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track and field

 

Under normal circumstances, Arizona high school athletes would be prepping for state competition right now, trying to earn a spot in tournament play or qualify for the championships.

Geared up with a full coaching staff and hard-working athletes, Maricopa High School track and field had to put on the brakes. With only one major meet under their belts, the Rams, like every other team in the state, were knocked out of competition by the coronavirus outbreak.

It shuttered schools and training facilities and then the entire season. For seniors hoping not only for a last hurrah but also a chance at athletic scholarships, it was a huge monkey wrench.

“Zanaa Ramirez has a good shot to make it to the NCAA level,” head track coach Corey Nelson said. “Katherine Gores has a good shot to make it to the collegiate level.”

Before the season collapsed, both had personal bests in the big Aztec Invitational at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe. Gores, a javelin specialist, placed second with a throw of 99-7. Ramirez, who is also on Nelson’s club team, placed eighth in the 400-meter dash in 1:03.57.

“I’m a little frustrated,” Ramirez said. “We were doing really well so far, and my teammates worked really hard.”

Also not knowing she was wrapping up her senior season, Daijah Scott had personal records in the 100-meter dash, finishing 13th in 13.35, and in the 100-meter hurdles, eighth in 17.63.

While Ramirez was finishing ninth in the 800-meter run, fellow senior Coreyuna Mitchell-Shephard was running a personal record 2:56.43 in 42nd place. She also PR’d in the 400 at 1:08.64 to finish 31st. Meanwhile, senior RyAnn Liermann was Maricopa’s top finisher in the discus in 14th place with a throw of 76-7 and in shot put in 21st place with 25-5.5.

Gores was 12th in the triple jump in 29-1.75. Senior Chloe Luiz was 19th in the girls’ pole vault at six feet. Amoni James was 37th in the long jump in 11-3.

The boys’ track and field team had fewer seniors competing, but they were getting workouts. Steel Lewis was 12th in the pole vault with a vault of 11-0. Quinton Stapleton was 44th in the 3200-meter run and 49th in the 1600. Kian Carroll was 46th in the 3200.

Friday would have been their final warmup before the state championships, the major Hohokam Invitational at Westwood High.

“That’s when we start putting down fast times, qualifying for state and we’re at our best potential,” Nelson said.

He came into the season with a full staff of two throw coaches, a miler coach and a team manager. Now they are turning their minds toward the 2020-21 school year, and Nelson, by expertise a sprint coach, is picking up cross-country coaching.

Over in MHS softball, coach Jason Crawford has submitted his resignation at the end of this school year. The girls were off to a strong start with a 7-3 record. They had outscored their opponents 68-32.

The seniors were doing their part on a team that was strong across all grades.

Keilee Keys-Carrillo was batting .452 with five runs batted in through 10 games. Kayla Occhiline had her average at .364 in seven games played. Kiana Miller-Gomez had five RBIs.

The MHS baseball team had a 4-5 record for the abbreviated season. Senior Austin Rapp was batting .368 with seven hits. His classmate Parker Hunsaker batted .304, scored 11 runs, had seven hits and four stolen bases. Jackson Lindseth scored eight runs for his final season.

While girls’ tennis boasted no seniors, the boys’ team leaned on three in its short, 1-3 season. Noah Panter had a singles record of 2-2 and 1-3 in doubles. Ethan Atkinson and Angel Urbina Noriega were 0-4 and 1-3.

Corey Nelson. Photo by Victor Moreno

He may have come late to track and field, but Corey Nelson has kept going and going … and going.

In his second year as head coach of Maricopa High School’s track and field program, after two years as its sprint coach, Nelson has coached kids to gold medals while continuing to compete at the Masters level himself.

Nelson has been training for the USA Track and Field Arizona State Championship that was planned in late May and then the USATF Masters Outdoor Track and Field Championships in North Carolina in July. He was trying to raise funds for the World Masters Athletics Championships in Toronto, Canada, but those events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic that made older participants particularly vulnerable. Then he watched the novel coronavirus demolish the high school track and field season as well.

On the masters’ circuit before coaching at MHS, Nelson was a three-time gold-medal winner in the 2014-15 season in the 35-40 age bracket.

He’s been running track more than 20 years.

He had a gift. He made it look effortless.

“I was a late bloomer. Didn’t start track until I was a junior in high school,” Nelson said.

He was a football player at Rancho Cotate High School in Northern California and known for getting in a little trouble during the off season. The head coach less than subtly suggested he try track to keep in shape and out of trouble.

“So, I said, ‘OK I’ll try it.’ I turned out to be pretty good at it, so I stuck with it,” he said. “And learned how to sprint. Learned how to breathe, how to use body mechanics, and the rest is history.”

Matt Transue was a friend and teammate at Rancho Cotate.

“Even in high school, we all knew Corey had something special,” he said. “He had a gift. He made it look effortless.”

Transue and the other throwers on the team would stop what they were doing and gather along the track to watch Nelson run the 200.

“The [runners] would come off the corner, and everyone else would be grinding and grunting, and he looked as though it was just a job. He had such fluid motion, he looked as though he had just woken up. He was amazing.”

Transue said Nelson was confident with “a glow around him” but did not have the swagger of arrogance he saw in many high-performance athletes.

Nelson set school records in the 200 and 400 and was a state qualifier in the 400. Then, at Santa Rosa Junior College, he set a school record and earned All American honors.

He’s a lot more talented than even his accolades tell.

He then went on to Boise State University, where he played football and had a blazing-hot track season in 1999. He still holds the BSU record in the 400 (45.36) and is tied for second all-time in the 200 (20.57). He made Nationals in both events and was named All American in both. Nelson was also the Big West Conference Men’s Outdoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

Photo by Victor Moreno

Amy Christofferson, his sprint coach senior year, said Nelson was one of the most talented athletes she ever worked with.

