With its first meet of the 2017 season fast approaching, the Camp Verde High School track and field team is already hard at work.
Practice for spring sports in the Arizona Interscholastic Association began on Monday, Feb. 6, and the Cowboys are going through their paces to pick up from where they left off a year ago.
Long-time assistant and first-year head coach Mike O’Callaghan acknowledged that, like any coach, he looks for the team to improve from last year, but must take things one step at a time.
“The first goal is to make it through the season, which is sometimes the toughest thing to do,” O’Callaghan said.
The other goal, from the coaches’ standpoint, is “to get as many of these young athletes qualified for State as possible,” according to distance coach Milfred Tewawin.
Seven individual Cowboys and one relay team qualified for the AIA Division IV State Championships in 2016, and all have returned with plans on doing just that.
“I hope to do good in the 300 meter hurdles, get top 10 [at State],” said senior Alana Neary, the only senior runner. “Better than just 10th. I want to do better than 39 feet for the triple jump.”
In order to be successful, both O’Callaghan and Tewawin agreed that it comes down to the athletes’ attitudes.
“One of the big things is to enjoy the season, have fun with it,” O’Callaghan said. “‘Because if they enjoy it, they’re going to do better.”
The 2017 version of the Cowboy runners, jumpers and throwers is young; there are only six upperclassmen on the team. The entire distance group is comprised of freshmen and sophomores.
Junior Nate Schultz, as one of the few upperclassmen and a returning State qualifier, looks to help his team as much as possible.
“Team-wise, I want to push everyone to do as good as they can do,” Schultz said. “Quite honestly, we have a few kids coming out who can take State.”
A close-knit, family feel is what keeps the athletes excited about practice and meets, according to sophomore hurdler Chris Holdgrafer, who also competed at State a season ago.
That sense of family likely comes from the team’s small roster; 16 athletes were present at practice on Feb. 8, and a few more are expected to join after the winter sport seasons end.
Once the entire team is together, O’Callaghan, Tewawin, throwing coach Mike Edgerton and sprint coaches Brittney Armstrong and Amy Wall will make concrete goals with each of their athletes.
O’Callaghan said it is important that those goals be a set time, height or distance because only then will the athletes really work towards them.
The other returning State qualifiers are: Senior thrower Shayla Campbell-Kilburn, junior hurdler and jumper Bryanna Truett, sophomore distance runner Joseph Jones and junior thrower Matt Wade.
The Cowboys’ first meet of the season is on Wednesday, March 1 at Wickenburg High School.