For the past 25 years, the Saint Mary’s Panthers Track & Field team has enjoyed as much success as any team in Northern California. The boys teams have won every league championship since 1987; the girls teams have won all but one league banner since girls became part of the student body; both teams have won multiple North Coast Section open division championships; and both teams have featured some of the finest individual talent in the history of the NCS. Continuing this tradition, the 2018 season was nothing short of spectacular. Individual state champions, multiple section (NCS) champions, dozens of league champions, both league and section team championship banners, and individual school records were all part of the 2018 season. So, what can the 2019 team possibly do for an encore? In previewing the upcoming season, sprint coach Jay Lawson, jumps coach Jeff Rogers, distance coach Denis Mohun, and throws coach Jonathan Heuer talked about the possibilities for the 2019 teams.
Jay Lawson – Sprints/Hurdles/Relays
What is going to be the biggest difference between the 2018 and 2019 season?
Well, we enjoyed a lot of success in 2018. We had Kali Hatcher win 4 events at our North Coast Section Meet of Champions, Malcolm Clemons win a state title in the long jump, our girls 4 x 400 relay team make the state finals, and our girls team win the Open Division title at the Meet of Champions. So, topping that maybe be asking too much. Still, I think this year’s group, especially on the girls’ side, has a chance to have a lot of success. Although we lost big scorers like Kali and Janelle Ingram, some of our younger people have gotten a lot better. Also, I think some of the older kids on our team have gotten a taste of success and hopefully they’ve enjoyed it enough that they want a lot more of it.
So, who are some of the athletes to keep an eye on this year?
Besides Malcolm, who I’ll let coach Rogers talk about, I’d say on the girls side I would start with the 4 x 400 group who, without Kali Hatcher, made the state finals last year. Sophia Alexander, Sofia Bailey, Kaia Gant-Hatcher, and Jordan Cornet are all very talented athletes who should shine this year. Sophia should be our top 100 and 200 meter sprinter this year. She’s one of the top returning girls in the NCS and figures to be in contention for a state meet spot in one or both of those individual events. Sofia Bailey returns as
one of the top 300 meter hurdlers in the section this year. She finished 5th at MOC last year and I think is ready for a break out year. Kaia is ultra-talented and could find a lot of success at 100, 200 or 400 meters depending on where we want to focus her time and energy. Jordan is also very talented and is a very tough, tenacious competitor. Look for her to run some very strong 400’s and 800’s this year.
On the boys’ side, I would look for sophomore D’Niko Bates to have a breakout year, especially in the 110 meter hurdles. He’s been hurdling for a few years so his technique is pretty far along. Add that to the way he’s been working in the off season and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t lining up in May with a chance to go to state. We also have a sophomore transfer, Kai’Lib Copes, who is very talented and who could make some noise in the open 400. Lastly, I’ll be interested to see what Malcolm can accomplish in the sprints. He’s obviously one of the top jumpers in California and in the U.S., but he might be able to compete for a league or section medal in one of the sprints. We’ll wait and see.
So, it’s mid-February and you’ve had a couple of weeks to see the team and some of the new faces. Any pre-season surprises?
Yes, a few very pleasant surprises. Again, on the girls side I like the way Amelia Tremain has looked thus far. I expect she’ll continue to have success in the 100m hurdles. We also have a lot of new faces. Two freshmen, Maddie Dwyer and Najah Williams, have impressed the coaching staff. Maddie seems to be a long sprinter/800 meter runner while Najah
seems to be more of a 100-200-400 girl. Another pair of freshmen, Julia Alexander and Hailey Vines, also have looked pretty good thus far. Still, it is early and my experience tells me that you never know what talent might be just around the corner or right under your nose. I’m excited by the turn-out and the potential our girls have.
Finally, are there any meets in particular that are notable or Saint Mary’s track supporters should make sure to calendar?
Like always, we try and run a program that serves the interest of all of our athletes. Our home TCAL meets are ones that require a lot of work from our coaching staff but are great because everyone gets to compete and we all get to watch and cheer for each other. In late March and early April we have the Stanford and Arcadia Invitationals. Both of those meets feature most of the best athletes from around California and those meets are where are high end athletes get to test themselves. We also have a couple of distance carnivals on the schedule for our distance runners to try and compete against runners from the same talent pool as themselves. Those meets are always fun. But, of course, the championship season in May is what really gets me and the coaching staff excited. Invitationals are preparation… league, section and state meets are where banners are won, champions are crowned and memories are cemented.
