A track and field homecoming

Former Camas track stars return to coach at their alma mater

Besties on and off the field. Michelle Pillette, left, will coach long jump and triple jump for Camas under the direction of her former Camas teammate and now head girl's track and field coach Seanna Pitassi.

An athlete picks up some pointers from long jump coach Michelle Pillette (center) and new head track coach Seanna Pitassi (right) at Camas High School during one of the first practice sessions of the year.

On a day when the first sun of the new season returned to Cardon Field in Camas, so did Seanna Pitassi. But, instead of blistering the track as the team’s top sprinter like she did eight years ago, Pitassi now leads the entire team’s charge as the new head girls track coach for Camas High School.

After graduating from CHS, Pitassi went on to a successful collegiate track and field career at Central Washington University. For the past three years, she has been a teacher and assistant track coach at Heritage High School.

“It’s like a dream really, I couldn’t believe it when I got the call offering me the job,” Pitassi says. That call came from former Camas head track coach Alisa Wise, who decided it was time to retire after 20 years to focus on her three grandchildren and train top triathletes in her free time.

“Seanna has a passion for track and field and for kids, and when I watched her coach at Heritage, her passion for the sport and the kids was obvious,” Wise explains.

Wis says she started hinting to Camas administrators that Pitassi would make a great track coach and it wasn’t too long before she got approval to make that call.

“When coach Wise called and told me, ‘You must become the new Camas track coach,’ I was speechless for a second, all I could say was wow, yes, yes!” Pitassi says.

Pitassi sprinted and anchored relay races when she attended Camas High from 2006 to 2010. She won the state championship in the 4-400 meter relay race during her junior year — a Camas first in that challenging event.

“We actually never really thought we could do it that year, but we just kept on winning and we followed coach Wise’s direction and it was such an amazingly cool thing when it actually happened,” Pitassi says.

One of Pitassi’s closest friends during those memorable high school days was Michelle Polia. Both women graduated in 2010, and they ran together their senior year on a relay team that placed third in state. Now, Polia is joining her close friend as the team’s long jump and triple jump coach.

“It really makes sense to be back here at Camas with Seanna because we ran this track together through many relays and competed in the same events. It really just feels like home here,” Polia says. “Michelle and I have always stayed close. We’ve remained friends, so it’s incredible to have the chance to coach and share experiences together like this.”

Adding to the alumni coaching staff is Grayson Anderson, a former Camas high jumper who placed second in state in 2013, and went on to successfully compete as a Pac-12 track decathlete for Washington State University. His specialties in the decathalon are sprints and the high jump. Now Anderson is back on his home turf, sharing his Division 1 track knowledge and skills as the new Camas high jump coach.

Eagle lands again, this time on the track

Heading up the Camas boys track program is another familiar name: head football coach Jon Eagle moves up from an assistant track coach to lead the entire program this year, replacing longtime coach Rod Raunig, who stepped down from his 17-year run as head coach, along with Alisa Wise.

“Coach Raunig is my brother from another mother and we both know that (Eagle) is going to be amazing as the head track coach,” Wise says. “He’s such a great guy with kids, and if he doesn’t know something, he will quickly find someone who does. That’s how he operates.”

Coach Eagle says he feels fortunate to have so many talented young coaches surrounding him. He already knows their character and their passion for the sport because he helped coach them when they were students — something that is still surreal to think about for coach Pitassi.

“I’m still getting used to having coach Eagle as a colleague instead of a coach, but he is so approachable and has made it totally awesome to come back into this program that I love,” Pitassi says.

State champs return to lead track team

Leading this year’s Camas track and field team are returning state champion high jumper Madison Peffer and Daniel Maton, who won state last year in the 800 and 1600 meter events, plus more than a half dozen athletes who competed at state last season.

Coach Eagle believes the key to building a championship-caliber track program is hiring quality coaches and teachers. He says Pitassi is the right person to push this successful program to new heights.

Former coach Wise visited one of coach Pitassi’s first practices at Cardon Field and says she was impressed by what she witnessed.

“All three of our returning alumni coaches command respect on the field — first, because of their athletic abilities, but then it’s their enthusiasm and love of the sport and kids, it just feels right,” she says.

However, no one is more thrilled about these big changes than coach Pitassi.

“I’m so excited,” she says. “It’s amazing, having these people who were my coaches and to think that now I’m coaching with them in this amazing program and town that I love. I’m so lucky.”