Legends of the Sport - Coley Candaele

Legends of the Sport: Multi-Versatile Coach Coley Candaele

When not posing along with them, Coley Candaele made sure to snap photos after his boys team won a second consecutive CIF-State Track Championship in 2017. (Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport)


As we all work through this break in the 2020 Track & Field season, it is allowing us to appreciate those who helped make the sport what it is here in California.   

It's not all that uncommon to find head track & field coaches who also double as the head football coach. Meanwhile, it's very common for cross country coaches to carry their expertise over to the oval during the spring season. 

But, to find someone that has successfully achieved the feat in all three sports? 

Look no further than Coley Candaele, who just concluded his fourth season as Vista Murrieta's cross country head coach.  After stepping away from his athletic director duties in the summer of 2018, he has streamlined his infectious energy and enthusiasm strictly to the cross country and track & field community. 

For his accomplishments and endless influence upon tens of thousands of high school student-athletes over the past 25 years, we highlight and celebrate the positive impact of Mr. Coley Candaele.

Since opening up Vista Murrieta as the school's head football and track & field coach in 2003, the school has been a model of excellence throughout the nation.   One of the most remarkable accomplishments of the Candaele's programs is that his track & field rosters consistently hover around 400 athletes, yet the Broncos continue to be one of the most competitive programs in California! 

Vista Murrieta's boys have earned two California State Meet team titles to go along with five CIF-Southern Section-Divivision I team titles over the past eleven seasons.  That success shadows over what Candaele experienced on the gridiron, where his Broncos advanced to the CIF Divisional championship final seven straight years from 2009-2015, highlighted by a championship during the 2011 season. 

With Candaele's humble nature, rapport with his athletes and attention to detail, very few coaches in California, regardless of sport, can match him and his athletes' achievements. 

Before moving to Murrieta with wife, Karen and daughters, Peyton and Devyn, Candaele carved out an incredible resume while coaching at his alma mater, Carpinteria.  The year prior to moving, he coached the football team to a 14-0 record and CIF championship.  During his time in coaching track & field at Carpinteria, their squads earned two CIF Division 4 team titles. 

But one needs to go back to the late-1980's to first experience the younger, high school version of Candaele where he was already rewriting the standards of expectations.   How does someone quarterback his high school football team to three CIF titles, but come springtime, rather than moving over to the sprints or the jumps, becomes one of the best 800/1600 meter runners in state history?!?!    Absolutely unheard of!  

Between the two 'distance' events, Candaele captured six Divivision IV titles, won three times at the Southern Sections Masters Meet and set new Division IV records in both!  He finished third in the 1600 meters at the CIF-State Championships as a sophomore and came back to take second a year later.  As a senior in 1990, he once again finished in the top three, but this time, a strong move with 250 meters to go along with a 56-second last lap propelled Candaele to a 4:06.26 clocking and the CIF-State title!         

1990 CIF-State Track & Field Championships

Boys 1600m


1. Coley Candaele (Carpinteria) 4:06.26

2. Louis Quintana (Arroyo Grande) 4:08.29

3. Damon Chamberlain (Casa Roble) 4:12.02

4. Derek Kite (Camarillo) 4:13.67

5. Hector Hernandez (Mar Vista) 4:14.42

6. Ben Mesfen (Venice) 4:14.70

7. Robert Walker (San Pasqual) 4:18.78

8. Matt Ringer (Homestead) 4:19.15

9. Brian Gastelum (Birmingham) 4:26.9


Current Carpinteria head coach, Van Latham, not only coached Candaele but also worked side by side with him as a fellow coach.  Latham is the meet director of the SS-Division 4 finals while he stopped by to offer these words of admiration:

"I had the pleasure of working with Coley as both an athlete and as a coach. He is one of the most amazing people I've known. As an athlete who is very, very, talented, obviously. However, what put him above the rest was his work ethic and his great desire to win. It was a lot of fun when he was competing at Carpinteria High School.  He made everybody better. 

