Weil Academy founder Mark Weil (from left) is joined by his new track and field team members Angie Ruiz, Molly Harrold, Tess Edwards, Claudia Adelman and head coach Ed Italo.
Note: The following story appeared in the recent Sports Section of the Ojai Valley News.
Mike Miller, Ojai Valley News sports editor
In July, former varsity sprint and middle distance coach at Nordhoff High School (NHS) Ed Italo, joined Weil Tennis Academy as head track coach. Italo’s task was to add an elite track-and-field program founded on the same principles and methods that have made Weil one of the premier tennis preparatory schools in the nation.
Weil Tennis Academy, founded by Mark and Jane Weil in 1997, has placed 100 percent of its students into top NCAA universities and colleges including Stanford, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth and UCLA, mostly on scholarships, to study and compete for those institutions.
In addition, over the past 20 years, Weil has developed dozens of NCAA collegiate champions and several top-ranked professionals, including Top 10 ATP player Grigor Dimitrov. According to Weil, as a fully accredited California high school, his goal is to assist every student in achieving scholastic excellence, combined with the intensive athletic training and college preparation necessary to gain admission and placement on a college team at the highest level.
In four seasons with the Rangers, eight boys and eight girls from Italo’s squads were responsible for setting nine varsity and two freshman-sophomore records. In 2015, his boys’ 4-by-800 meter relay team placed first in the U.S. at the venerable Penn Relays in Philadelphia and finished the season ranked 16th in the nation out of more than 8,000 high school entries.
Before making the move to Nordhoff’s track program, Italo coached for the Ojai Roadrunners Youth Track Club from 2005 to 2012, serving as club president his final two years. His move to NHS was motivated by a commitment he made to several of his youth runners to continue developing them.
“When Weil Academy approached me, I was in discussion with two schools with top-notch programs and coaching philosophies very similar to my own,” said Italo. “My only regret in leaving Nordhoff was having to part ways with my squad, three freshman girls in particular. In our initial meeting, Weil proposed structuring a scholarship program for serious track-and-field student athletes in the Ojai Valley as a way to build the program and to give back to the community. That alone was enough for me to sign on; however, it wasn’t until those three girls and a fourth incoming freshman made the move to Weil that I saw how wonderful this could be. All four girls are making such a great account of themselves, Weil has agreed to offer another scholarship position for a deserving student at his school this coming January. We are currently taking applications from any runners interested in interviewing with us.”
Parent Ben Edwards, father of Tess Edwards, has been thrilled with the results of the move to the Weil Academy. “We knew Jane and Mark and what they are all about, so when this opportunity was presented to us it was an easy decision.”
According to Ben, the academic programming and athletic training have exceeded their expectations and he is thrilled with the results. “Tess is engaged in her classes and motivated. It is an intense program and exactly what we would expect from Ed. We are happy he was able to stay in the valley and we are grateful that Mark helped make that happen,” he added.
“My philosophy about athletics and competition is a simple, but critical, one,” continued Italo. “High school athletics teach important life lessons. Team sports focus on the value of cooperation where several players with specific tasks work together to achieve a common goal. Track, like other single-player sports, offers different, equally important life lessons. It encourages young minds to turn their focus inward, to self-motivate, to explore and push their limits. Weil Academy and I are in perfect sync here. Their students come from all over the world, already focused and committed. They live and study in an environment with fewer distractions among other like-minded athletes, with a passionate staff of teachers and coaches. It’s an amazing opportunity for these girls. I’m excited that as our track program grows, this unique learning experience will be accessible to more aspiring track athletes in Ojai.”
Mark Weil said Italo approached him about the concept of adding track and field to his academy and he was sold. “My whole life has been about creating opportunities for young student athletes, to use their athletic talents and drive to help them go to the best colleges and universities in the U.S. to study and play tennis for the varsity team, with scholarship,” he said.
“Track is huge in Europe, Africa, China and on and on. My main focus now is helping our local track athletes here in Ojai to use their brains, their speed and their dedication to hard work to great colleges to run; but, yes, I would love to mix in some international students in different disciplines to round out our team. Ed and I are talking about traveling to Kenya to see if we can find some longer-distance runners who would like to go to a U.S. high school, then college. It’s going to be an exciting journey, this track program,” he concluded.