By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
If Saturday’s first meet of the season was an indicator, the Clovis High Lady Wildcats think good things are ahead this spring in track.
Competing without about eight performers who were involved in Class 5A state basketball last week, the Lady Cats posted a second-place team finish behind Alamogordo in the season-opening Ralph Boyer Relays at Carlsbad.
Leading the way was senior Kim Perkins, who won triple jump and both hurdles races. She also anchored the 400 relay team to victory and the 1,600 relay to a second-place finish.
Seventh-year coach Darrel Ray said he’s hopeful the Lady Cats can improve on last spring’s third-place finish in the 5A state meet.
“We’re set up quite a bit better than the teams that beat us (La Cueva and Highland),” Ray said. “I like how we shape up, but there are a couple of teams that shape up similar to us.
“Because we have good junior high programs and good numbers, we typically have a chance to do well every year.”
Ray said Cibola and Highland appear to be the teams to beat as the season begins.
Perkins is the defending 5A champion in the 300 hurdles, and hopes to add the 100 hurdles to her mantlepiece this year. It’s an event she’s had trouble with in the past at the state level.
“I feel like the 100 is something I could’ve succeeded at, but I’ve never had the mindset,” she said. “I’ve never really focused on the 100, but this year I want to do that. It’s hard for me to three-step (the 100 hurdles); it’s just something I have to get down.”
Perkins said she’s hoping to make a run at individual high-point honors at state this year, adding that it’s time for the Lady Cats to go for team gold as well.
“I think we have a really good chance this year, but we say that every year,” Perkins said.
Among the athletes Ray expects to do well are sophomore Ebony Bunton in high jump and the 100 hurdles; junior Kacee Escobar in shot put and Lorena Garza in discus; freshman Caitlin Waters in the 800, and senior Brittany Blackmon and sophomore Jasmine McDonald in high jump.
Waters, who attends Yucca Junior High, was one of the top half-milers in 5A last year as an eighth-grader but did not compete in that event at state. Instead, she helped the Lady Cats win the 1,600 medley relay, running the longer last leg.
“She’s the lead dog of a pretty good freshman class and an improved distance corps,” Ray said.
Perkins agreed with that assessment.
“I’m really proud of our distance girls,” she said. “I think we’re going to get some good points from them this year.”
With a stronger distance group and more contributions from field events, Ray said the Lady Cats are confident they’ll be among the teams to beat again.
“The only thing we’re really missing is that one big sprinter,” he said. “But if we can get enough balance, maybe we can figure out a way to improve our situation at the state meet.”