Youth must serve for Lady Cat track

Clovis High School sophomore Heather Malloy, left, reaches back to grab the baton from sophomore Brittni Jimenez as the two work their hand off for the sprint relay Wednesday at the high school. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

by Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers

Darrel Ray believes his Clovis High girls track team is ready to return to contending status in Class 5A.

If the Lady Wildcats, who finished seventh at state in 2004, are to move up the ladder, they’ll have to do it with a relatively young squad.

“I think we’re going to be a top-four team,” Ray said. “I know (defending champion) La Cueva has a good group coming back and Rio Rancho will be a talented team, but I think this year Highland may be the cream of the crop.

“We’re going to be really, really young (three seniors), but we’ve got some good young kids. It’s not like we rebuild here, you reload.”

The Lady Cats finished third in a season-opening meet last weekend in Carlsbad with a limited squad. Five of their athletes were participating in Clovis’ 5A state girls basketball championship team in Albuquerque.

Clovis should be strong in relays and hurdles, Ray said.

The Lady Cats won the 400 relay at state last year, while junior Kim Perkins finished second in the 300 hurdles and ran 48.51 last weekend at Carlsbad.

“She’s already close to the state qualifying time, and about a month ahead of last year,” Ray said.

He’s also looking for good things in the 100 hurdles from senior Teola Haskins, who ran 15.55 last weekend at Carlsbad to finish second by .02 seconds to defending state champion Danielle Delone of Alamogordo.

Three of the four runners on the relay team will be new, with only sophomore Heather Malloy returning. She will move from the second leg of the relay to the anchor leg in the 400 and 800 relays.

“I don’t know what to expect, but I think we’ll have a lot of freshmen and sophomores stepping up,” Malloy said. “I think we can finish in the top three this year.

“It’s kind of stressful, but I’m excited and looking forward to it.”

Sophomore Brittni Jimenez ran on both relays at state as an eighth-grader.

“I think we’re going to do well,” she said. “We have some people coming up this year with some speed.”

Other returning state qualifiers include senior Kristin Vick (pole vault), sophomores Kacee Escobar (shot put, discus) and Lorena Garcia (discus), and juniors Aimee Hilburn (javelin), Tori Quintana (javelin), Brittany Blackmon (high jump) and Vanessa O’Neal (triple jump). Blackmon was third at state last year (5-0), while Vick and Hilburn hold school records in their events.

CHS has won the past two District 4-5A championships, but Manzano and Eldorado have been replaced in the district by Cibola and Sandia. Cibola captured the 5A state title two years ago and is led by one of the top sprinters in the state in defending 100 and 200 champion Tressi Richardson.