Examining The Issue Between Picking High School Or Club Track

Click the picture to watch the Skype Interview via www.milesplit.com


By Keinan Briggs l Mater Dei Assistant Track Coach

Many sports, like soccer and volleyball, put an emphasis on club teams over high school teams. Is this the case in track and field as well? 

College recruiters searching for the best athletes tend to look in the same places. For track and field, these are the national meets — USATF Junior Nationals, New Balance, Dunamis, Simplot, etc. — which do not require school attachment. There are also great places to find athletes that do require school attachment, such as the Mt. SAC and Arcadia Invitationals. 

So what happens when an athletes determines he or she needs more advanced insight into the sport from a coach outside his own high school? If given the tough choice to choose a club team over a high school team, should they do it?

I’ve witnessed one such example. Entering her junior year in high school, Dominique Ruotolo was faced with a difficult decision: high school or club track. Dominique was coming off a very successful sophomore season at Mater Dei, a private catholic high school located in Santa Ana, California. But due to unforeseen circumstances, her family was unable to pay the school’s tuition going into her junior year. 

They had two options: Transfer and compete for a local public high school, or compete on her club team, the LEAP Squad Track Club. Since I had coached her since the 7th grade, her father, Frank, ultimately contacted me for advice. And I had to tell him about some hard realities. 

I knew, for instance, that club track for high school athletes during the school season was virtually non-existent. Often the only option available for athlete’s without high schools would be to compete in a collegiate or open track circuit, but many athletes aren’t often in Dominque’s position and don’t have the times or marks applicable to enter those meets. Additional issues would be how to arrange specialized training, given limited availability and facilities. 

To make the training work without a high school and without transfer, I told Frank that his daughter could homeschool to free up her schedule and to give her optimal study time, training, and rest. 

And after all of that, the family’s decision was to stay with me and compete unattached, despite the tough schedule it might bring. But it was only an option because of Dominique’s phenomenal previous season, where she went 18 feet, 1 inch in the long jump and 37-8 in the triple, and 5-6 in the high jump. Her potential made it possible. 

Dominique’s year was strategically planned and organized. She trained with the amazing staff at Athletic Republic of Orange County (AROC), where she did cross-training and sports-specific weights to build her base. For competitions, we organized a track schedule that had Dominique competing only twice per month in the collegiate/open circuit with a drive towards an athletic peak in June 2017. Not all high school programs are the same, but an issue with many athletes is competition frequency. We ultimately never had that problem, but it’s something that athletes should talk about with their parents coaches, if it is felt there is a detriment to training. 

Weeks later, Dominique placed 10th at the New Balance Indoor Nationals in the triple jump and then went third in the collegiate section of Mt. SAC Relays where she placed third in 40-8.

(Note: as an unattached athlete, it was not possible for Dominique to compete in the high school section of Mt. SAC.) Her season concluded at the USATF U20 Junior National Championships, where she peaked and went third overall, going a new lifetime best of 41-7. And now with potential collegiate options that include UCLA, Southern California, or Oregon, her one-year hiatus from the high school season was a success. 

It’s an impressive story, but I know hers could be a rare one. And it could have gone sour if she hadn’t had all the resources throughout the year — from access to a sports training center, a knowledgeable coach, transportation, access to a track and jump pits to train, and money to travel. 

The key to Dominique’s success and growth was her schedule. She only did two events per meet, depending on her training focus each week. By the end of season, she set new personal bests in all of her events: 5-7 high jump, 19-foot long jump, and a huge 4-foot improvement in the triple jump. She is now back at Mater Dei for her senior year and looking forward to a successful and exciting season.

Frank later expressed to me that he had mixed feelings about the 2016-2017 season. While it was exciting, he said, it was also difficult. His daughter felt the spring was lonely, because she had to compete outside the normal ritual of high school, among her peers and the camaraderie that often brings. And the system requires you to choose high school track because of a long gap between the indoor season and nationals.

Ultimately, in my personal opinion, unless a high school athlete is looking to become a professional and has proven elite ability, they should value the spring high school season and try to work out any issues before deciding to run unattached, based on the difficulties it often presents setting off on your own. After all, you’re only a high school student-athlete once. 

Always seek professional advice and understand the high school rules and regulations before making any important decisions.

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Keinan Briggs, a former athlete at Cal State-Los Angeles with a personal triple jump best of 52-4, is an assistant coach with Mater Dei and is the head coach of Leap Squad Youth Track Club. He has his own YouTube page titled, Keinan Briggs, where he goes over technique, offers online coaching, gives advice and offers fun videos. You can check it out here. 

