Michael Gabbani and Jake Lepe first met each other when they were 4 years old in preschool. Fourteen years later, the Sobrato High seniors have maintained a close bond even through their childhood and teenage years, when any one thing could’ve had them drift apart or go their separate ways.
“Throughout the years we’ve grown even closer,” said Lepe, who along with Gabbani and Michael Boyd are the top runners on Sobrato’s boys cross country team.
Lepe thought he would never see Gabbani again after preschool, but they were both enrolled at Morgan Hill Charter School. Upon seeing Gabbani in their first couple of days of kindergarten, Lepe was jubilant.
“I didn’t know Mikey was going to be at the same school I was, and when I saw him, I just remember being the happiest I had ever been. In preschool, he was my only friend. So when I saw him in kindergarten, of course I was really happy. That happiness I felt really started our journey together.”
The two are co-captains and along with Boyd have put together solid seasons. Gabbani is the team’s No. 1 runner and established a personal-record (PR) of 16 minutes, 33 seconds in one of the league meets at Montgomery Hill this season, besting his previous PR of 17:07 that was set in his sophomore year.
Gabbani also put together a solid junior year in the shortened Covid spring season, though there were no league playoff or Central Coast Section races. However, the fact that Sobrato even had a season was plenty enough to motivate Gabbani to prepare himself for whatever was to come.
“I kept my routine going and when the spring eventually came around, it really gave me motivation to come in first place in the races,” he said.
Gabbani has come a long way. As a freshman, Gabbani vividly remembers being scared to compete against older and faster runners. Now he’s at or near the lead pack trying to control the race.
“My tactic nowadays is to stay in front of the pack, keep pace and have a kick at the end,” he said.
Gabbani tried out for cross country in his freshman year only after Lepe encouraged him to do so. This was after an older friend of Lepe’s convinced him to try out for the sport.
“I thought, ‘OK, I’ll try it out to do something and kill time,’” Lepe said. “And I ended up loving being on the team. I’m a really outgoing person and I love the fact we can talk and joke around even during a hard run, and then when we’re done joke around some more. At the same time, we try hard and do our best.”
Like Gabbani, Lepe has improved upon his lifetime best marks at Montgomery Hill, clocking a 17:49 at the second league meet three weeks ago. It was a huge improvement upon his previous PR of 19:16 that was set during his sophomore year. Lepe also has run a 17:53, showing consistency after missing the first couple of races of the season due to a dislocated ankle he suffered in a skateboarding accident in mid-August.
“I’m really happy with the progress I’ve made,” he said. “I was out for four to five weeks which put me at a disadvantage.”
Lepe said he will put off skateboarding until after the cross country season is over, though it’s hard to fault him for ever getting hurt at the activity he’s been doing the longest. Skateboarding runs in the Lepe family and Jake received his first one from one of his cousins when he was 6 years old.
“My dad skateboarded and most of my cousins did, so I kind of grew up with that life,” he said.
Bulldogs coach Andrea Tuua said Gabbani and Lepe have been exemplary student-athletes who have brought great energy and enthusiasm to the team.
“They’re very eager, respectful kids, and they always embrace new runners,” Tuua said. “They’re very coachable and hard working, so it’s going to be hard to see them go. They’re strong students as well, and that’s what I love about them. They’re competitive in everything they do whether it’s an AP class or running, they’re talking about it. They’re very much team players and whatever needs to get done, they’re the go-getter type of guys.”
Even though performing well in races has been meaningful, Gabbani said it’s the friends and relationships he’s built over the years that he’ll cherish even more as time goes on.
“The entire team since my sophomore year is pretty much my whole friend group,” he said.
Gabbani was zoned into attending Live Oak his freshman year until he put in a transfer to Sobrato since Lepe was going there. Together all these years, the two are all but assured of attending different colleges. However, the long distance won’t prevent them from staying connected.
“It’s definitely going to suck not being at the same school, but it’s not going to separate us,” Lepe said.
Girls Water Polo
The Sobrato High girls water polo team concluded the regular-season with a 3-3 record in the Blossom Valley League’s Mount Hamilton Division after a 13-4 win over Santa Teresa on Oct. 20.
The Bulldogs open the league playoffs on Thursday and first-year coach Kyle Edgar believes the team is “very close” to earning a Central Coast Section playoff berth. They easily dispatched the Saints on the strength of four goals from Abby Humphrey, three from Katie Parker, two from Maile Ryan and one goal each from Maelani O’Connor, Holland Adam, and Delci Sawyer.
With the game well in hand by halftime, everyone was able to receive a good chunk of playing time.
“It’s pretty nice when that happens and I’m confident with our team,” Edgar said. “We’re always going to have a mentality that we can win every game we play.”
Humphrey and Parker have displayed tremendous chemistry and been productive though Edgar was quick to point out that without a superstar, the team has been balanced and everyone has made valuable contributions.
“The reason why we’re winning games this year is because we have good chemistry and everybody is working together,” Edgar said. “Everyone on the team is important, and no one is dragging the team down.”
Edgar said the highlight of his season was seeing the girls play well in losses to Leigh and Willow Glen, two of the top squads in the league. Sobrato lost to Leigh by one goal and has played Willow Glen twice this season, losing the first match by four and the rematch by two goals.
“That second time against Willow Glen, we saw some really good water polo from the girls,” he said. “We did a good job of adapting to their playing style, and I’m excited to see if we play them again in the league tournament.”