Boys Track Athlete of the Year: Michael Woepse

The Mater Dei pole vaulter won a state title and set several records during the season.

To say that Mater Dei junior Michael Woepse was destined to be a great pole vaulter from an early age might have been presumptuous, but he certainly had some inherent factors working strongly in his favor.

His father Greg Sr. was a standout vaulter for San Jose State. His older sister Elizabeth was a four-time CIF-SS Division II champion and is seventh all-time in county history. His oldest brother Greg was a two-time CIF-SS Division II champion, who ended his career in 2006 as the school's record holder and tied for second all-time in county history.

"I saw so much vaulting and heard every term before I even started," Woepse said. "My family is great and I knew that I had to live up to the reputation."

With the challenge of carrying that burden and the self-desire to take it farther, the 2009 season would see him go places that no county vaulter and no family member had ever been before.

For his record setting 2009 season, Woepse has been selected as the Register's 2009 Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

"This year I showed that I'm not just my family's hype but my own hype," he said with a laugh.

Coming off a 2008 season that saw him reach a lifetime best of 16-2 before a late season injury derailed his hopes of success at the state meet, Woepse entered the 2009 campaign looking to redeem himself and move up the county all-time list.

Early season wins at the Irvine and Triton Invitational helped propel him into the Surf City Invitational, where he set the meet record and his personal best a season ago.

Never one to rest on past achievement, Woepse exploded over the bar at 16 feet, four inches, tying him for sixth best in county history.

That set the stage for his biggest effort of the season. Under the bright lights of the Arcadia Invitational, Woepse launched himself over the bar at 16-1 and 16-6 on his first attempts.

With the bar at 16-9 and his place atop his family, the school, and the county record books at stake, Woepse sprinted down the runway on his first attempt and vaulted himself high over the bar. Though he slightly nicked the bar on his way down, it stayed aloft, and Woepse was alone in the record books.

"That was huge for me," he said at the time.

Though he would win the Mt. SAC competition the following week, Woepse admitted that he needed to redirect his energy on his season-long quest for a state title.

"Luckily, I was able to pull off the win, but mentally I wasn't there," he said. "After that, I realized that I had a lot of season left and I trained hard for the next month to get ready for the CIF competitions."

Woepse won the Trinity League title and the CIF-SS Division II title before finishing tied for second at the CIF-SS Masters Meet.

Despite qualifying for the state meet, Woepse reveals that defeat taught him a valuable lesson.

"That loss showed I could lose any meet, any time and I refocused for the state meet," he said.

His season long goal with now in reach, Woepse wasn't about to let it get away, winning the state title, the only member of his family to do so.

"It was a great feeling to accomplish that," he said.

Even with the glow of his special year still shining bright, Woepse is already thinking of trying to go higher and what it will take for him to get there.

"I need to get a little faster and a little stronger and to continue to work hard," he said." I want to keep myself driving for bigger and better goals."

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