Clovis High School senior Danian Robinson, left, watches as freshman Deandre Hunter gets out of the blocks as the two work on their 300 meter hurdles Wednesday at the high school. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
Clovis High junior Tanner Fickling says he’s sensed a change this week in the mood around the Clovis High boys track practices.
After all, the Wildcats have been busy preparing for Class 5A state competition at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque today and Saturday.
“During the season there’s a little more joking around,” said Fickling, who is scheduled to run on all four of the Cats’ relays. “For state, though, it’s a little more serious.
“This is where you have to step up the intensity. We’ve been more focused on our handoffs and stuff.”
Fickling has an interesting weekend on tap — he’s running different legs in each event, including anchor on the 1,600-meter relay.
“I’m nervous about the sprint (400) relay; it’s the second time I’ve anchored it,” he said. “But I’m looking forward to state. It’s my first time, and it’s going to be a challenge.”
The Cats have qualified at least one entry in everything except the 800, pole vault and javelin. Coach Darren Kelley said they probably can’t touch Highland and La Cueva, but he’s hoping for a top-three finish and a team trophy.
“Our realistic goal is to get third place; we’re probably sitting fourth (behind Rio Rancho) going in,” said Kelley, who led the team to a runnerup finish at state in 2003. “Somewhere we’ve got to be able to find another 10 points.
“Our mile (1,600) relay and our 4 x 2 (800 relay) need to finish in the top three.”
Among other things, the Cats are hoping for big weekends from senior Phillip Williams and freshman Manuel Robles.
“Phillip is in the top two or three in the 100 and 200, and the top three in long jump,” Kelley said. “If Phillip and Jake (Jacob Jones) and Tanner Fickling have good weekends (on the track), we should be fine.”
Robles is competing in all three jumping events, and goes in ranked second in triple jump. Senior Damian Robinson could also score significant points in the hurdles — he is seeded No. 2 behind Highland’s Ian Clark in the 110 hurdles.
“I think the coaches expect me to win the 110s,” said Robinson, competing at state for the first time. “If I can get to the finals in the 300s, I’ll be just as happy.
“I feel like I have worked really hard to get where I am.”
Robinson, who spent his first two years in high school as a distance runner before switching to hurdles, said he’s prepared himself to try to handle the extra pressure of a state meet.
“I think I’ll end up treating it like a normal meet,” he said. “In every meet I go to, I’m in there to win.”
La Cueva is the eight-time defending 5A boys state champion, but Kelley expects the Bears’ reign to come to an end.
“If Highland just shows up and doesn’t get anyone hurt, they should win it,” he predicted.