Champions in the 300 hurdles and as part of the 400 relay.

“Ella ran the best 300 hurdle time at Piedmont over the last 20 years where she dropped an entire second at the Meet of Champions,” Assadi said. “She was seeded 18th coming into that meet and finished ninth. She missed making the finals by .01.”

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