“He’s a lot more talented than even his accolades tell,” she said. “He doesn’t always believe in himself.”

That is something she suspects came through the pecking order of junior-college track. Christofferson said trust quickly built between them. He became like one of the family.

After college in 2000, he qualified for the Olympic trials and was on the 4×400-meter relay championship teams in the Penn Relays and the Texas Relays.

He briefly went back to football. After signing with the Seattle Seahawks, he was injured and released. In the XFL he was a wide receiver for the Las Vegas Outlaws in 2001. The next year, he played for the Amsterdam Admirals and the Scottish Claymores in NFL Europe.

Then he qualified for the Olympic trials again in 2004, chasing a dream that never quite died.

“He never quits,” Transue said. “He never gives up.”

When Nelson moved into professional ranks, Christofferson and her sons would show up to cheer him on. After he was done with football, Nelson returned to Christofferson for training.

“I was fortunate to go onto the professional ranks and have a medium-sized career,” Nelson said.

He was an indoor national qualifier in 2003, 2004 and 2005. On the pro circuit, he called it “dash for cash” as athletes tried to earn enough to at least earn their keep as they traveled internationally.

With USA Track and Field, he rubbed shoulders with childhood idol Michael Johnson nearing the end of his career. He was teammates with the great John Capel, Tyree Washington, Terrence Trammell, James Davis, Antonio Pettigrew, Dennis Mitchell and Derek Brew. They qualified for the Penn Relays and won gold in the 4×400 at the Drake Relays.

I coach people how I would like to be coached.

Christofferson was not surprised to see him become a coach (he was an undergraduate assistant sprint coach), and she continues to give him advice in that realm.

“He’d come to me and say, ‘How did you do this? After one year, I’m worn out,’” she recalled. “You have to have patience. You’re going to find a lot of diamonds in the rough.”

Nelson reiterates Christofferson’s advice that a coach cannot write a program for one athlete that everyone else will fall in line with. She had to give him different challenges than she did other athletes she trained.

He became a sprint coach at his alma mater back in California and then was head coach for a couple of seasons at El Molino High School before moving to Arizona and coaching sprinters again at Independence in Glendale.

“I coach people how I would like to be coached,” he said. “I communicate everything, maybe too much.”

But he was also feeling the competitive bug.

“I get the itch every year,” he said. “I’d call up my old coaches and say, ‘I still got it. I’m running with these high school kids and I’m beating them.’ Of course, nowhere near where I was.”

On the USATF Masters circuit, competing in the 35-40 age category, Nelson earned silver in the 200 indoors and gold in the 400 indoors during the 2013-14 season. Then he won gold in the 200 and 100 in the Grand Canyon State Games and the 200 in the Arizona State Games the next year.

Dempster Jackson, founder of the AAG Elite Club that became Phoenix Elite, pulled Nelson into the club to run the 200 and 400.

“He was an exceptional athlete,” Jackson said. “I thought he had a lot of gas left in the tank.”

Club track gives high-level athletes who have to train on their own the opportunity to compete. The club would get free training, travel, and fitness and massage therapy. In exchange, the athletes would train those in the youth program.

“It was a symbiotic relationship,” said Jackson, a former Masters champion.

He said many of the athletes in the club were a little younger with some attitude. Nelson, he said, calmed that down. “He had a good deal of discipline. He was always open to coaching and collaborating. It was very beneficial to have him on the team.”

Guy Muhammad, now coaching Pima Community College, trained Nelson five years ago with Phoenix Elite.

“He’s committed, he’s dedicated, he’s knowledgeable. He competes at a high level,” he said. “As a coach he’s very much the same. The kids I’ve gotten from him have been very coachable.”

Those kids include Pjai Austin, who is excelling in competition for the University of Arizona.

He’s teaching and he’s still doing it himself. That’s awesome.

Sherry Dunn, who has two sons running for Nelson, said kids who achieved under his coaching have gone on to even higher competition, including Austin and Jacob Cowing, who were state champions with MHS’s 4×100 relay team two years ago. Cowing now plays football for University of Texas-El Paso.

“He’s someone who’s willing to work with the children,” Dunn said of Nelson. “If you want to work, he’s going to help.”

Dunn’s son Mister Chavis, an MHS junior and member of the West Coast Striders, has a good shot at making a college team in track and football, according to Nelson. Dunn said her kids have responded well to Nelson’s fairness, structure and demand for accountability. “You know how there are some people in life you don’t want to disappoint? He’s one of them.”

She said Nelson listens to her concerns in helping Mister reach his goals.

“Those kids respect him,” she said. “He’s teaching and he’s still doing it himself. That’s awesome.”

Don Abram is head coach of the girls track team at McClintock High School. He’s been training runners 33 years. He coached Nelson in his efforts with USA Track and Field.

“He was a really, really good, but to maintain that and live a life is really hard,” Abram said.

He saw Nelson still had the bug and the passion to compete.

“He’s a hard worker, maybe a little bit too hard on himself with a kind of chip on his shoulder,” Abram said. “He has that unfulfilled demon in him about the sport. It’s a good demon. That’s why he’s doing Masters. “

Coming to Arizona, Nelson said, was all about chance.

“We had a dart board with Arizona, Nevada and Oregon,” he said. “We said, ‘Wherever the dart lands that’s where we’re moving.’ So, Arizona.”

“We” is Corey and his wife Danielle Nelson, whom he has known since they were in junior college together. They drifted apart when he went off to Boise but “circled back around” about six years ago. They have two children.

