Raising the bar to a new level isn’t just an expression for Mitch Mikula.
The 1984 Antioch High graduate became one of the best high school pole vaulters ever in the East Bay Area, despite not competing in the event until his sophomore year.
During his junior season, the 5’6” 145 pound Mikula placed in the North Coast Section (NCS) 3A.
During his senior season, the sky was the limit. Mikula placed fourth in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) state meet—one of three Antioch athletes to achieve such a feat in 88 years. He also won the NCS title, and was second in the NCS Meet of Champions.
That year, Mikula first tasted the rarified air when he cleared 15 feet for the first time in a dual meet against Concord as a senior. But it didn’t seem it would be that way. Mikula’s season was in jeopardy when he injured his foot during the Diablo Valley Athletic League (DVAL) championships. Under a hardship filed by Antioch coach Willis Ball, Mikula beat the meet champion in a jump-off to earn a place in the NCS trials. He vaulted to second in the All-Time East Bay rankings when he cleared 15 feet, 4 inches to win the NCS meet, more than two feet more than the second- and third-place finishers and set a meet record.
Mikula also placed second at the Meet of Champions and fourth in the Northern California championships. He cleared 15-2 at that meet, but needed a jump-off with Dean Starkey of James Logan to secure second place and a berth in the CIF State Championships.
“In the jump-off, I really didn’t want to go against Starkey, because we’ve become pretty good friends,” Mikula said after the meet. “But if it’s him or the state meet, I’ll take the state meet.”
Mikula’s performance also helped Antioch take second at the NorCal team standings. He had knocked the bar off during his attempt at 15-6 in that meet, but cleared that height in the state championships.
“I was almost going to settle for fourth place,” Mikula said. “But I wanted to win it.” His mark of 15-6 still stands as a school record 32 years later, and held up for three years as the best vault in the East Bay.
Mikula competed for three seasons at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, topping out at 15-6.
Along with his athletic accomplishments, Mikula was near the top of his class at Antioch, and was named the “Outstanding Computer Student”. That helped guide his career path. Mikula went on to become Vice President of Software Development at a software company in Texas. He has been married 14 years and has 5 kids. Though he no longer vaults, Mikula has competed in two marathons.
Steve Ochoa was a hitter, pure and simple.
The 1982 Antioch High graduate was a two-time second-team All-Diablo Valley Athletic League (All-DVAL) selection, but was a bit of a late bloomer. One of the first examples came his junior season in a victory over Pittsburg High School when Ochoa and teammate and fellow Antioch Sports Legends Hall of Fame inductee (2015), Doug Snyder, each went 3-for-3 with a home run. Ochoa would later put his name all over the baseball record books at Los Medanos College (LMC) and San Jose State (SJSU) before getting his shot at professional baseball.
Ochoa moved from the outfield to behind the plate as a senior, and responded with another performance that earned him second-team All-DVAL catcher as he helped the Panthers reach the North Coast Section (NCS) 3A playoff semifinals.
Ochoa then headed to Los Medanos College, where he feasted on Bay Valley Conference pitching for two years, batting .461 as a freshman and .450 as a sophomore.
As a freshman, he and Jerry Bertolani, an Antioch Sports Legends Hall of Fame inductee (2015), shared team MVP honors. He was a two-time Bay Valley Conference Most Valuable Player, and was first-team All-State in 1984. He set school career records for batting average (.455) and runs batted in (91), and the single-season mark with 52 RBIs.
Ochoa got the full attention of the coaches at SJSU, and Ochoa continued his record-breaking ways in two seasons as a Spartan. He still holds SJSU single-game records for home runs (3) and RBIs (nine). As a junior, Ochoa batted .378 with 11 doubles, 1 triple and 9 home runs, and drove in 42 runs, leading the team in batting, hits (79), home runs and RBIs, and was first-team All-Pacific Coast Athletic Association. His average dropped slightly as a senior, to an enviable .346, but his power production was up. Ochoa hit 12 home runs, still sixth-best for a single-season at SJSU, with 13 doubles and a triple, and drove in 52 runs. He also stole 4 bases, and led the Spartans in runs scored (50), RBIs, homers and walks (33). His career batting average of .363 is still No. 3 on the Spartans’ all-time list.
A few weeks after the season ended, Ochoa was drafted by Philadelphia in the 37th round of the free agent draft, and was assigned to the Utica Blue Sox of the Single-A New York-Penn League.
“Being drafted wasn’t expected, but I was hoping for it,” Ochoa told the Antioch Ledger after signing his first pro contract. “I wasn’t drafted out of LMC. All I know is I’m a happy man and I’m going to give it my best shot.”