Anthony Victa Makes His Impression

Anthony Victa (’19) of Laguna Hills high school has gone local good to regional good in a matter of months. Anthony found the LEAP Squad track club in September of 2017. Coach Briggs put him right into his off-season base training cyle, fast forward we are only 3 track meets in and Anthony has already gained 2′ in his triple jump and is flirting with a new personal best in the long jump.

“The part that is scary is Anthony has his these new marks from a half approach, right now he is projected to be around 46′ by the end of season assuming everything works as planned.” Coach Briggs.

To put this distanced into perspective: his old triple jump personal best of 41’11 would have placed him 9th overall at the OC Championships 2017, this current mark of 44’0 would have placed him 2nd. His very reachable mark of 46’0 has in him in competition for the division III triple jump title as he is the  1″ shy of being the #1 returner in the division.

Anthony Victa will be competing Saturday February 10 at the Redondo Union Winter All-Comers as he hopes to improve his marks

Mater Dei Lady LEAP Squad are Serious Contenders

Mater Dei Lady LEAP Squad 2018

The California Winter Season is rapidly gaining popularity as athletes are once again making track and field a primary sport. The California Winter Season is a way for athletes to get early “preseason” track meets under their belt to gear up for the spring season. CA.Milesplit.com released a Girl’s Winter Team Rankings list the other day with Eleanor Roosevelt of Corona and Mater Dei of Santa Ana ranked as the top two teams.

  • “These rankings were calculated by scoring the rankings as a meet. We scored 20 deep for individuals and 20 deep for relays. For example, for individuals 1st place received 20 points for their team, on down to 1 point for 20th place.” (Ca.Milesplit.com)

This article is a “hypothetical” track meet outcome but Roosevelt is stacked with 7 athletes, 9 entries, covering 8 events. Mater Dei has 4 athletes, 9 entries, and covering 3 events; only the jumps. What’s impressive is how many points each girl can contribute.

The Mater Dei LEAP Squad led by Coach Keinan Briggs is stacked with varsity athletes such as:

  • Senior Dominique Ruotolo who has personal bests of 5’7 high jump, 19’0 long jump, and 41’7 in the triple jump.
  • Junior Sophia Chiaramonte who has personal bests of 5’3 high jump, 36’1 triple jump, and 18’6.25 in the long jump.
  • Senior Kelli Godin who has a personal best of 17’9 in the long jump.
  • Freshman Jade McDonald who has personal bests of 18’2 long jump and 39’11 in the triple jump.

Also watch the improvements of:

  • Senior Janelle Maglione who has a personal best of 34’6 in the triple jump.
  • Senior Maggie Quiroz who has a personal best of 16’1 in the long jump.

From the outside looking in, without any improvements, the “contention” reality is  Mater Dei could qualify 4 long jumpers, 2 triple jumpers, and 2 high jumpers into scoring position at CIF Finals. Those marks also qualify or are very close to qualifying to the CIF State At-Large marks. A lot of things have to fall into place but this team is the standard of “contention”

Janelle Maglione Is Up For The Challenge

Mater Dei LEAP Squad Janelle Maglione is entering her fourth year with the program. Janelle is one of those athletes that has stayed patient and understands that literally one jump can define your whole career as a track and field athlete and she is right on pace.

“Janelle is one of the most positive athletes on the team, she is an athlete every team needs,” said coach Briggs

Janelle’s impact on the team is huge, she is the person who bring this team together, she organizes team bonding events, and is the first person to motivate any athletes.  On the runway she is quickly maturing and developing. Her sophomore year

Janelle Maglione 2018 Picture by Gene-Leon Guerrero

she was JV league champion in the triple jump (32’6) and jumped 13’6 in the long jump. Last year on Varsity she fell short of making CIF but improved to 34’6 and 15’5. This season she has already hit 33’6 and 14’8 from a half approach.

“I am excited to see how much she improves this year. She is so much stronger and she is technically sound.”  said coach Briggs.

Janelle has qualified for the CA Winter Championships in the triple jump so keep an eye out for her.


Dominique Ruotolo is Here

With Tara Davis now at the collegiate level who will be the face of CA track and field this season? Many names come to mind but one is quickly emerging, Dominique Ruotolo. Ruotolo took last season off from Mater Dei because of personal reasons. Ruotolo was home-schooled but still continued to train and compete with Keinan Briggs (Mater Dei Jumps Coach). Ruotolo competed for Briggs’ club team The LEAP Squad Youth Club and it really paid off.
Ruotolo was the CA Winter Triple Jump Champion with her leap of 39’2, a two foot improvement from her previous personal best her sophomore season. Her success did not stop there. Ruotolo placed 10th at the New Balance Indoor Nationals and 9th at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals. She even competed at collegiate meets where she held her own winning the Cal State LA Invite, the University of Redlands Invite, and placed 3rd at the Mt. SAC Relays. Ruotolo qualified for the USATF U20 Nationals where she hit a new personal best of 41’7 placing 3rd overall. Ruotolo is the first Orange County girl since 2001 to break the 40′ barrier set by Michelle Sanford (Woodbridge).
Ruotolo success doesn’t stop there, she is also a 19’0 long jumper and a 5’7 high jumper. Ruotolo is back at Mater Dei and looking to have a very successful season. She has offers from LSU, Nebraska, CAL and interest from Arizona, Oregon, Washington and many more. This video just shows how well her off-season has been thus far. Keep an eye out for the Mater Dei LEAP Squad and Dominique Ruotolo. Video via @keinanbriggs and Maxpreps.com