While Danielle is part of the administration of the Phoenix Premium Outlets, Corey is teaching and assisting in the special education department at MUSD.

Starting in 2014, he gradually took on four coaching roles, all of which he continues today. He formed a nonprofit track club called the West Coast Striders to train runners from elementary-aged kids to adults. He became a sprint coach at Mesa Community College. After two years as sprint coach for MHS, he became head coach in 2017 as well as a soccer conditioning coach. This year he was also the assistant coach and defensive coordinator for Sequoia Pathway’s football team.

Sueann Chavez’s daughter Gianna runs in the 11/12-year-old bracket for the West Coast Striders after telling her parents one day she wanted to give running a try. Chavez said it was quickly obvious the club was a good thing for her kid, who expects to reach new levels this year.

“Corey and his wife Danielle, it’s hard to find that kind of commitment,” Chavez said.

Gianna, a student at Legacy Traditional School, competed in the USATF Hershey Junior Olympics Track and Field Championships last summer in the 800 and 1500.

At the same time, he has returned to training for the Masters circuit. He recently moved into the 40-45 bracket, where he dominated.

The thing about age, Nelson discovered, is the much longer recovery times. He was referred to Fast Athlete USA in Tempe and its isokinetics training as a way to adapt to the change. That includes a circuit of all-hydraulic equipment.

“At first, I thought he was standoffish and quiet,” owner Lara Clark said. “Then when you get to know him you learn he’s in a zone when he’s training. He’s in his own head.”

She said the Fast Athlete staff “really likes Coach a lot.” Though the facility is mostly focused on youth athletes, it sees its share of adults like Nelson training for elite competitions along side Olympic hopefuls or free-agent football players.

Whether you’re a miler, whether you’re a sprinter, whether you’re a jumper, whether you’re a thrower, there are just so many different events you can experiment with and find your niche.

Submitted photo

Zanaa Ramirez, 18, was one of the first athletes to join the West Coast Striders. She is now a senior at MHS and one of the top point-earners on the girls’ team in the 400 and 800. She has been running cross country since attending Butterfield Elementary.

When Nelson became the sprint coach for MHS, Ramirez was a sophomore distance runner and had no interaction with him. “The other kids really liked him,” she said.

But he had been watching and saw her natural potential for different distances.

“He set me aside, and we had a conversation during one of the meets,” she said. “He told me I was a really good athlete and he could help if I was willing to trust what he had to say.”

With the Striders last year, she earned a spot in the USATF Hershey Junior Olympics Track and Field Championships in the 800. For MHS, she hit her personal best time 2:29.63 in winning the Southeast Valley Championships.

“One thing about tracks is there are just so many events,” Nelson said. “Whether you’re a miler, whether you’re a sprinter, whether you’re a jumper, whether you’re a thrower, there are just so many different events you can experiment with and find your niche.”

Zanaa’s mother, Inez Ramirez, said Nelson was “really determined to give these kids exposure that they didn’t have in Maricopa. If he doesn’t have a certain resource, he’ll find it for these kiddoes.”

The fact Nelson continues to compete helps them identify, she said. “He’s going through the same training, the same problems. They can see he’s not all talk.”

Jovanni Fontes also competes for Nelson at MHS and for the club team. He said Nelson’s philosophy of “Quality over quantity” helped him improve tenfold.

“He has taught me how to give it all my all and when my body feels like it’s at its limit,” Fontes said. “I’ve learned it’s only a portion of what I can really do.”

They are taught to arrive with the mentality of “We will do our best. We will be great, and we will win,” Fontes said, explaining it spills over into everyday life.

“But arguably the most important thing he has taught us that it is OK to have an off day, to have a bad race, to feel not OK,” he said. “You just have to get back up again, fall forward and use that momentum to drive you because only we can choose to be great.”

Nelson also emphasizes academics comes first.

“To put themselves in a position for success, they have to be academically eligible. If you’re ineligible, obviously you’re not in position for success,” he said. “Secondly, consistency. They have to be at practice as much as they can if not everyday and be consistent with the routine and be progressional. Last but not least, have fun. If you’re not having fun, then you’re probably not going to win. If you’re not going to win, you’re probably not going to have success.

“Winning’s not always a gold medal. A PR is a win. A season-best is a win. Staying healthy the entire season is a win. Gaining teammates and friends is a win. Gaining a social group is a win.”

He taught me not to cheat myself, not to quit myself.

Ebony Griffin, 16, is a junior a Maricopa High School. She runs the 400, 200, 4×200 relay and 4×100 relay. She moved to Maricopa from Oklahoma her sophomore year and was excited to get more training for her running.

“He seemed very quiet and straight-forward,” she said of Nelson. “He’s very hands-on. I improved very much.”

Griffin and her teammates say they set their own goals, and Nelson works with them to achieve those goals.

“He’s helped me overcome some of my fears,” Griffin said. “Definitely taught me to keep trying and trust the process.”

Coreyuna Mitchell, 18, an MHS senior, moved to Maricopa from Michigan last year and also had the stress of adjusting to a new school and new people. But she found new friends on the track team, where she runs the 400, hurdles, 4×400 relay and 4×800 relay.

“He takes a lot of things seriously, but he’s a very good man. He cares about us a lot,” she said. “He’s a very caring man. He taught me not to cheat myself, not to quit myself. He’s amazing.”

When Nils Thibeaux brought his three sons to West Coast Striders, he brought with him a wealth of experience himself coaching baseball, basketball and track.

“Track’s been a big part of our lives for eight or nine years,” Thibeaux said.

He was immediately impressed with how detail-oriented Nelson was. He spoke to the Striders about physical adjustments and balanced upper body strength, using techniques even Thibeaux did not know about.

