Ignacio Track & Field prepping for 2019 debut

Vanessa Gonzales, left, and Elco Garcia, Jr., lead the Bobcats in stretches prior to practice Wednesday, March 20. IHS Track & Field will finally see action Saturday, March 30, in Bloomfield, N.M.
Ignacio Track & Field boys’ head coach Alfonso ‘Ponch’ Garcia shows Joe Herrera on how to utilize the starting blocks during practice Wednesday, March 20. The Bobcat boys and girls will at last see action Saturday, March 30, in Bloomfield, N.M.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

State-caliber distance runners should pace Bobcats

Having last competed for Colorado Track & Field coaching icon Larry Zaragoza as an Alamosa senior in 2010, qualifying for the Class 4A State Championships in the 300-meter hurdles (as well as the 4×400 relay), Aimee DeSouchet admitted Wednesday, March 20, that the master’s methodology is trying to show through in her own instructing.

“I think once you get ‘Zare-d’ you don’t un-Zare,” she joked. “He was always ready to raise the expectations for me, tell me ‘You’re strong enough, you’re fast enough and you can do this!’ That was really cool, and I try to channel that into how I speak to my athletes – finding that balance between coaching and ‘mom-ing’ them, you know?”

“The most meaningful day of practice is the one where you’re sick, or you didn’t get enough sleep because you were studying,’” noted DeSouchet, entering her second spring as 2A Ignacio’s head girls’ coach. “That hardest day is the one that means the most, because you’ll remember getting through a day like that – that’s something that’s stuck with me from Zaragoza.”

And as it stands, any Spring Break slump this week could be the biggest barrier between the Bobcats and a strong season start – almost three weeks behind other area programs, including 3A Bayfield and 4A Durango – at the Bloomfield, N.M., Bobcat Invitational on Saturday, March 30.

“Coach Aimee’s … the only ‘veteran,’ the only one that’s been here for a while,” laughed boys’ head coach Alfonso ‘Ponch’ Garcia, 2019 successor to John Gurule and more or less IHS’ chief executive with assistants Daniel Holley and Caryna Pourier holding cabinet positions. “You need to be open-minded with the kids, and yet strict when you open your mouth and teach them. They’re still young kids, and hopefully if the kids listen we’ll be okay. And it’s going to be fun; I’m excited!”

“Having three new coaches with me is different from last year, but there’s an awesome attitude that’s come out; it’s very united, which I don’t think it was last year,” said DeSouchet. “Communication’s really open, kids know what’s going on, know what’s coming and they know expectations – it just seems more comfortable. High expectations, but comfortable.”

“There’s 16 kids, so on the 30th we’ll find out more, I think,” Garcia said. “We’ll see where that takes us; right now, it’s a challenge for all of us. As a new guy, the first meet will dictate a lot of things for me; it’ll tell me a lot about where I’m going to place kids, and where they want to go themselves.”

Returning State qualifiers on the boys’ side will help simplify such decisions. Thrower Natoni Cundiff graduated last May, but Elco Garcia, Jr., and Jonas Nanaeto are back as juniors seeking a return to Lakewood’s Jeffco Stadium in two months.

“I have big goals for Elco, and I have big goals for Jonas,” said Garcia. “Elco ran, I think, a 4:48 [1,600m] last year, and we had a tryout Monday and he ran – already – a 4:55. And that was with nobody pushing him. And Jonas … he’d run a 2:01 [800m], then ran, like, a 2:13 already with nobody pushing him!”

“Our distance coach (Holley) is doing an amazing job; we think alike,” he continued. “I gave him the workout, and he was like, ‘Whoa! Did you copy mine? Or did I copy yours?’”

Senior Joe Herrera, foregoing a final baseball season, could surprise in the sprints as well as other events.

“The other day we had tryouts and he ran, like, a 13-high in the hundred,” Garcia recalled. “I told him, ‘We can definitely take two seconds off of it,’ and to him that was a shock – like, ‘You can do that?’ I was like, ‘Of course I can, but you’ve got to do what I ask of you.’”

Junior Jason Hampton-Foutz returns in the pole vault and sprints, while freshmen Tyler Barnes, Alric Hudson, Damien Escalera, Jeremy Roderick and Nathyn Stollsteimer, junior Johnathon Whitt and senior Lucas Roderick presently round out the boys’ roster.

With State qualifying thrower Aliyana White having relocated for her junior season, senior Kiana Valdez and sophomore sister Charlize will be expected to lead the Lady ’Cats. Sophomore Vanessa Gonzales also returns, giving DeSouchet at least three-fourths of last season’s 4×200 relay around which to build (freshman Lexy Young could step in should Emily Cundiff not return), plus a trio able to compete anywhere from the 100 to 1,600 meters.

“The girls, they’ve been going on and on about relays. So I think the returning members as well as this idea of ‘We want to do relays’ – we really didn’t get to do that last year – is going to pull them together a little bit more,” said DeSouchet.

“And we have a junior girl, Helaina Taylor,” she added, discussing a potential thrower. “She didn’t compete with us last year, but she’s also been running every day. Running, getting good technique down … I haven’t seen anything ‘bad’ yet.”

“Kiana … also wants to do long jump,” noted Garcia. “So hopefully she comes in and surprises!”

“Overall it’s been really hard because we have not run a meet,” he continued, trying to assess the squad’s collective progress to date. “We don’t even know if we’re going to have hurdlers, you know, with being so small. But by looking at our practices … so far, so good.”

“Plus, our track has been showing for maybe a week and a half,” quipped DeSouchet. “They’ve just barely gotten the [throwing] pits opened! We had on the schedule, but then decided not to go to – I think it was – Piedra Vista on the 16th; we just decided we weren’t going to be ready, wanted to make sure nobody’s going to get hurt … because we have such a small team.”

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