Ochoa, one of just 12 AHS Panthers and DVHS wolverines to play AA baseball or higher played, one year and hit .213, getting 29 hits in 136 at-bats, with 4 doubles, 3 triples, 2 homers and 19 RBI’s, along with 10 stolen bases.
At a school with a reputation for developing outstanding offensive linemen, Evan Pilgrim was one of the best.
Pilgrim played two years of varsity football and burst onto the scene as a senior as a devastating blocker in Coach Steve Sanchez’s wide-open offense.
Pilgrim earned All-Bay Valley Athletic League (All-BVAL) and All-East Bay honors, and received the “Duane Putnam Award” as the team’s top offensive lineman. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound tackle was ranked No. 7 in the Contra Costa Times’ “Cream of the Crop,” the top 20 senior prospects in the East Bay. He was also listed with future standouts and NFL players Drew Bledsoe, Aaron Taylor, J.J. Stokes, Danny White and Drew Bledsoe as one the Best of the West in high schools in February of 1990. His play earned him a scholarship to Brigham Young University (BYU).
At BYU, the 6’5” and 290 pounds Pilgrim moved to guard in the ‘92 program, was a starter as a sophomore and was named to the Football News Sophomore All-America second team and All-Western Athletic Conference (WAC). He became the first All-American since Arizona State University linebacker and fellow Antioch Sports Legends Hall of Fame inductee (2007), Ron Pritchard, 26 years before. In 1993, Pilgrim started in the Holiday Bowl and battled Ohio State’s Big Daddy Wilkerson in the trenches.
During his senior year at BYU, Pilgrim was dubbed the “Pancake maker” for his devastating blocks. He was once again selected as second team All-American, this time by the Associated Press. [To see Pilgrim’s number being called for a BYU score click here and look for big number 70 at right guard.]
Pilgrim was later listed as the “National Lineman of the week” vs. Hawaii and National Lineman of September in the NFL Draft Report. His 510 bench press and own personal size increase from a 6’5” 260 pound freshmen to a 6’5” 305 pound 5 year senior caught NFL scouts’ attention following the Cougar’ s season in Utah .
In the third round and as #87 overall of the 1995 NFL draft, Pilgrim was drafted by the Chicago Bears. He started six straight games for the Bears in 1997, then joined the Tennessee Oilers in 1998, appearing in three games. He finished his career with the Atlanta Falcons, playing seven games in 2000. His started in his final NFL game, a 23-7 victory over Kansas City in the regular-season finale. Overall, Pilgrim started eight of the 32 games he played in his five years in the NFL.
But the story didn’t end there. In 2002, Pilgrim continued his professional career with the Detroit Furry and the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League in a completely different arena. Three of his Storm teammates and he were cast in Adam Sandler’s 2006 remake of “The Longest Yard.”
While Pilgrim’s football days may be over, he is certainly not forgotten, as the accolades continue to come. In 2012, the Bleacher Report selected him as part of the BYU Dream Team. In 2015, Desert News ranked Pilgrim as the 50th best offensive player in BYU history. That same year, the same publication listed Pilgrim as the 85th best football player in BYU history.
Pilgrim now joins a part Antioch High’s long storied past of football greats inducted into the Antioch Historical Sports Legends Museum, joining Gino Marchetti (2007), Duane Putnam (2007) Ron Pritchard (2007) Ron Sbranti (2008) John Olenchalk (2008) Mark Butterfield (2014) Jeremy Newberry (2014) Mike Lucky (2014) and Frank Beede (2015).
Pilgrim now works in the technology manufacturing industry. He serves as the Southeast US Sales Director of AiRISTA Flow in North Carolina.
By the time he graduated from Antioch High School in 1950, Ray Salazar had helped usher out one of the most spectacular eras in Panther football history.
“Big” Ray Salazar was imposing at 6-foot and 185 pounds in his day. As a junior, he earned All-Contra Costa County Athletic League (All-CCCAL) honorable mention, when he started at offensive end opposite Antioch Sports Legends Hall of Fame inductee (2007) Jack Garrow. Salazar was selected co-captain for the game against John Swett.
As a senior, he was named All-Northern California (NorCal) and All-CCCAL at defensive tackle.
A leader on the field, he was also held in high regard off the field, serving as Class President.
Salazar blossomed as a senior in the 1949 season. Three times that year, he was selected co-captain, and was a first-team All-CCAL selection at defensive tackle.
Opposing coaches Tony Knap, of arch-rival Pittsburg, and Phil O’Neill, of Mt. Diablo, both named Salazar as one of the league’s six best players at any position. The crowning individual honor came shortly after when a panel of coaches and sports writers made Salazar the only CCAL player selected to the All-NorCal football team.