“I thought, ‘Hey, this guy’s a professional,’” he said. “He’s a great track coach. And he’s still running track himself.”

Several parents said the fact Nelson is still competing and working on goals makes an impression on his athletes. And not just kids.

Frank Juarez, who ran cross country at South Mountain High School and Phoenix College, now has two of his kids running for the Striders and a third hoping to join when he is 8. His children attend Heritage Academy, where there is cross country but not track.

“I didn’t know his experience. My first impression was that he knows what he’s doing,” Juarez said. “He’s organized and structured. He seems to get the most out of them.”

John Hill is the father of Jaemin Hill, 14, a student at Heritage Academy. Jaemin competes in the 100 and 200 with the Striders.

Hill said no one even had to point out who the coach was, because he could tell by the way Nelson carried himself and interacted with the athletes. Hill, who coaches club basketball, said he was impressed with the organizational discipline of the Striders.

“He and the other coaches demand effort and single-minded focus each and every practice and yet do so in a supportive, encouraging and motivating way,” Hill said. “Even in a sport that is often individually based, he successfully creates a team atmosphere.  The coaches, peers and culture of the program push each child to want to get better. And if you listen and follow him you will get better.”

When Jaemin started feeling some aches and pains, Hill noted, Nelson told him to back off for three weeks or so instead of pushing him to do something unhealthy.

“The little details separate winners and losers in track more than any sport, where a hundredth of a second can be the difference in winning and losing, and coach Nelson is all about those details,” Hill said. “It’s not so much about doing everything perfectly as it is the process of each and every day doing things right, doing all the little things right, and building on that in the endless journey to be the best you can be.”

Ailed Cota, a junior, runs for Nelson at MHS and with the West Coast Striders in the 800, 1600 and 3200.

“Track overall has made me improve on myself and my motivation,” she said. “He works on us to get better and get better times. That’s helped me a lot.”

Meanwhile, because he is a self-described shark that doesn’t sleep, Nelson also gained certification to officiate Arizona Interscholastic Association meets that don’t involve Maricopa and another certification to officiation at the USATF level, including NCAA and professional meets.

“I may not have made an Olympic team, but I might officiate one,” he said.


This story appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

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Pjai Austin (University of Arizona)

Maricopa High School graduate Pjai Austin recently finished the indoor track season at University of Arizona, where he led the Wildcats in his three events.

A sophomore, Austin hit personal bests in the 60-meter dash, 200-meter dash and long jump. He had three wins in the long jump during the season.

His top time in the 60 was 6.73 at the NAU Friday Night Duels, where he came in seventh. His top time in the 200 was 21 seconds flat, good enough for second place at the Texas Tech Invite. His best long jump effort was 25 feet 3.5 inches (7.71 meters), a first-place finish at the Texas Tech Shootout on Valentine’s Day.

Austin graduated from MHS in 2018, when he still went by Phillip or P.J. and set the school record in the long jump. He was also a member of the 4×100 relay team that won gold at the state championships.

U of A is now preparing for the outdoor season, which begins March 20.

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All Maricopa High School runners competing in Friday’s Nike Desert Twilight Cross Country Festival, a multi-state meet in Casa Grande, posted personal-best times.

Competing in the large-school category against almost 50 teams, the boys’ team brought eight runners while the girls ran four.

Senior Quinton Stapleton again led the squad, finishing the varsity race 237th out of 329 in the 5,000 meters (3.1 miles). At 19:27.95, he knocked 24 seconds off his best previous time.

Sophomore Tanis Palmer finished 246th in 19:34.94 in his first race, and fellow soph Xavier Rose was 270th in 20:00.00, which was 51 seconds faster than his previous best. Junior Jovanni Fentes was 275th in 20:06.61, nearly three seconds faster than his results in last year’s Twilight. Rounding out the team’s top five, sophomore Gabriel Garcia was 280th in 20:10.50, his best time by 29 seconds.

Sophomore Charles Liermann was 323rd in 22:21.02, more than a minute faster than his best time, and sophomore Nico McKinely was 329th in 26:20.30, improving his time by nearly six minutes. Running in the freshman race, Alex Blodgett was 226th in 23:24.10, better than his previous best by 22 seconds.

Centennial senior Alexander Coyle won the boys’ varsity race in 15:37.5.

Among the girls, MHS senior Zanaa Ramirez knocked her time down to 21:40.9, her first time under 22 minutes, in placing 91st among 320 runners.

Junior Stella Richter was 304th in 26:56.25, about 20 seconds better than her best time. Senior Coryuna Mitchell bettered her time by more than five minutes by finishing 309th in 27:50.08. Junior Francis Trast ran 310th in 27:59.14.

Ralston Valley (Arvada, Colorado) senior Elizabeth Schweiker won the girls’ varsity race in 18:23.47.

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West Coast Striders athletes Zanaa Ramirez and Gianna Chavez with coach Corey Nelson at Junior Olympics. Submitted

 

Maricopa has produced numerous youth athletes in multiple sports, with many records being broken and medals won for track and field in the past few years.

When speaking to high school and club coach Corey Nelson, it’s obvious his passion for the sport is a prominent part of his career.

“This will be my third year. I started off as an assistant coach with the [Maricopa High School] track program, handling the sprints and relays,” Nelson explained. “Maricopa is a cesspool of athletes.”

This summer, Nelson and his track club, West Coast Striders, took two Maricopans to compete in the USATF Hershey Junior Olympics Track and Field Championships. Maricopa High School senior Zanaa Ramirez and Legacy Traditional fifth-grader Gianna Chavez ran for the women 17-18 bracket and girls 11-12 bracket, respectively.

