Yet another Maricopa middle school athletic team has brought home a conference title.
The Maricopa Wells girls’ track team narrowly edged Casa Grande’s Villago Middle School to win the conference championship meet last week at Casa Grande Union High School by a score of 101-98.
The Panthers were paced in the track events by first-place finishes by Makayla Armstrong in the 75-meter hurdles and 400 meters, Naeemah Lendsey in the 100 meters and the 400-meter relay team of Armstrong, Lendsey, Jada Hester and Deanna Seabrooks.
Seabrooks also finished second in the 200 and fifth in the 100, and the 1600-meter relay team of Armstrong, Lendsey, Hester and Leslie Navarrette finished third.
In the field events, Navarrette won the shot put and finished second in the discus. Lendsey and Armstrong finished 1-2 in the long jump, and Armstrong was second in the shot.
Coach Nicole Blackwell said the team used the philosophy of “Student First, Athlete Second” during the year, and that was personified by her athletes, who boasted a 3.73 team grade point average.
But it wasn’t all academics or athletics; much of the success came from the athlete’s attitudes.
“Makayla Armstrong is an amazing athlete on and off the field,” Blackwell said. “She manages to maintain the highest of grades, integrity and is respected by staff and fellow classmates for her skills on and off the track.”
Blackwell also cited Seabrooks and Navarrette’s academic and athletic prowess.
“(Seabrooks) is a strong student in the classroom and balances her sports activities and school well,” Blackwell said. “Leslie (Navarrette) is our leader for field events and has a positive attitude all the time and is an ideal athlete in any sport.”
She also noted Lendsey’s attitude as a reason for the team’s success.
“Naeemah Lendsey has a natural skill for track,” Blackwell said. “Her drive to perform is amazing.”
Navarette and Seabrooks also played for Blackwell, an English Language Arts teacher, on the soccer and volleyball teams this year. But Blackwell was a novice at coaching track and said the success was a team effort.
“This was my first season ever coaching track,” she said. “I relied heavily on the help from colleagues who had coached in the past, Dr. (Janell) Hudson and Dr. (Robin) Rice. We have not had a track team at Wells for seven years.
“We practiced on the grass soccer fields with no field event spots to practice on. For long jump, for example, we practiced jumping from a line on the ground. We practiced hurdles with two hurdles. We made do with what we had.”
Despite the obstacles the team faced in terms of facilities, Blackwell said the season was rewarding both competitively and emotionally, with the team growing throughout the season.
“The athletes gave everything they had, and it showed on the field,” she said. “We lost the first three track meets, but we made adjustments at the final conference meet and came back for the win. The team was more of a family. This was an amazing season – I loved the parents and the athletes. We are a young team with few girls moving up to high school, so I cannot wait to see what the future holds.
“The sky’s the limit.”