Maggie Quiroz Set New Expectations

Maggie “Ma-gret” Quiroz is a entering her third season on the Mater Dei LEAP Squad. Quiroz is a senior looking to continue her improvements and compete at the collegiate level. As a sophomore she had a solid season but wanted more. Her junior year she put in the work during the off-season and finished her year with huge improvements. She went from 31’7 to 33’8 in the triple jump and 13’7 to 16’1 in the long jump. This season being her third season ever, she plans to produce some big numbers.

“I see a lot of potential in her. This off-season she has continued to work hard and get stronger in the weight room. I can’t wait to watch her compete.” Said coach Briggs


Ben Hepner is a Triple Threat

El Modena’s Junior student-athlete Ben Hepner is shining on and off the track. Hepner is having an amazing year as the varsity corner for El Modena with 30 tackles and 2 INTs. He and his team play this Friday in the first round of CIF playoffs. Hepner is also a great track and field athlete, as a youth Hepner was the USATF J.O. 13-14 Triple Jump Regional Champion and a Nationals participant. His training with the LEAP Squad youth track club prepared him well for high school sports. Hepner is ranked CA #7 in the 110HH for the class of “19. Off the track Hepner holds a 4.4 GPA and his days away from attaining his goal of Eagle Scout. Hepner is the example of success.

Jaron Osborne


Name: Jaron Osborne

Height: 6’1

School: Sunny Hills

Class of: ’19

Position: Hurdles

Hometown: Fullerton

Personal best marks: 110HH 16.26, 300IH 42.73

Accomplishments: 2x Freeway league champion

Personal: Goals are to compete in college and keep his GPA at 3.5

Sophia Chiaramonte


Name: Sophia Chiaramonte

Height: 5’4

School: Mater Dei

Class of: ’19

Position: Jumps and Sprints

Hometown: Santa Ana

Personal best marks: Long Jump 18’6.25, High Jump 5’3, Triple Jump 36’1


Youth: USATF J.O. Nationals qualifier in the triple and high jump

2016: Battled a hamstring injury most of the year finished with a high jump pr of 5’1 and long jump 16’1

2017: CIF DII Champion 4×1, OC Champion Long jump, Mater Dei school record holder long jump 18’6.25, CIF State Qualifier. First Team all county. South County Classic long jump meet record

Personal: Parents Gina and Tony Chiaramonte  and has a twin brother Anthony. Her goal is to win state.

LEAPing To Success

Maddie Lyon of Woodbridge and Sophia Chiaramonte of Mater Dei made some noise last year as underclassmen and expect to make a lot more this season. Madison Lyon (left) class of ‘20 is an all-around talent with notable personal bests of CA #1 18’4 (long jump), CA #2 37’1 (triple jump), CA #6 15.33 (100 hurdles). Sophia Chiaramonte class of ‘19 is a threat with personal bests of CA # 5 18’6.25 (long jump) and 5’3 (high jump).

Both Lyon and Chiaramonte have been members of the LEAP Squad Track Club for the past 3 seasons.

“They have improved so much, it’s exciting to see their successes but we are not done.” Said LEAP Squad founder and head coach Keinan Briggs.


Keinan Briggs Orange County Track and Field Training

Looking for a Track and Field jumps Coach in Orange County? Keinan Briggs is one of the best. This season marks his 7th year as the Mater Dei head jumps coach and 6th eason of his LEAP Squad Youth Track Club. As the head jumps coach at Mater Dei Keinan has helped develop 20 collegiate track and field athletes, sending athletes to CAL, UCLA, TCU, UCI, UCSB, SDSU, SFSU, and La Verne. Briggs has coached many of the top CA jumpers.


Briggs’ youth track club, The LEAP Squad Track Club is based in central Orange County and has produced some of OC’s top middle school athletes leading into their perspective high schools. Last year’s LEAP Squad team produced 10 Junior Olympic National qualifiers, 2 triple jump regional champions, and broke 2 meet records. LEAP Squad athletes have been earning a varsity spot when they arrive to their high schools as Freshmen.

