Following her first race of the East Bay Athletic League track trials on April 30, the announcer brought attention to Monte Vista junior Cate Peters setting a new EBAL record in the 400 meters.
Right after the announcement, he added, “We will be hearing that name a lot today.”
I have had the absolute pleasure of covering some incredible track and field athletes from the East Bay Athletic League over the years – names like Becky Spies of Livermore, David Klech of California, Bruce Giron of Monte Vista, and the late Danny Gabor of Amador Valley.
Peters, a 17-year-old junior, may fit very well into that group by the time she is done at Monte Vista.
On the first day of the trials on April 30 at Dublin High, Peters finished with the best qualifying marks in the 100, 200, 400, and 800.
Four races, four fastest times, and all in less than three hours. And even more incredible – she did it all just over two years removed from a pair of broken bones in one leg.
In fact, Peters entered the EBAL Championships with the second best time in California in the 800 and the fifth best mark in the 400.
“I’ve always loved to run,” said Peters, who has a personality to every bit match her prowess on the track. “I played soccer for 10 years and dabbled in softball. I always found that my speed set me apart.”
In third grade Peters’ mom started her in CYO track, a sport she competed in through eighth grade. It was in that final year of CYO when Peters showed a sign of her future ability.
“In eighth grade I ran a 58.0 split in a 4x400 relay,” said Peters. “My coaches were saying how not a lot of girls are running that fast of a split in the eighth grade.”
Entering high school, Peters wasn’t set on just track.
When she entered Monte Vista as a freshman, she went out for the Mustangs girls’ soccer team, a team that was top-ranked in the nation and chock full of D-I players.
She made the team – the lone freshman – and was a strong forward. However, during a game against Carondelet she was the victim of a hard slide-tackle, a hit that broke two bones in her leg.
She was in a full-leg cast for two months and was forced to get around school in a wheelchair.
“That made me appreciate what I have,” said Peters of the injury.
Unable to do much physical activity, Peters reshuffled her priorities.
“I switched my focus to academics – I had to challenge my mind,” explained Peters.
And just like she has done athletically, Peters excelled in school. She currently carries a 4.5 GPA, taking a full slate of weighted classes.
Still, there was the lingering question about her leg.
“Instead of putting pins in my leg, the doctor was letting it heal naturally,” said Peters. “There were those thoughts of what happens if the bones are not fusing. I had to live for nine months not knowing if I would be able to run again.”
After the two months in the cast, Peters was moved into a boot. She started her rehabilitation her sophomore year and it was a gradual process.
“Basically, I had to learn to run again,” said Peters, who finally was able to run almost 18 months after the injury. She went back and played soccer – a big mental hurdle.
“I went back to soccer to prove I could do it,” explained Peters.
After soccer came track, and as a sophomore she broke the school record for the 400. That was when the decision was made as to which sport Peters would participate.
“I didn’t quit soccer because of the injury,” said Peters. “I just didn’t want to take away from track.”
It wasn’t all flowers and happiness when Peters initially got back on the track.
“The first race was hard mentally,” said Peters. “I thought I should be faster, but the first couple of meets I couldn’t quite get there. I just hadn’t competed in so long – it was a big learning curve.”
By the end of her sophomore year Peters got there, winning the EBAL 100, 200, and 400. Because of COVID, there was no North Coast Section or CIF State meet.
That led to the present - her junior year.
Peters was turning in her usual exceptional year when she turned heads outside of Northern California, winning the Girls 800 Invitational on April 16 at the prestigious Mt. SAC Relays, clocking a 2:06.89.
“Three weeks ago was when I started getting attention,” said Peters. “I am getting at least one call a week from a (college) coach.”
It also changed her plan for the postseason.
"A couple of weeks ago I would have said the 400,” said Peters of her post season preference. “But it’s the 800 now. You have to be athletic, but the 800 also has a mental component. You can set the pace or come off of it – there is a lot of mental work in that race.”
This past Saturday, Peters started her post-season trek with four individual events to help her team try to gain points in the team race. In the span of 80 minutes, Peters set the new EBAL 400 record, came back with a personal best in the 100 of 12:06 (a new Monte Vista school record), and cruised with a 2:21.24 in the 800, well back of her personal best but still the top mark in the trials.
The 400 time was an insane six seconds better than the No. 2 mark. She was 50 meters clear of the next runner.
One hour later she had the best 200 meter time with a 25.39.
There was no time to warm down or warm back up for each race.
“I just tried to lay down for like 10 minutes between races,” said Peters. “I used the races to warm up. The 400 got me ready for the 100, and the 800 was my resting race.”
In the 800, Peters chose to run just off the pace until there was 200 meters to go. Once there, she made what looked like an effortless move and easily outdistanced the field, even with what was a pedestrian time for Peters.
Next up will be the EBAL finals on May 7, where she will be favored in all four events. The 100 may be the most interesting as Leila Champion of Dublin clocked a 12:07 for the second fastest time.
Following the season, Peters success has brought her a spot in the Brooks PR Invitational, the Nike Nationals, and the Under-20 National Championships this summer.
As mentioned before, in addition to her excellence on the track, she is also a scholar. The blend of the two parts of her life provides Peters the perfect balance.
“Practice each day is a great break from academics,” explained Peters, who also says she gets a solid eight hours of sleep each night. “When I am at school, I am a student. When I am on the track, I’m an athlete. You just need to have good time management.”
Editor's note: Make sure to check back in this space each week for updates on how Peters is fairing in the postseason.