“They qualified for what we call Junior Olympics Region 10, which consists of certain states on the West Coast,” Nelson said. “They then take a limited number of qualifiers there, and they qualify for the Junior Olympics national championships and that involves the entire country.”

Both girls had strong results at the event, becoming Maricopa’s first two nationally ranked youth athletes in track:

800-meter run, women 17-18
Zanaa Ramirez 32nd place, 2:30.08 (qualified with time of 2:36.43)
800-meter run, girls 11-12
Gianna Chavez 19th place, 2:34.35 (previous 2:35.30)
1500-meter run, girls 11-12
Gianna Chavez 10th place, 5:07.56 (previous 5:14.25)

When asked how he prepares for these complex championships, Nelson said consistency and technique make the athlete.

“What we did was work on our speed and worked on a lot of technique. Most importantly diet, doing the right things off the track as well as on it,” Nelson said.

Nelson began his track career late into his junior year of high school. After competing in college and professionally, he has retired to coaching mostly, though he has also competed with West Coast Striders, winning Masters 60-meters at the USATF Arizona Indoor Classic. Being able to pass on a wealth of knowledge and firsthand experience has proved to be the backbone of his Club and coaching style.

He is now an assistant coach for the Sequoia Pathway varsity football team.

“If you’re not having fun with it, then you’re probably not going to be successful,” Nelson said. “One thing about track is not many people go undefeated. So, you know, watching them learn from it, watching them excel, be better people overall from the sport of track and field is always fun to watch.”

Whether it is training or just having a good time before completion, both are key components in the track and field experience.

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Senior Logan Taylor is one of the premier hurdlers in the state.

As the track & field regular season closes, Maricopa High School senior Jacob Cowing has the fastest time recorded this season for the 200-meter dash in Division II.

He won the event in 21.63 (a school record) Friday at the Southeast Valley Championship in Queen Creek. He also won the 100-meter dash at that meet in a school-record 10.71. That is the second-fastest time reported in the division.

Cowing was also a member of the 4×400-meter relay that finished second in 3:31.45. The relay team includes Spencer Gay, Logan Taylor and Amonte Williams.

Taylor, too, has continued to be a standout with remarkable consistency in his specialty events, the hurdles. His time of 14.51 in the 110-meter hurdles set March 8 in the Becky Matthews Open remains the second-fastest time in the division this year. It was also a school record. Friday, he finished third at Queen Creek in 14.73.

In the 300-meter hurdles, Taylor set another school record April 12 at the Hohokam Invitational, where he placed third in 39.09. He matched that time Friday while finishing second, and it is the second-fastest time recorded this season in Division II.

But there’s more. Taylor added the high jump late in the season. He leaped 6-2 at the Hohokam to finish fourth. That jump is among the top 10 in the division. He finished second on Friday with a jump of 6-0. After mulling college offers, Taylor said he has chosen to attend Brigham Young University to participate in both football and track.

Fellow senior Tylen Riley-Coleman hit a personal best in the shot put April 6 at the Greenway Invitational, where he put the shot 52-9 to win that event and improve on the school record. That is a top-10 distance this season in the division. Friday, he finished second with a throw of 52-2.

Coleman achieved a personal best in the discus at the beginning of the season, throwing 150-9.75 at the Aztec Invite March 2. That is seventh-best in the division all year and a school record. Friday, he finished third with a throw of 146-7. He also took a school record in the javelin back on March 2 with 158-11.

The Maricopa boys’ team finished fifth in the Southeast Valley Championship, the final tune-up for the state championships, which start May 1.

Other Rams with top-10 finishes in Queen Creek were senior Amonte Williams, who was third in the 400-meter run with a personal record 51.17; senior Alec Kramarczyk, who set a personal record in the 1600 meters by finishing ninth in 4:42.78; and junior Steel Lewis, who was ninth in the pole vault at 11-07 (personal record).

Maricopa’s 4×200-meter relay team has the sixth-fastest time this season in Division II after running 1:36.80 in the Hohokam. That team is comprised of Mister Chavis, Roberto Esqueda, Marcus Brown and Abel Rodriquez.

Also Friday at Queen Creek, the Maricopa girls’ team finished eighth in the Southeast Valley Championship. Junior Zanaa Ramirez won the 800-meter run in 2:29.63, a personal record. She was ninth in the 400 meters.

The 4×400 team of Kayla Boich, Shakira Gillespie, Ebony Griffin and Zanaa Ramirez was second in a division top-10 time of 4:12.48. The 4×100 relay team of Destinee Chavis, Boich, Griffin and Gillespie was fifth.

Boich finished second in the high jump at 4-10. Freshman Lauren Grist was sixth with 4-04. Gillespie, a sophomore, was fifth in the long jump with a personal-best 16-04. Junior Rylin Balgaard was eighth in the triple jump at 32-04.

The state meet will be May 1 and May 4 at Mesa Community College. Competition for Division II starts Wednesday at 11 a.m. with field events in the morning and running events in the afternoon. Saturday, all divisions will compete in their respective finals starting at 10:45 a.m.

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The members of the 4x100-meter relay team - Darrell Handy, Frank Jones, P.J. Austin and Longman Pyne - all won multiple medals at the Maricopa Twilight. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School boys’ track and field team battled Basha for supremacy in the annual Maricopa Twilight meet Friday, ultimately finishing second out of nine teams. Unofficial results

The MHS girls’ team finished fifth. The athletes posted 37 personal bests during the competition at Ram Stadium. The event also served as Senior Night for the team.


