By Dave Wagner
When the 2003 track season ended, the Clovis High girls looked as if they might be prohibitive favorites in 2004 with what they had coming back.
That has changed a bit — returning state qualifiers Chanel Ross (shot put) and Katrina Lazoya (sprints and relays) have moved away, another state qualifier (Teola Haskins) is academically ineligible, and a couple of others are nursing injuries.
Fifth-year coach Darrel Ray still thinks, however, that the Lady Wildcats will be among the teams to beat during the state meet in May.
“All these things have brought us back to the pack with Eldorado and La Cueva,” Ray said. “And Carlsbad is also in there. There’s your four best teams, and three of us are in the same district (4-5A).
“But I still like our chances. We’ve got a good group of kids.”
The Lady Cats open the season on Friday in the Jim Burke Qualifier at Belen, the first time they’ve competed in that meet. Ray said he wanted to see some different teams, and expects a combination of reasonably strong Class 4A and 5A squads.
Junior Cristin Vick, who qualified for state in pole vault last year, said everybody will have to pick up slack.
“I think we’ll still be really good,” said Vick, who just missed placing in the state meet. “I think it’s going to be a good year competition-wise.
“Everyone’s just going to have to work harder to make up for the people that are gone.”
This year, Clovis has access to freshmen out of the city’s three junior highs from the start of the season. The yearlings make up nearly half of the 80 or so girls out for the sport.
“That makes up a lot because we have immediate depth,” he said. “We might be able to take those losses because we’ve got a great freshman class.”
A majority of the CHS 5A state runnerup girls varsity basketball team will also be out, although they’ll be making the transition to track slowly. Included are senior Monique Walker, a standout in sprints, relays and long jump, and sophomore high jumper Brittany Blackmon.
Walker and freshman Kela Williams return from last year’s high-powered 400 and 800 relay squads, and Blackmon could earn a spot there as well. Sophomore Aimee Hilburn also high-jumps, and could throw javelin as well.
The Lady Cats rely heavily on their overall team speed — unlike Eldorado, which relies heavily on distance depth, and La Cueva, which counts on overall depth.
“We’re as fast as anybody in the state of New Mexico,” Ray said.
He said Friday’s meet will be more of a training exercise and he doesn’t expect to push anybody too hard, particularly the basketball players making the transition.
“We’ll start (the season) slowly,” he said. “There won’t be a heavy load on any of the kids the first day out.”