*Editor's Note: After press time, it was announced that the track team will be sending Joshua Branch as well to the Texas Relays.
Year after year, the Gonzales Lady Apache program has been growing in success and this season it’s no different.
The prestigious 91st Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays takes place at the Mike A. Myers Stadium this weekend and the Gonzales Apaches will be sending 15 girls and one boy to the meet.
“Ever since I’ve been here, we take pride in qualifying our girls at the relays in different events,” girls’ track and field head coach Cully Doyle said. “This year, there was one boy that qualified.”
Senior Juan Jordan will be competing in the 110-meter hurdles at the Texas Relays, the first male athlete in a long time to qualify for the track and field program.
“I can write a whole page on this kid,” Doyle touted. “This is a kid that’s never gave up, always shows up to practice, and just keeps coming. He’s asked questions, bought in, come during the summer, during the winter and has done a good job of progressing as an athlete. He’s a great kid. What’s funny is, he’s really started hurdling not a full two years ago.”
Doyle explained his philosophy was to try events that would fit his athletes best. Jordan did that, trying out the hurdles and in a span of less than two years, as Doyle described, Jordan “went from not very good to good, and now he’s really good.”
“I want to thank Coach [Kevin] Johnson with working with him,” Doyle said. “We have a philosophy of listening to athletes. We feel it’s important. You can tell people what to do all day long but at the same time we’re not inside their body, so I think there’s a mental aspect as well and that’s important. Kids respect that and in turn they’re listening to us. So Juan has come a long way with Coach Johnson and I’m really proud of [both of them].”
On the girls side, Maggie Barnick qualified in hurdles, pushing through an injury, Doyle noted.
“She’s one of those girls that puts in a lot of work.”
Freshman Peyton Ruddock also qualified to the meet, with Doyle giving her props for her progression this season.
Madison Singletary will be leading off the 4x100-meter race, as Doyle tries to switch things around where usually Madison Blundell is leading off. Blundell is “a big hurdler for us,” with the potential to win the district gold in that event.
Caitlyn Rhoads is “on the bubble of being really great,” Doyle said. She’s one of many runners who may compete in the 4x400-meter relay.
The complete list of qualifiers for Gonzales includes Juan Jordan on the male side, and Margie Barnick, Peyton Ruddock, Madison Singletary, Samantha Barnick, Tyla Dalton, Caity Blundell, Madison Blundell, Caitlyn Rhoads, Maraia Mathis, Johnna Dalton, Shelby Davis, Haley Garza, Stephanie Reyna, Maura Garcia and Veronica Moreno.
The Texas Relays runs from March 28-31.
What will be interesting for Doyle is the amount of options the program has at different events. The Lady Apaches also have the Lockhart track meet on Thursday schedule, so Doyle will be sending a few to that meet and the Texas Relays qualifiers to Austin.
What will be important is the balance the head coach will have to have between those two track meets and making sure his are read for the upcoming district meet.
“Texas Relays is a big deal,” Doyle said. “You have to qualify. You got all year to qualify and then they give you a deadline. We did. That was exciting. There are 16 athletes from Gonzales that are going.”
“It’s a tough situation because they moved our district meet closer [to the Texas Relays],” he continued. “We turn around [next] Wednesday and Thursday and have district, which is tough. How do we play the mind game to make sure our kids are fresh and ready to go in district. Our district is tough. We know that. We expect that. But humbly we think we have a chance to be pretty successful.”
The goal of qualifying to the Texas Relays has been accomplished. Now Doyle and the rest of the track team hope they can be fresh and fast as can be so they are ready for the District 27-4A meet next week.