Junior Phillip (P.J.) Austin and senior Terrell Handy picked up three gold medals each, competing individually and in relays. Frank Jones earned two golds and a bronze. Kyle O’Hare and Longman Pyne also won two events apiece, and Darrell Handy picked up gold, silver and bronze.

Austin won the 100-meter dash in 11.25, while Jones placed third. Austin also won the long jump with a personal record 22-3.5. Jones turned around and won the 200-meter-dash in a personal record of 22.90. Both were part of the victorious 4X100-meter relay team with Darrell Handy and Longman Pyne.

Pyne joined O’Hare, Terrell Handy and Chris Singh in winning the 4×400-meter relay.

O’Hare posted a personal record in winning the 400-meter dash in 50.96. Logan Taylor won the 110-meter high hurdles in 16.10, a personal best for him. Terrell Handy won the triple jump in 44 feet even and the high jump in 6-foor-2. His brother Darrell was second in the high jump and third in the triple jump.

The 4×800 relay team of Singh, Mark Mwangi, Sam Coles and Josh Valdez placed third.

Among the Maricopa girls, sophomore Kayla Boich walked away with two silver medals. She finished second in the long jump and was part of the second-place 4×100 team with Sydni Callis, Destinee Chavis and Saneya Cowing.

Sophomore Shannon Coutre was just off her school record in the 400 but finished second in her season-best time of 1:02.89. Italy Brookshire earned bronze medal in the high jump.

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Darrell Handy-Johnson comes in for a landing in the triple jump.

Maricopa High School’s track and field teams have had a busy March, and there is more to come.

Boys

The boys have won three meets, including the Gaucho Relays in Glendale. The Rams defeated Notre Dame in a head-to-head meet March 8 with a score of 84-53. At home March 22, Maricopa beat McClintock 84-59.

In the Gaucho Relays March 10, Maricopa was one of 20 teams in competition. The Rams proved strong on the track and in the field, earning six first-place finishes.

Among them, Phillip Austin won the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.13. Jesse Gaines won the 800-meter run in 2:01.98. Darrell Handy jumped his own height in the high jump at 6-foot-4 for another victory.

Maricopa’s  4×100-meter relay team took the gold in 43.94. The 4×400 team also won, posting a time of 3:29.92.

Also earning points with high finishes, Austin was second in the long jump with a leap of 21 feet, 9 inches. Terrell Handy was second in the triple jump at 42-10. Frank Jones was third in the 100 at 11.28, Darrell Handy was third in the triple jump at 42-9, and Terrell Handy was third in the high jump at 6-4. The 4×800 relay team was fifth in 8:39.05. Terrell Hardy was sixth in the long jump at 20-4, followed by brother Darrell in seventh with 19-10. Logan Taylor was seventh in the 110-meter high hurdles in 16.94. Xander Benitez was in a seventh-place tie in the high jump at 5-6. Dakota Halverson was seventh in the discus throw at 120-5, and Johnny Smith was 13th in the same event at 112-7 to earn points for the team.

The junior varsity competed at the Goldwater Underclassmen Invite in Phoenix March 17, finishing fifth out of eight schools.

Jacob Cowing picked up two first-place finishes. He ran the 100 in 11.6 and the 300-meter hurdles in 43.66 for the victories. Taylor picked up his pace in the 110HH to win in 16.47.

The 4×400 relay team placed second in 3:55.47. Taylor was third in the 300 hurdles in 45.79, and the 4×100 relay team finished third in 47.20. David Skelton was fourth in discus at 99-4, and he finished fifth in the shot put with a toss of 33-3. James Cutajar was fifth in discus at 95-1. Jake Meyer was sixth in shot at 32-6.5.

Girls

The girls have a win this season, defeating McClintock 105-21 on March 22. The lost to Notre Dame on March 8, 70-57, and JV had a good showing at the Goldwater Underclassmen Invite on March 17

In the Goldwater, the young Rams finished second by just nine points. Alayja Reynolds, Italy Brookshire and Eveyln Corliss won two events apiece.

Reynolds won the 100 in 13.46 and the 200-meter dash in 27.99. Brookshire was first in the triple jump at 27-11 and in the high jump at 5-0. Corliss won the 1600-meter run in 5:48.55 and the 3200-meter run in 13.34.32. The 4×100 relay team was also a winner in 53.10.

Saneya Cowing was second in the 100 in 13.5 and third in the 200 in 28.22. Reynolds finished second in the long jump at 14-8.5. Katherine Gores was second in the long jump at 27-10. Isabella Moe was third in the shot put at 24-8 and fourth in discus at 69-3. Bailey Davis ran fourth in 400 at 1:10.03. Destinee Chavis was fifth in the 100 at 13.97 and in the 200 at 29.12. Brookshire was sixth in the long jump at 12-4.

At the March 10 Gaucho Relays, the girls finished 15th.

Those scoring points were Brookshire with a tie for second in the high jump at 5-0, Leilena Young with third in the shot put at 33-2, Kayla Boich with a tie for fourth in the high jump at 4-10, and Moe with a 14th place in shot put at 26-4.

The team next competes Friday and Saturday in the Chandler Rotary Meet. Maricopa hosts its annual Ram Twilight Invitational on April 7 starting at 3 p.m. at Ram Stadium.

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Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

In their home meet, the Maricopa Twilight, the Maricopa High School girls track team took third place among 17 competing schools, and the boys finished seventh.

Maricopa athletes won three events and scored 66 points on the girls’ side. The boys totaled 42 points.

Freshman Shannon Coutré won the 400-meter dash in 1:02.31, her top time. Freshman Italy Brookshire tied for highest pole vault at 4-10.