"When he joined us as a coach, I was very impressed with his knowledge of the sport and his ability to motivate athletes to reach a level that they didn't think they could reach. His enthusiasm was contagious. He was also a great student of his sport. He had a very good sense of what was important for training and work with just fluff. 

"I am not surprised at the success he has had at Vista Murrieta. He was the best young coach that I had ever worked with in my 35+ years of coaching."

Candaele coached Michael Norman to California State titles in the 200 and 400 meters in the spring of 2015 as a junior.  As a senior, Norman and his family trusted Candaele to guide Norman through the defense of his high school titles while also preparing to compete later that summer for a spot on the 2016 USA Olympic team.

With a training calendar that extended from January all the way to the IAAF World U-20 Championship in the 200 meters in late July, Norman was well on his way to international success!   Norman's resume already includes his Indoor World Record in the 400 meters from 2018.  He opened up the 2019 season in racing to a 43.45, which ranks as the fourth-fastest performance in history and the fastest ever recorded in the month of April.  Norman was gracious enough to share his thoughts on what it was like to have Candaele has his high school coach

"Coach Candaele is the type of coach every athlete should aspire to have.  What makes him a great coach is the fact that he understands his athletes on an individual basis ... his ability to adapt and grow as a coach is what differentiates him from others.  During my time at Vista, Coach Candaele understood what I wanted to accomplish as an athlete while helping me grow as an individual.  He set me on the right path for success by teaching me the fundamentals of what it takes to be a great athlete on the track. 

"The amount of trust I have in him is indescribable.  I never questioned him because I knew his intentions were always in my best interest especially as the Olympic Trials approached.  What I appreciate the most about Coach is that he never treated me any differently than my teammates.  That speaks a lot for his character as a genuine coach.  Even though I've graduated, Coach always kept up with my progress through college (at USC) and even came to Eugene to watch me compete at the NCAAs.  Over the years, I've come to see Coach Candaele as more than just my high school coach but as a mentor and a person that I aspire to be when I'm older.  I can't thank Coach enough for all of the support he has given me throughout my career as an athlete as he has a tremendous amount of influence in my life."

Indicative of the balanced and unselfish nature of Candaele, one look no further than the statement made when stepping away from coaching football in 2015: "It is the best one (decision) at this time.  Vista Murrieta football has experienced great success over the past decade, however, for the program to take that next step, something has to change.  At this point, being athletic director, head football coach, head track coach, husband and father does not leave enough time in the day to be great at all of them.  Both of my daughters will be coming to Vista Murrieta in the next six years, and I do not want to miss any opportunities to be a part of their lives." 

In his first year as head cross country coach, Vista Murrieta's girls squad placed third in Division I at the CIF-State Championships and almost pulled off a huge upset in placing second in 2018!   With that, the Broncos moved on to the Nike Cross Nationals (NXN) and peaked, earning seventh place, the highest of any California school that year. 

During the 2019 cross country season, despite the graduation of his oldest daughter, Peyton, and allowing younger daughter, Devyn (the team's top returner) to heal from multiple setbacks, Candaele coached the Broncos girls and boys squads to the California State Meet where the girls earned a sixth place finish.

Peyton is now a freshman at Cal Poly Pomona (Coley's alma mater) while sophomore Devyn kicked off the 2020 track season with some impressive numbers (2:19.74/5:13.82) in the opening weeks before the season was suspended.  

Personally, my first and enduring memory was watching Coley walking by, communicating with a fellow coach through a walkie-talkie (yep, it was the 1990s folks!) at Cerritos College, during the Southern Section finals.  Little did I know that, over 20 years later, I would bring his story to the folks at Milesplit!  We thank Coley Candaele for all that he has provided and will continue to give to the track & field and cross country communities!   


Photos by Kirby Lee/Image of Sport


Mark Gardner is a former head track and cross country coach at Corona High, the Riverside County T&F historian, a popular and in-demand announcer, and the Southern Section Editor for MileSplitCA.