|Hurdlers Zach Pelletier (left), Luke Simmons (center) and Ryan Talbot (right) share a laugh before the start of practice. VVN/Jon Pelletier|
|Mingus tennis, baseball and track teams practice on March 6, 2013.|
Carrying on the winning tradition of Mingus Union High School athletics, the boys and girls track and field teams ended the 2012 season with a fifth place and first place finish, respectively.
"Last year was a real blessing," said head coach Yancey DeVore. "Last year our girls finished first in state, they were the state champs for Division III, and our guys finished fifth, a very strong finish for our guys."
Like all high school programs, every year teams lose seniors to graduation. Whether it is large or small turnover, coaches must work to replace their lost athletes. For track and field coach DeVore, him and his coaching staff were tasked with replacing 27 seniors, 12 from the girl's team and 15 from the boy's squad.
"We had a really good team last year and a lot of the seniors left," said junior runner Ryan Talbot. "We're looking to have a pretty good team this year. If we keep working as hard as we've been working, it should turn out pretty good."
With a student body of over 1,200, DeVore's job was made that much easier with students coming out to join the track and field teams, which has lead to a dearth of talent and athletes, meaning the coaching staff has to find places for everyone that will benefit the students and the teams on its quest to the state championships.
"This year our talent, we're very talented," coach DeVore said. "We've got a lot of really good athletes, right now we're just in the process of trying to figure out where they're going to be plugged in and where they're going to fit, make the best [fit] for the team."
The boy's squad will be led by 16 upperclassmen, including returning state championship participants and top-10 finishers senior Zach Pelletier and Talbot. Pelletier split third place in the triple jump and Talbot took home a fifth place finish in the 400-meter dash.
"I got fifth in the 400 and our 4X4 [hundred meter] team got second ... [I've been] working on my time off, working out with weights, running in the extra time I have and working with my new coaches [to finish better this year]."
Not only has Talbot been working to earn a better finish in this year's state meet, he has also seen that the whole boy's team is "trying to get better to."
While the boy's track and field team is working to claim top honors at the 2013 state championship meet, the girls squad will be defending their title. Senior Skyler Storie nabbed three top-10 finishes, sophomore Allison Whitworth tied for sixth in the high jump and the Marauders three relay teams finished in the top three, with the 4X800 meter relay team garnering first place. Senior and team captain Delaney Scanlan was a part of the relay teams and believes that a repeat as state champions is possible.
"We put a lot of hard work into that [the first place finish]," Scanlan said. "We had people there every day trying hard at practice and the girls team just became one unit, distance and sprinters, and jumpers, just everyone ... I think we can win it again this year."
Junior thrower Heather Calandra had a strong showing as well at the 2012 championships, placing fifth in the discus throw and first in the shot put. Calandra is using her experience to guide her younger teammates and help them grow as athletes.
"Being a junior, I feel like I've learned a lot since being a freshman on the team. I'm really just trying to help everybody with what they think about the team and how they get along and all their techniques and stuff."
In addition to helping the team become more cohesive, the junior has set the goal of repeating as the shot put state champion and claiming the discus state championship as well, and is taking the necessary steps to achieve the goal.
"Last year I won state and was really proud of that and this year I'm planning on doing that again in both events this year," Calandra said. "I have a new coach and I've been training all through the school year, and I'm going to be training all through summer and I've been hitting the weight room harder and stepping up in my training a lot more."
Even though the athletes are eyeing the state championship meet and hoping to achieve their goals they have set, Coach DeVore knows that the final tournament of the season is still a few months away and is helping the team focus on each meet upcoming meet.
"I feel really good about the talent that we have on this team, and we're just going to keep working and getting better every practice, every day, and then we'll work on focusing on state when we start putting these pieces together."