By Special Contributor Don Garrett
During the lull before the February signing date, I thought I would look at the track and field prospects for the LSC track teams, beginning with the three schools that compete in indoor track and field – ACU, WTAMU, and TAMU-K. Sometime in February prior to the beginning of outdoor track, I will look at the other LSC track schools – Tarleton, Angelo, ENMU, and TAMU-Commerce. By then, the conference predictions will also be out and I will weigh in on the accuracy of those predictions.
Last year was the first year for WTAMU to field a track team in a few decades. The men’s team decided to compete at conference and made a very decent showing. For whatever reasons, the WT women’s team did not choose to compete at the LSC meet. However, this year BOTH teams will compete and particularly the men’s team will immediately be a factor and should push for a top 4 finish. The WT men had a terrific recruiting year and the women had a good year – both teams will be very conference competitive. The new WT coaches have been very aggressive in their recruiting and the decision by the WT administration to provide competitive budgets should make WT a conference contending team in the next year or two.
There are a few good returnees, though there are no 2009 LSC conference meet stats for comparison. I think the top returnee may be Allie Reyna, who was 3rd at the A state meet for Ralls in 2008. WT does have one huge loss - that is if you can count as a loss someone who never competed for you on the track. Jennifer Cherono was the former JC national champ in the steeplechase. Cherono ran cross country for WT in the fall of 2008 and was one of the top runners in the LSC. However, she did not run XC for WT this past fall and her name does not appear on the roster, so I have to assume that she is no longer in the program. She would have been instantly competitive at the national level in the steeple.
There are several good additions to the program, although there is not the huge numbers of good young athletes that the men’s team has. The newcomers include:
Aries Bazuldua (2nd in the 3A 3200 in 2008, and just missed trip to state as she was 3rd in Reg I-4A as Canyon moved up a class in 2009); Jessica Blakely (3rd in the Reg I-4A 1600, barely missing a trip to state for Hereford); Alisha Davis (the District 3-5A champ in the shot put AND the 100 for Abilene HS – a very unusual double); Brieana Garcia, who won the Dist 3-4A 800 for Canyon: Nicole Hudgens (the 4th place 4A state cross country runner for Kaufman in 2008); Katie Jones, who went to the A state meet in three events – 100 dash, 300H and TJ – for Boys Ranch; Jadiah Riley, who finished 6th in the JC national outdoor shot put for Iowa Western; Morgan Shelton, the 3A state champ in the 300H for Sweetwater: Bailee Skeen (from Randall HS in the Canyon iSD, she finished 4th in the 100H and 5th in the 300H at the Reg I-4A track meet, narrowly missing a berth at state in both events); and Tara Tarrant, also from Randall, who was 5th in the 400 at the Reg I-4A meet.
There are other new competitors for WT, but this gives you a good idea of the quality of the additions. I don’t think this group is enough to move into the top 4 at conference, but they should have the ability to avoid last place and maybe move up a place or two above that.
The WT men scored 15 points in their first ever LSC conference meet, with 2/3 of that coming from one event – freshman Gage Mayer winning the high jump for 10 huge points. Footballer Eldon Grimslid received the honor of scoring the first LSC track point, as he finished 6th (for one point) in the grueling decathlon. Both of them return, along with other point scorers Aaron Hibbitts (5th in the steeplechase) and Tramicah Young (5th in the LJ). Three other returnees came close to scoring – Jarret Kachel (7th in the 800), Mitchell Ryan (7th in the decathlon) and Ross Myatt (8th in the 110H).
WT had a terrific recruiting class, scooping up numerous state qualifiers and top regional performers from both Oklahoma and Texas. I start this partial list of top signees with one of my personal favorite athletes from west Texas: Aarrhon Flores, who represented the Floydada Whirlwinds at the 2A state meet winning the LJ, 2nd in the 100, 3rd in the 200 and 5th in the TJ – scoring 30 huge points. Others in this stellar class include:
Serville Dandridge, who finished 2nd in the 5A discus in 2008 for DeSoto; Taylor Gardner (from Moore, OK, who was 5th in the OK 6A 400); Aaron Gordon, who finished 2nd in the A high jump in 2008 for Clarendon; Taylor Johnson, 2nd in the OK 6A 400 for Moore, OK; Jonathan Lindsey, the 2 time A state champ in the discus for Strawn and one of the top 5-6 discus throwers at any level in Texas: Sam Omomogho, who was 6th in the 5A 200 for Amarillo HS; Justin Reeves (from Arlington Seguin and 6th in the 4A 110H at state); Rolando Vasquez, 8th in the JC national outdoor 1500 for Cowley County CC; and Shaun Wesley, who placed 3rd in the 4A shot put for Canyon. There are several others who ran well at the district or regional level, but these kids illustrate the strong signing class.
Very important for WT, it also appears that they will be able to field competitive relays on the men’s side in both the 4X100 and 4X400. I see this team potentially pushing for a top 4 place in just their 2nd year at the conference meet. Of course, some of their freshmen will need to come through for that to happen. It is not out of the realm of possibility that WT could more than triple their 15 points from 2009, which would be a huge accomplishment.