Despite easing up at the end on a windy afternoon, senior Jada Wright won her specialty event, the 800-meter run, in 2:28.87. That is three seconds slower than her best time this season and less than six seconds off her school record.

It was also Senior Night at Rams Stadium, a good time for Wright to reflect on her high school career. Wright has run for MHS since her sophomore year. She quickly realized she was expected to be a leader.

“That took a lot of work,” she said. “Basically I had to put my mind to it. From then I would medal and take top three in all my heats and even made state my first year.”

As she works toward returning to state at the end of this season, Wright is pulling for the girls coming up behind her. She said she feels like “the old dog now” in giving them advice.

“I do feel like I have new competition now,” she said. “They’re fresh and new at this, and they’re already doing very well, so I know I won’t hold all my records for that long, which I’m very fine with, because I want them to improve and move on. So if they break my records I’ll be happy to know that they did it.”

Coach Sheldon Hutchinson said the young team is getting a lot of experience this season and expects the final meets of the season to give them higher competition.

“Hopefully, they’ll have that experience to be able to go to state and do well,” he said. “Even if that doesn’t happen, they’ll be able to come back next year and the year after that and even the year after that.”

Also scoring points for the girls, sophomore Megan Carr ran her best time in the 3200-meter run and finished third in 12:14.34.

Leilena Young was fifth in the shot put with a throw of 29-9. Jakayla Shaw was sixth in the 100-meter dash in 13.99. Jennifer John was sixth in the 100-meter hurdles in 18.25.

The top eight places in individual events score team points. Daniela Gracia-Rios was eighth in the 300-meter hurdles in 53.27 and in the 100-meter hurdles in 19.15. Aisawan Chanpraphag was eighth in the pole vault in a tie at 5-11. Mysia Hudson was eighth in the shot put in 28-1 and in the discus at 82-8.

The girls finished second in the 4X800-meter relay in 10:35.24.

For the MHS boys, P.J. Austin was fourth in two events and sixth in another. Sam Coles scored points in two events.

Austin finished fourth in the 200-meter dash in 23.08 and in the long jump in 19-8. He took sixth in the 100-meter dash in 11.85.

Coles was sixth in the pole vault at 9-0 and ran eighth in the 800-meter run in 2:08.82.

Longman Pyne was sixth in the 400 in 52.75, and Devin Parady was sixth in the triple jump at 28-9.75.

Just a fraction ahead of Coles, Jesse Gaines was seventh in the 800 in 2:08.29. John Blodgett finished eighth in the 3200 in 10:47.73.

The boys placed second in the 4X400-meter relay in 3:32.48 and were third in the 4X100-meter relay in 44.72.

The Rams next compete Friday at Westwood High School in Mesa in the Hohokam Invitational. The Division II State Championships are set for May 4 and 7 at Mesa Community College.

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Jada Wright. Photo by William Lange

The track and field team at Maricopa High School is preparing to host its Twilight Meet on Friday starting at 2:30 p.m. at Rams Stadium.

The Rams are coming off a strong performance at the Red Rock Invitational on April 2 in Sedona in what has been an up-and-down season.

“Although boasting a very young team we managed to show up big in the Sedona meet in the Freshman Sophomore Division as well as our few varsity (11th and 12th grade) athletes,” coach Sheldon Hutchinson said.

The Rams picked up personal and school records along the way. The boys placed second.

Among the boys at Sedona, sophomore Phillip (P.J.) Austin won the 100-meter dash in the F/S Division in 11:57 and also won the 200-meter dash with an MHS sophomore record of 23.29.

Sophomore Longman Pyne won the F/S 400-meter dash in 53.14. Sophomore Jose Villagran won the  F/S 800-meter run in 2:06.34. He was just ahead of sophomore Sam Coles in second with 2:08.48.

Sophomore Kyle O’Hare was second in the F/S 100 in 11.75 and third in the F/S 200 in 23.82. Senior Michael Herbig finished third in the varsity 400 in 53.50.

Devin Parady was third in the F/S triple jump competition with a jump of 38-2.

Junior Kenneth Oliver was eighth in the varsity triple jump with 39-7. Junior John Blodgett was eighth in the varsity 3200-meter run in 10:55.60, and freshman Alec Kramarczyk was eighth in the F/S 3200 in 11:06.14.

Among the girls, Jada Wright set an MHS senior record in the varsity 800 with a run of 2:25.11.

Junior Daniela Gracia-Rios set a school record in the 300-meter hurdles by bounding to a time of 53.62 and an eighth-place finish.

Megan Carr’s first-place performance of 12:32.40 in the F/S 3200-meter run set an MHS sophomore record. That was a full 20 seconds faster than her winning time in the previous meet.

Italy Brookshire was third in the high jump at 4-8, just below her freshman record.

“The team had other notable performance and PRs, but we are looking to break more school records this Friday at our Ram Twilight Meet,” Hutchinson said.

Maricopa team had its previous best finish of the season at the Becky Mathews Invitational in Phoenix on March 26.

The girls finished sixth, and the boys were eighth.

Carr won the 3200-meter run in 12:52.81, and Italy Brookshire tied for first in the high jump at 4-8.

Shannon Coutré ran third in the 400-meter dash in 1:03.56. Leilene Young was fourth in the shot put with a toss of 28-8.25.

On the boys’ side at the Becky Mathews Invite, Coles was second in the 800 in 2:08.93. He was also fourth in the 1600 (4:54.71) and tied for 11th in the pole vault (11-0).

Parady was third in the triple jump at 38-7. Kramarczyk was fourth in the 3200 in 11:12.40. Jesse Gaines was two slots behind him in sixth at 11:38.89.

Villagran was fifth in the 800. Gaines ran seventh in the 400. Pyne was eighth in the 100.