Jeff Rogers – Jumps
Malcolm Clemons is the defending state champion and was a finalist for the Gatorade Track Athlete of the Year in California in 2018. He’s obviously the strength of your group. So, where can he go from there? What are your expectations of him?
There is no doubt that Malcolm is one of the most talented track athletes we’ve ever had. His accomplishments thus far speak for themselves but, I think, there’s much more to come. As he continues to grow and mature as an athlete, as his strength levels rise, as his speed and power development increase, and as he continues to perfect his technique… his jumps and distances will most certainly improve. His devotion to the sport is awesome. He’s constantly watching and studying film and wanting to get better. Both of his jumps, but especially the triple jump, will improve dramatically because of this. He, his family, his teammates, and our coaching staff are all very excited to see how far he can go.
The jumping events have enjoyed a lot of success over the years. Besides Malcolm, are there any others to watch for?
Yes. Senior Antoine Morales was only an inch away from making it to state last year in the long jump. He seems much more dedicated this year and is working hard and being consistent. I look for that work to pay off for him. Junior Zach Deering-Haddix is in the same boat. He was the top sophomore
at MOC last year in the high jump and he has also been working hard on the track and in the weight room. I can see him having a solid season as well.
For the girls, losing Kali and her group will sting. Still, we have a talented pair of jumpers fresh off the basketball court who could develop into solid contributors for us. Sophomore Simone Rogers had a very good freshman high jump season last year and has the potential to get a medal at MOC this year. Lydia Howard had an up and down 2018 season but I expect she’ll rebound and be very good for us in all three jumps this year.
Coach Lawson talked about a few younger athletes whose talent he has been pleasantly surprised by. Is there anybody on the jumps side that you’re feeling that way about?
Absolutely. The freshman and JV basketball seasons are over and we have a good group of those kids out. All of them have shown good aptitude so far, and a couple of them.. Amir Cross and Sonny Buckner.. have seemed to pick up some of the techniques right away. Still, like Coach Lawson, I’m giving it awhile. Sometimes people develop, show up or are motivated in ways that you would have ever imagined.
Denis Mohun – Distances
How is your distance group looking thus far?
As a group, I’m very happy with their turnout and their commitment so far. On the boy’s side, our two sophomore leaders, Riley Hartney and Zax Lieske, have been putting in miles and have had a pretty good off season. They’re self-motivated and don’t have to be told to run. It has benefitted them and also the rest of the group. I can see both of those guys going under 5:00 this year.
The girls group is the same group that won the league championship in cross country this past fall and they too should have a solid season. A few of them play soccer in the winter so their track season will be late-starting. However, sophomore Olivia Lawson has been training steadily and will have a good season as a result. Wiona Tan, Nan Wemmer and Eliza Pease should also go pretty well this year.
Are there any surprises out there?
I’m curious to see how freshman Jeffrey Norris and Maddie Dwyer will do this year. Both had very good freshmen cross country seasons and both are tough competitors. Jeffrey looks like he’ll be a 1600/800 runner while Maddie looks like she’s more 800/400. Even though they may specialize in different events, I think they both have the talent to contribute right away. Someone else I’d keep an eye on is Jordan Cornet in the 800. She ran the 400 instead of the 800 last year and had very good success. I think the 800 is probably her better event though and it wouldn’t surprise me if the rest of the section found that out as well this year.
Jonathan Heuer – Throws
This will be your 3rd year coaching the throwers. What do you expect from your group this year?
I expect them to understand the program I’m trying to implement a little bit better. Hopefully their technique, their understanding of our strength and ballistic training, and their understanding of the weight room has improved and that will allow them to make bigger gains in the ring.
Who should we look for to lead this 2019 throws group?
Seniors Kamerron Clyde and Josiah Jacobs… along with junior James Woo and Jordan Mure will start as our top guys. They’ve all thrown for me before and they’re all familiar with how we do things. Kamerron and James should lead our discus corp while Jordan and James will begin as our top shot putters.
For the girls, Alyssa Watts is our top returner. She had a really good freshman season and should go over 30’ in the shot this year. Hopefully she’ll challenge the 100’ barrier in the discus as well. Sophomore Erika Marbley will add some depth to our throws as well.