Salazar becomes the eighth of Antioch Sports Legends Hall of Fame inductee Jack Danilovich’s players to be inducted into the Antioch Sports Legends Hall of Fame. He joins Garrow, Duane Putnam (2007 ), Worth Shaw (2007, Community Leader), Jesse Cone (2008), Nick Rodriguez (2009, Male All-Around), Jim Coalter (2010, Male All-Around) and Joe Harlan (2011).
He was just one of twelve Antioch natives to reach at least the Double-A in the minor leagues, but Doug Snyder’s athletic prowess reached far wider than the baseball diamond.
The fast and wiry 6-foot-1, 175-pound outfielder was a first-team All-Diablo Valley Athletic League (All-DVAL) for the Panthers in 1980 when he hit .341. The following season as a senior, he was voted team Most Valuable Player when he upped that average to .392 and picked second-team All-DVAL that season.
His baseball career really took shape at Los Medanos College (LMC) in 1982 and 1983 when he was named first-team All-Camino Norte Conference both seasons and First-Team All-State California Community College as a sophomore. He also was chosen Top Male Athlete overall at LMC in 1983.
Snyder’s tenure under coach Tim Strain at LMC helped him get drafted by the Houston Astros in the 19th round in 1983. During his seven year stint in the minor leagues, the outfielder and first baseman hit 34 home runs, drove in 274 runs and stole 89 bases.
His best year was at Single-A Visalia in 1988 when in 427 at-bats, he hit .300 with 31 doubles, 3 triples, 12 home runs and stole 26 bases.
Snyder was promoted to Double-A Orlando (Fla.). He finished his baseball career after five minor league seasons and a career .262 average with 51 extra-base hits, 69 RBIs, 17 steals and 9 home runs.
His football career as a defensive back and wide receiver was equally impressive at Antioch High and LMC.
He garnered first-team All-DVAL honors as a senior defensive back for the Panthers in 1980, leading the team with five interceptions. On a run-oriented squad, he also had 15 catches for 299 yards (19.9 yards per catch). All of it helped him earn All-East Bay honorable mention honors.
Though baseball was his first sport, he showed off his receiving skills and speed during a fantastic two-year football stint for LMC.
As a freshman, he led the state in receiving with 60 catches for 933 yards and 6 touchdowns. He showed off his skills early against the state’s second-ranked team Sac City, hauling in seven passes for 101 yards and a touchdown in a 44-27 defeat. He added a season-high 11 catches in a game against Modesto and finished with eight catches for 133 yards and two scores in a wild 28-27 win over Delta College. His reception and yardage totals at the time were single-season LMC records, making Snyder an easy pick as LMC’s “Top Offensive Player”. He was also selected first-team All-Camino Norte Conference.
As a sophomore, he was voted team Most Valuable Player and first-team All-CNC again. He finished his football career with a two-year total of 115 catches for 1,858 yards and 11 touchdowns. His combined reception total those two seasons led the state and was second in the nation. For Snyder’s performance he was named to the 1983 All-State junior college Division II team as a receiver.
Beyond his football and baseball prowess, Snyder also was a varsity team member for the Antioch basketball team his senior year in 1980-81. In the end, there was little to nothing Snyder couldn’t do on the athletic field and court.
The 1979 boy’s track and field team is statistically the greatest in Antioch High School history, according to Hall of Fame coach Mike Hurd.
The Panthers went undefeated in the Diablo Valley Athletic League (DVAL) (8-0) with the closest score showing 85-51 to rival Pittsburg High School. In four of those league contests, Antioch scored more than 100 out of 136 points. Additionally, two relay teams and a pole vaulter set school records.
The 1979 roster featured six individuals who took first place at the DVAL Championship Meet on the “sweltering hot” Friday of May 11th: senior co-captain Tony Lang in the 440-yard dash (50.2 seconds), senior Brian Hamilton in the two-mile run (9:49.6), senior Jerry Jones in discus (162’1”), senior Brook Sloan in the triple jump, junior Leon Hanson in pole vault (14’3” for a school record) and sophomore Rudy Viramontes in the 120-yard high hurdles (15.2 seconds).
Lang, Davis, senior co-captain Tim Crumpler and senior Alan Sowell clocked in an eye-popping 42.4-second 440-yard relay, while Lang, Davis and Crumpler joined senior Randy Larsen to swiftly finish the mile relay in three minutes and 20.2 seconds.
Jones also placed seventh in the California Interscholastic Federation State Championship with a 164’2” discus.
Senior Glen Davis won Team MVP by competing in the 220-yard sprint (22.5-second PR) and long jump (21’11”), along with the record-breaking 440-yard and mile relay teams.
Looking back, Coach Hurd created a fantasy track and field duel, pitting Antioch’s 1979 against its 1973 team, which consisted of five Hall of Fame athletes. Comparing season-bests in each individual and relay event, the 1979 team narrowly came out on top, thereby placing itself as the greatest in Antioch history.