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Canyon's Cole Mears: Mr. Utility

Canyon senior exceling at two sports at the same time

Posted: April 26, 2014 10:30 p.m.
Updated: April 26, 2014 10:30 p.m.

Canyon High's Cole Mears is pulling double duty this spring as the baseball team's center fielder and a sprinter on the track team.

 

Canyon High senior Cole Mears has always considered himself a utility player.

He’s the kind of player who, if asked, would play any position on the baseball field.

But it takes a unique talent like Mears to be able to pull off what he has this spring — the rare feat of playing two varsity sports simultaneously.

Though Mears is a baseball player at heart and has been for 10 years, for the first time this season he stepped onto the track in a competitive fashion. And he’s been an instant success.

“It’s a lot of fun. Going from baseball to this one day with track the next day and going out there with a whole different group of kids and having a whole different love for a sport,” says Mears, who is Canyon’s starting center fielder.

Though Canyon track and field head coach Paul Broneer is well-known for his ability to lure athletes from other sports onto the track, it wasn’t Broneer who finally convinced Mears to become a sprinter.

And Canyon baseball head coach Adam Schulhofer, who said he’s long recognized Mears’ speed, also had nothing to do with it.

It was Mears’ private trainer, Denean Hill, who talked him into it.

Hill is an Olympic gold medalist sprinter who trains several local athletes and has worked with Mears since he was in eighth grade.

Mears first went to Hill to help him improve his speed around the basepaths. The standard measurement of speed for a baseball player is the 60-yard sprint — the amount of distance between second base and home.

Since a young age, Mears has been solid in that category, and he now runs a 6.5 second 60-yard dash.

“We know that he can move and he’s been training for the longest time on his own,” Schulhofer says. “Since the day he got to Canyon he’s been the fastest guy on the field.”

Fastest guy on the field?

Try one of the fastest kids in the Santa Clarita Valley, period.

Around this time last year, Hill started noticing Mears’ 100-meter and 200-meter times were dropping significantly to the point where he contend with the top sprinters in the area.

She was right.

He stepped onto the blocks in Canyon’s Foothill League opening meet against West Ranch on March 27 and won both the 100 meters and 200 meters with unofficial hand times of 11.1 seconds and 22.6 seconds, respectively.

It immediately confirmed what coaches had been telling him for years. This kid can fly.

“Ever since the first meet was over I just kind of settled down and it’s been smooth sailing since then,” Mears says.

In four league meets overall, Mears has won three of four 100-meter races, he’s gone four-for-four in the 200 and he’s helped Canyon’s 4x100 relay team win the last three league meets.

“People don’t understand, he’s been putting in the work for five years,” Hill says. “We just never threw him out there in track to see what he could do.”

What makes Mears’ success on the track even more impressive is the fact that he still views baseball as a priority and rarely has time to practice with fellow Canyon track runners.

For the most part, it’s been all baseball all the time. Mears helped Canyon win its first Foothill League title since 2002 last season and he’s coming up on the end of four years as a starter.

Schulhofer said Mears may very well finish his high school career as the school’s all-time leader in hits, at-bats, stolen bases and runs scored, though Canyon doesn’t have full historical records to confirm it.

Mears is batting .276 with eight RBIs, 11 runs and five stolen bases this season.

Every once in awhile, he’ll finish up baseball practice in the evening and wander over to the track to squeeze in some last-minute workouts.

“It’s incredible to see,” says Canyon sprints coach Eric Johnson of Mears’ relative lack of training. “I’m wondering where he was the other three years.”

Maybe “utility player” isn’t the right term to describe Mears. More like utility athlete.

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