CARBONDALE — “Meet. Defeat. Repeat.”
That was the mantra for the Marion girls track team heading into Tuesday’s South Seven Conference Championship Meet at Carbondale and it followed through on that challenge — winning several individual events to take home the title of Conference Champions for the second year in a row.
“We just won it for the first time in school history last year and now this is the first time we’re repeating as conference champions,” head coach Michelle Tate said. “Obviously we’re very excited about that.”
The Wildcats had built an impressive lead before the first race was run by dominating the field events. Briley Engram and Caverly Oates went first and second in the high jump, Lily Harris and Neveah Nguyen took the top two spots in the pole vault, Bailey Williams took first in the long jump and Maryiah Menicucci took first in the shot put with a school record 42-feet-5-inches and second in the discus with a 117-feet-04-inch throw.
People are also reading…
“We’re very strong in field events and knew coming in that we to score a lot in those field events — that was going to be big for us, compared to the running events,” Tate said.
The high jumping pair was the first to officially finish and score for the Wildcats and were very excited to take the top two spots, especially with Oates’ 4-foot-10 jump being a new personal best.
“It was a huge deal because our goal was to go one-two just to get those extra points that we could really need to make or break the win,” Oates said.
“We’ve been working on this all year,” Engram said. “That five-foot jump, man, I wanted to get it. It was real close. We’ve been working really hard this season and it’s just all came together. We’re excited.”
After that, it was all about maintaining the lead during the track events, which required more strong performances than even the coaching staff was counting on.
“I am so impressed and inspired by our girls because so many of them stepped up and had PR’s — big time PR’s — and placed in events they weren’t supposed to place in,” Tate said. “That was big time. They rallied around the fact that we lost one of our girls we knew was going to score points and found ways to bring some more points for us on the track. We actually scored more points today than we thought we would.”
Engram took fourth in the 400-meter dash, setting a new personal best time, but was behind freshman teammate Kelize Edman who finished third with her own personal best. Maddie Maragni finished second in the hurdles with a personal best as well.
“They were not picked to be even in that top part of the field there so that was big there,” Tate said. “We had PR in long jump. PR and new school record in shot put. PR and new school record in the 4×100. Those are just off the top of my head. I’m sure there were a lot more because they really did have a great day today.”
Tate had been an assistant on the Marion staff before taking over as head coach this year. She admitted that she didn’t know how she’d be received as a new head coach, but credits her coaching staff and the girls for making it a smooth transition.
“They are a really close group of girls and a really great group of girls,” she said. “Me coming in as a new coach, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go and they’ve accepted me with open arms and just done everything I’ve asked for them to do. That just shows the kind of character that those girls have.”
For the host team Carbondale, Tuesday’s meet wasn’t about team glory, but finding individual success. A small roster — eight runners and two throwers — the Terriers knew it would be tough to crack the top three, but had personal records from Eislee Moore in the 800-meter and Madyson Swope’s discus throw of 130-feet-2-inches was good for first in the meet and a personal best as well. Swope also took second in the shot put with a 38-foot-4-inch throw.
“I think, individually, we competed as well as we possibly could, but the depth is not on our side this year. We just try to fill holes where we can fill holes,” head coach Greg Storm said. “We had eight runners and two throwers and were right in the mix for fourth or fifth place. Our kids competed really well… A lot of kids stepped up and ran multiple events.”
Storm added that he felt the Terriers season “started today” as they now shift focus to the postseason.
“We build everything for the postseason — anything before this is just practice meets and we throw down some good marks and get some notoriety in the state. But today our season starts and I think the individuals who stepped up and did some good things for us are going to do good things in sectionals next week,” he said. “It’s just about trying to stay healthy this year and being patient. It’s been a long year for everyone but I think we’ve got people moving in the right way.