By Dave Wagner: CNJ staff writer
After finishing in the lower half of the girls team standings the past few seasons in Class 5A state cross country competition, Clovis High coach Brian Stacy has high hopes for the Lady Wildcats in today’s 11 a.m. state competition at Gallup.
“I think we can get between second place and seventh place,” Stacy said. “If these girls just do it as a business deal, we’ll be up there.”
The Lady Cats hope to keep pace with District 4-5A rival Carlsbad, which goes in as one of the team favorites. In fact, Stacy isn’t sure the Cavegirls won’t prevail over host Gallup.
“I don’t know if Gallup can hold off Carlsbad,” he said. “Carlsbad is going to give it a real shot.”
While several Clovis runners have previous state experience, the Lady Cats’ top three are all from Yucca Junior High — eighth-grader Michelle Schenck and freshmen Caitlin Waters and Kayla Merritt — and thus will be experiencing the event for the first time.
But Merritt said they’re anxious for the meet.
“I’m ready for it,” said Merritt, who ran a personal-best time of 20 minutes, 38 seconds to finish sixth in the district race. “It’s been a good year. I trained a lot over the summer, which I think is the main thing over last year.”
Merritt has set her goal relatively high this weekend.
“I want to get in the 19s really, really bad,” she said. “I just want to get out there and run, and not think too much about it.”
If the Lady Cats are on their game, Stacy said, they have a chance to do well as a team.
“I think the top seven or eight will be (separated) by only two or three points (each),” he said. “It’s going to depend on where (teams’) fourth and fifth runners come in. I honestly believe everybody’s fifth runner is going to decide the outcome.”
Also running for the Lady Cats will be senior Monica Soto, juniors Vanessa Croke and Tori Northcutt and sophomore Lora Esquivel. Freshman Rebecca Clark is the alternate.
Stacy said the girls will determine how successful the meet is for themselves.
“If these guys come across the (finish) line and are happy with their run, it’ll be a success,” he said. “Cross country is a lot of preparation — and some luck. For me as a coach, I think they’re ready.”
Clovis’ boys are not making the trip to Gallup even though they were second in the three-team district meet last weekend. Stacy said last weekend that the Wildcats, who have run only two times under 18 minutes this fall, would probably need to run times under 17 minutes to be competitive at the state meet.