Briggs’ philosophy is very simple, when you teach the athletes how to be successful in every aspect of life, winning comes easy. Briggs is very passionate and knowledgeable in all areas and has created a detail year-round training program for ages 6-18.

2015 lstc indoor teamBriggs is well respected in the community and is on the board on the Irvine Children’s Fund. Briggs offers a yearly track and field clinic for the kids of Irvine and holds a track and field academy in the spring for all kids grades 1-8. Make sure to visit his YouTube Channel for weekly training tips and coaching concepts daily during the week.

Briggs was a standout prep athlete in football, basketball, and track and field. Briggs kept his focus on track and field taking his talents to Orange Coast College where he became the Male Athlete of The Year. Briggs later attended Cal State Los Angeles where he continued is athletic success ranking among the Nation’s best hurdlers and triple jumpers. Later Briggs competed professionally as a triple jumper for 2XU becoming a 2X USA Track and Field National competitor placing 13th in the US Outdoor Championships 2010 and 6th the following year in the Indoor Championships. Briggs has trained under and competed against some of the world best coaches and athletes. Now he is on a mission to pass his knowledge to our next generation.

The LEAP Squad Track Club trains Monday and Wednesday’s at Mater Dei high school 6:30 pm to 8 pm. Join today, season starts January 2018.


LEAP Squad Track Club Off-Season Conditioning

lstc logo header official

The LEAP Squad Track Club, Orange County’s premier track club just got better, expanding to pole vault, distance, hurdles, and relays. Training is offered year-round for ages 6-18. Now through December we train, in the winter we develop, and in the spring we compete. Practices are Monday’s and Wednesday’s 630pm to 8pm at Mater dei high in Santa Ana. Join today! For more info call 657-400-LEAP, email info@keinanbriggs.com or visit www.keinanbriggs.com


The Return of Dominique Ruotolo to High School

Dominique Ruotolo New Balance Indoor Nationals

Not form anything of the negative but from home-school. This 2017 year Dominique and her brother Titan were stuck with home-schooling because of a family emergency which left them financially unable to attend Mater Dei.

Coaches have asked where she has come from because they haven’t read anything in the paper nor have they seen her at any high school events. Well, the answer I give them is our local prep contributors chose not to shine the light on her but numbers speak loudly.

 Dominique competed well hitting huge marks this season at big meets:Dominique Ruotolo New Balance Outdoors

CA Winter Triple Jump Champion

Cal State LA Triple Jump Champion

Redlands “Last Chance” Triple Jump Champion

USATF So. Cal. Association Champion

New Balance Indoor Nationals 10th

New Balance Outdoor Nationals 9th

USATF Jr. Nationals 3rd (Pan Am Alternate)

Looking onto next year Ruotolo is set up to do some damage as she is the first Orange County jumper to break 40’ since Michelle Sanford of Woodbridge (2001). Her current marks not only lead the county but are strong in CIF and State. Based on her yearly progressions her possibilities are endless.



Where did Dominique Ruotolo come from?

domi nbon 2Dominique Ruotolo has been around. Ruotolo has attended Mater Dei high school. Her freshman and sophomore year she competed very well but had been in the shadows awaiting for her moment. As a freshman Ruotolo was the Orange County Triple Jump Champion, Trinity League high jump and Triple Jump Champion. Her Freshman personal best marks were 5’3 (high jump), 37’6 (triple jump), and 17’3 (long jump) which are some solid all-around marks. Her sophomore year she improved to 5’6, 37’8, and 18’1 but dealt with a foot injury late in season. Going into her Junior year a family emergency left her family financially unable to cover the cost for 2 kids at Mater Dei and 3 others in college. The decision was made to home-school both Dominique and her brother Titan. Both Dominique and Titan competed for the LEAP Squad Youth Track Club during the high school season, a team which is coached by Keinan Briggs who is also the Mater Dei jumps coach.

The plan to do club track and keep Dominique in a track and field rythym paid off. Dominique improved her marks to 5’7, 40’8, and 19’0. Ruotolo was the CA High School Winter Triple Jump Champion, won two collegiate invitationals, and placed 3rd at the highly competitive Mt. SAC Invitational collegiate section triple jump. Ruotolo placed 10th (39’0) at the New Balance Indoors and 9th (40’6) at the New Balance Outdoors. Today she competed in the long jump championship section placing 5th in her section (18’6). Ruotolo’s final meet is at the USATF Jr. Nationals in Sacramento.Dominique Ruotolo 2016

Ruotolo’s 40’ jump is monumental, she is the first Orange County Triple Jumper to break 40’ since Michelle Sanford of Woodbridge in 2001. Ruotolo is just a rising Senior and expects to make a few changes to the history books for the the county, state, and nation.

So, to answer the question of where did she come from? She has been here.