By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
Despite some key graduation losses, Clovis High girls track coach Darrel Ray believes the Lady Wildcats are reasonably well-positioned to repeat the Class 5A state championship they won last weekend in Albuquerque.
State champions Aimee Hilburn (javelin) and Kim Perkins (300 hurdles) graduate, but the Lady Cats return state high jump champion Ebony Bunton, most of a strong core of throwers return and enough speed on the track to be a factor, Ray said.
Perkins repeated her 300 hurdles title from a year ago while losing by two-hundredths of a second in the 100 hurdles in battles with La Cueva’s Alexandra Darling.
“What you’re losing in Kim is one of the more skilled athletes you’ve got,” Ray said. “A skilled hurdler like that is tough to come by.”
As for Hilburn and other seniors such as Vanessa O’Neal, Ray said: “Those kinds of kids are almost irreplaceable.”
Hilburn threw a school record 122 feet, 10 inches in the javelin, beating her previous best by about 4 feet, while freshman Caitlin Waters topped her previous best by about five seconds and also set a school mark with a second-place finish in the 800 in 2:17.69. Clovis picked up additional second-place finishes from junior Kacee Escobar in discus and shot put.
Even though the Lady Cats didn’t score a lot of points in sprints and didn’t win any of the four relays, Ray said they competed well and have the majority of those people back.
“We ran good times,” he said of the relays. “There were just some really fast teams out there.”
Ray said he’s looking for sprinters such as sophomore Lauren McDaniel, who ran on all four relays, and junior Heather Malloy to step into more of a leadership role next year.
McDaniel, who helped the Lady Cats finish second in the medley relay, third in the 1,600 relay and fifth in the 400 and 800 relays, said she’ll try to step up.
“I’m going to try to do my best,” McDaniel said. “I just hope we can do good again and keep it going.”
McDaniel will probably branch out into an individual event or two.
“I’m ready to do it,” she said. “The 200 is what I like to do. When I go around that curve, I feel like I’m just gone.”
The Lady Cats’ total of 79 points — 11 ahead of runnerup Eldorado — was pretty close to what Ray thought they could do.
“We predicted on paper we’d (score) around 80 points, and we got close,” he said. “There were only a couple of little things that went wrong.”
Clovis qualified for state in 17 of the 19 events, scoring in 14 of them. The only events the Lady Cats weren’t in were the 1,600 and 3,200 runs.