In the Nike Chandler Rotary Invitational March 19, Maricopa’s girls did not place as a team but had strong performances against challenging competition.

Mysia Hudson was eighth in discus, throwing 86-10. Wright ran 10th in the 800-meter run in 2:31.44. Coutré was 10th in the 400 in 1:02.85, and Hudson was 15th in the shot put in 29-3.

Among the boys, Pyne was sixth in the 400 in 52.6. Dakota Halverson was 10th in discuss at 110-2. Phillip Austin was 13th in the long jump at 18-11.

Maricopa’s boys finished 14th at the Rattler Booster Invitational to start the season March 5.  The girls were 21st in the team competition.

Red Rock Invitational, Sedona, April 2
Girls Varsity – Maricopa results
400-meter dash
28th, Megan Clayburn, 1:11.84
800-meter run
1st, Jada Wright, 2:25.11
17th, Amanda Macial, 2:48.08
34th, Tori Martin, 3:03.7
1600-meter run
23rd, Tori Martin, 6:51.43
100-meter hurdles
12th, Jennifer John, 18.79
17th, Daniela Gracia-Rios, 19.37
300-meter hurdles
8th, Daniela Gracia-Rios, 53.62
17th, Maria Gastelum-Parra, 1:04.92
4X400-meter relay
8th, 4:40.83
4X800-meter relay
6th, 10:56.17
Long Jump
15th, Aisawan Chanprahag, 13-9
Shot put
6th (tied), Leilena Young, 30-4.25
6th (tied), Mysia Hudson, 30-4.25
Discus
7th, Mysia Hudson, 85-0
12th Leilena Young 79-9

Girls Soph/Frosh – Maricopa Results
100-meter dash
2nd, Jakayla Shaw, 13.81
14th, Chalisse Bell, 14.52
200-meter dash
5th, Jakayla Shaw, 28.60
28th, Devyn Dutra, 31.84
400-meter dash
16th, Alondra Araujo, 1:15.14
1600-meter run
14th, Teresa Flores, 6:49.04
28th, Kimberly Vega-Sanchez, 7:49.14
31st, Alexandra Mask, 8:10.54
3200-meter run
1st, Megan Carr, 12:32.40
5th, Teresa Flores, 14:43.06
100-meter hurdles
17th, Maria Gastelum-Parra, 22.88
High jump
3rd, Italy Brookshire, 4-8
11th, Devyn Dutra, 4-0
Long jump
12th, Chalisse Bell, 13-2.5
17th, Maylee Von-Axelson, 12-8
Triple jump
9th, Maylee Von-Axelson, 28-1
Shot put
23rd, Rebekah Spencer, 15-10.75
Discuss
22nd, Rebekah Spencer, 43-10

Boys Varsity – Maricopa Results
100-meter dash
26th, Michael Herbig, 12.35
200-meter dash
15th, David Owens, 24.55
400-meter dash
3rd, Michael Herbig, 53.50
13th, David Owens, 55.18
19th, Marc Mwangi, 56.26
800-meter run
17th, Jesse Gaines, 2:11.39
20th, Marc Mwangi, 2:12.66
1600-meter run
7th, Sam Coles, 4;50.48
15th, Jesse Gaines, 5;09.55
18th, Geo Hernandez, 5;11.91
3200-meter run
8th, John Blodgett, 10:55.6
11th, Jayden Jensen, 11:19.86
13th, Geo Hernandez, 11:24.07
110-meter hurdles
11th, Kenneth Oliver, 18.43
28th, Darren Peecher, 22.89
4X800-meter relay
5th, 9:06.92
Long jump
5th, Phillip Austin, 20-5
7th, Kenneth Oliver, 20-4.25
29th, Joseph Ferland, 12-2
Triple Jump
8th, Kenneth Oliver, 29-7
23rd, Joseph Ferland, 29-0
Pole vault
12th, Sam Coles, 8-7
Shot put
15th, Dillon Cunningham, 36-2.5
19th, Nickola Carbajal, 35-2
28th, Dakota Halverson, 33-6
Discus
9th, Nickola Carbajal, 109-0
13th, Dakota Halverson, 104-7
14th, Charles Worden, 104-4

Boys Soph/Frosh – Maricopa Results                                        
100-meter dash
1st, Phillip Austin, 11.57
2nd, Kyle O’Hare, 11.75
14th, Jathan Washington, 12.44
200-meter dash
1st, Phillip Austin, 23.29
3rd, Kyle O’Hare, 23.82
400-meter dash
1st, Longman Pyne, 53.14
30th, Vincent Lebron, 1:03.58
800-meter run
1st, Jose Villagran, 2:06.34
2nd, Sam Coles, 2:08.48
1600-meter run
36th, Luke Stroschein, 5:59.67
3200-meter run
8th, Alec Kramarczyk, 11:06.14
24th, Matthew Malan, 13:41.21
110-meter hurdles
7th, Logan Taylor, 19.08
8th, Jonathan Childers, 19.38
24th, Lorenzo Childers, 23.31
300-meter hurdles
15th, Jonathan Childers, 50.91
23rd, Lorenzo Hernandez, 56.90
25th, Darren Peecher, 58.72
High jump
10th, Logan Taylor, 5-0
Long jump
6th, Jameson Henigan, 16-11
7th, Costas Miller, 16-10.5
29th, Adrian Bazzel, 14-0.75
Triple jump
3rd, Devin Parady, 38-2
11th, Jameson Henigan, 34-0.5
Shot put
12th, Reece Thompson, 30-9
25th, David Skelton, 28-7.75

Discus
9th, David Skelton, 84-1
23rd, Reece Thompson, 75-4