As the snow melts off the track ovals across the Four Corners, a new wave of student-athletes prepare for action this spring. Montezuma-Cortez, Mancos and Dove Creek return state-qualifying talent from a season ago and look forward to continued success in 2023.
Whether the sport is an athlete’s primary one or serves to keep some of the local athletes in shape for their other athletic endeavors, if the M-CHS tsunami of interest in track and field is an indicator, the spring season could hold plenty of excitement and rising stars in the sport.
“We feel like we’re tapping into the talent that we have in the school,” said M-CHS head coach Bob Archibeque, “and that there are plenty of great athletes who are coming out this year. Now, it’s up to us coaches to figure out how to help them be successful.”
For the Panthers, all-state returner Zander Cruzan headlines a group of upperclassmen who will look to find their names near the top of the standings every weekend. “We can put relays around Zander and some of our other experienced athletes, and that’ll make us really competitive against some of the bigger schools,” Archibeque said.
M-CHS earned all-state in 4x100 relay a season ago, to go along with Cruzan’s pair of top-three finishes in the 100 and 200.
As the Panthers’ numbers swell into the 60s this season, plenty of crossover from other sports helps draw out prospective new runners, jumpers, and throwers. Assistant coach Ivan Mack, the head coach of the football team, has been instrumental in helping generate interest.
“We know how explosive the football athletes were from this past fall,” said Archibeque, “and track and field uses many of those same skill sets.”
Former Mancos distance standout Ro Paschal coaches the distance athletes, while longtime assistant Jeremy Yarbrough continues his work in the field events.
M-CHS gets set for the season with some strong competition right out of the gate, as the Panthers take on a field in Durango over the weekend of March 18, before making their annual trip to Chandler, Arizona, for their massive Rotary Invitational. The Panthers host the Intermountain League meet on Friday, April 28, before the tuneup for the state championships in Lakewood May 18-20.
Mancos controlled the San Juan Basin League on both the boys and girls sides last year, and hope to make it another sweep in 2023. The Bluejays’ strength in the field events on the boys side will require some restocking, as Mancos graduated multiple all-state performers from a season ago.
However, state champion wrestler and all-state thrower Cole Dainty-Guilfoyle looks to be a formidable presence in the ring this year, while the Bluejays girls boast a strong distance team, including 2022 state qualifier Teagan Archer leading the way for Mancos.
Dove Creek also lost some talent to graduation, but also have multiple athletes who made the state field in 2022 lined up with the skill to return to state again. Bulldogs Kade Hankins and Quaden Huffaker made plenty of noise last year in local competition on their way to state, while Tara Glover and Trista Barnett paced the girls to top finishes.
Dolores continues to build their numbers, as the girls look to lean on distance running success to go along with Akima Edwards, an all-league competitor from last year, while the boys hope to continue to develop depth, with Dylan Rantz serving as the high point returner for the Bears from last season.