After taking a handful of medals from the Altair Rice Consolidated track meet last week, the Lady Apaches have visions of a state meet, assuming they put in the work, according to Head Coach Cully Doyle.
“We’ve had a couple great weeks of girls track,” Doyle noted. “our younger girls are really doing well, they’ve won everywhere they’ve been so far.”
“At the end of the [Rice] meet,” he continued, “Coach [Michael] Johnson goes up there and gets the packet and comes back carrying a bunch of medals and a plaque saying that we won both varsity and junior varsity girls. That was pretty rewarding knowing that individual success is laying down the foundation for the team success at the end of the day.”
Winning is fun. Doyle knows this. But winning these early-season meets aren’t the goal for this track and field program.
“It’s about individually improving,” Doyle admitted.
Nonetheless, grabbing some medals while also improving has been a fun experience for the Lady Apaches so far.
One of the important storylines to follow in Gonzales’ track and field season is the team’s depth. Every season, the Lady Apaches usually have the numbers for a full squad. This season, though, Doyle has put an emphasis on “quality depth” rather than just quantity.
“We’ve always been deep,” Doyle said. “We got a lot of girls in the track team. It’s one of those things where quality deep is different than being deep. That’s our goal. Where we have one hurdler, we need three. When we have one good high jumper, we want three. Distance runners, I love that we’re deep, now we’re really deep, now it gets tough. It keeps it fun, it keeps it interesting.”
Doyle listed out many athletes who will contribute this season, including senior runner Haley Garza, who the head coach declared her deserving a full page.
“She’s at another level,” he said of Garza. “I can’t be more proud of her, but every time I say that I’m more proud of her the next week. She is taking her training to another level. I’m really proud of her.”
The Lady Apaches are tremendously deep in their long distance running. Doyle would like to be three deep in every event, and he believes he has four-five runners he can place in those races.
“We’re lucky we’re pretty good in the distance races,” he explained. “We’re going to be three deep in the distance races. This year is going to be pretty hard. I can only put three in the mile for varsity and three in the two-mile for varsity and three on the varsity for the 800. I don’t know which three it’s going to be, and that’s good and bad. We’re going to be about four-five girls deep in the mile and four-five girls deep in the 800 and it’s going to be pretty tough to choose. The funny thing is, I don’t choose. They compete with each other. The cards fall how they fall.”
Cross-country stars Romy Cantu, Shelby Davis, Maura Garcia, Veronica Moreno and Stephanie Reyna are just a few runners that Doyle mentioned that will contribute. Cantu will be counted on for those distance races as well as Davis who will be relied on for the relay races. Garcia is another one that Doyle talked about in the distance race while Moreno was said to “deserve a lot of credit” for balancing her workouts between playing soccer and participating in track and field.
Reyna, meanwhile, was described as a “diamond in the sky” by Doyle.
“If that girl can ever figure out how to pull out her talent and run the way Coach Johnson and I see her, the sky is the limit for her,” he said. “She’s a girl that we’re counting on a whole lot in the distance races.”
Cassandra “Cassie” Walker is another long-distance runner Doyle will have to find a spot for so he can fully utilize her talents.
Another interesting factor to take into account are the wildcard athletes who are so multi-talented that the coaching staff will have to figure out where best to fit them in the puzzle that is the track and field team.
One athlete to look out for is Caitlyn Rhoades, a Lady Apache who can not only run long distance, but she can compete in the long jump and the high jump as well.
“I got to figure out where to put her,” Doyle admitted. “She deserves a lot of praise. She’s maturing and I’m extremely proud of her. She has a lot of talent that hopefully she sees and she understands, hopefully she uses that in the right way.”
Madison Singletary is another athlete who can be plugged in anywhere, according to Doyle.
“There’s no telling how good she can be,” he explained. “She has a lot of talent, I just want her to see it. I’ve been around, I’ve coached girls track now for 15 years and I’ve seen a lot of talent and I see girls that never use it and I see girls that work hard and use it and this girl is something special. I really think that Madison can be an amazing track athlete. Again, she’s going to be one of those where I’m not sure where to put her because there are multiple events we could put her in, running wise whether it’s relays or individual events or whatnot.”
Other athletes to look out for include Maggie Barnick in hurdles and the high jump, who coaching staff believe is an “upcoming star.” Samantha Barnick is a great track athlete who jumps and runs well. Madison Blundell will be counted on for relay races as well as the hurdles. Doyle believes Blundell is near the top of district in hurdles, so a goal for the team would be to get her to a district title.
Meanwhile, Peyton Ruddock is considered “a gold nugget” by Doyle. He believes Ruddock can be “really special in the hurdles.”
Then there are the Dalton twins, Johnna and Tyla, who were district champions in the triple jump and long jump.
“We wouldn’t expect anything less from then,” Doyle said. “We got some freshmen that are pushing them. We know how good they can be. Obviously we’re going to count on them in the running events as well.”
Jordan Williams competed well in cross-country and is continuing to improve in her running.
“Every week she’s chipping away and every week she’s PR’d [broke her personal record],” Doyle noted.
Hayley Sample is another athlete who’s “coming up strong.” She’s converted to the high jump, though she’ll be competing in the throwing events too.
Speaking of throwing events, Doyle and the Lady Apaches take pride in their field events, or “technical events,” as they call them. An athlete that the team will be leaning on is Devon Williams, the reigning district champion in shot put and discus.
“I’m expecting big things from her,” Doyle said. “My goal is to get her to the state meet. It’s as simple as that.”
But in trying to become “quality deep” in the program, Doyle also noted that Aukievah “Kiki” Fryer will be important to watch as the number two thrower.
“How we get better is we got to get deeper and Fryer is taking the shot put serious,” Doyle said. “If I can get her to be consistent I’m really going to rely on her a lot in those events because throws are really important, we can scrap a lot of points there.”
Alicia Ramirez is another thrower who was an area qualifier in the discus event.
“She has a big chance to qualify again in the area and regional meet,” Doyle said. “We’re excited for her.”
All in all, Doyle believes in the leadership of his team and the coaching staff which includes him, Johnson and A.J. Irwin.
“I love seeing these kids successful,” Doyle said. “When the girls buy in, success happens. I don’t expect anything less than a state meet. The girls know it. I got hotels already reserved for the state meet.”