The Altus High School Lady Bulldog Women’s track team will open their season on Thursday when they travel to Oklahoma City Bishop McGuinness for the Clancy Classic Invitational. This will be an early test for the young Lady Bulldog Women.
The Altus High Women have enjoyed quite a bit of success over the past 12 years, including a run of ten straight Regional Championships that ended last year, two State Runner-Up finishes, and the 2011 State Title, and this year’s team looks to be ready to continue the rich tradition of Altus track.
Altus will be reloading this year with a young team built around a few core seniors. Altus will have two highly recruited seniors in Ashley Hughes and Zeta McCaskill.
“We will have to work pretty hard this year because we just aren’t as deep in some events as we have been in the past,” said new head coach Robert Garrison. “But we do have a great group of young ladies who are willing to run whatever they need to to help the team which is what I really like about this group.”
Altus should be able to compete well in almost every event.
In the hurdles, Altus returns Hughes, who placed 3rd in the 100s and 4th in the 300s last year at State. Freshman Jimmie Dollins and Chauncey Beckner will also be counted on this season. “With Hughes and Dollins we have a chance to have two of the top five hurdlers in the class,” said Garrison.
Altus appears to be stronger in the mid-distance events this year than in years past. McCaskill will be one of the favorites in the 400 dash. Freshman Brianna Barker and Grace Hernke will be strong contenders in the 400 dash and the 800 runs. Sophomore Lexi Herron will be back in the 800 run.
“These girls will make up our 1600 and 3200 relay teams and they will be tough to go against,” said Garrison. “The 3200 relay finished 5th at State last year and should be one of the top three heading into the season.”
In distance events Altus will have a trio of girls who should make it to State. Julia Pack will be back in the 1600 and 3200 runs and will also running the 3200 relay, and Sicily Gonzalez is back for her senior season and appears ready to break through. Lauren Bledsoe and Belicia Ramirez will also be big contributors this year.
Altus will be thin in the springs this year but what they will have will be great. Freshman Kiondra Knight will be one of the favorites to take State in the 100 and 200.
“We have been blessed with so many sprinters over the past 10 years, this is just one of those years where we didn’t have any come out,” said Garrison. “We will build our relays around Knight this year but the positive for this is that we have a great group of sprinters in the 8th grade that can’t wait till next year.”
Altus will be strong in the relay events. The 800 relay will begin with Knight, Hughes, McCaskill, and either Dollins or Hernke. The 1600 relay will consist of McCaskill, Hughes, Barker and either Hernke or Dollins. The 3200 relay will have Pack, Barker, Herron, and Hernke. McCaskill could also run 3200 relay if needed.
“When you’re looking at Regionals and State you have to have relays and then you build around them,” said Garrison. “We’ll be experimenting over the season with a 400 relay and have it ready to go by Regionals.”
Field events will be another area Lady Bulldogs will look to improve this year. “We lost the State Champ in the shotput (Tisay Woodhouse) and you don’t just replace her, but we have several young ladies ready to try to fill her shoes. Aerial Robinson, Racquel McClellon, Ashley Baker, and Ebriannah Lord are all vying to be top throwers. This will be the deepest the Lady Bulldogs have been in the polevault. Juniors Brittney Drewry, Sidney Richeson, Carolyn Quam and Cassidy Pearl along with Pack and sophomore Dana Brown give the Lady Bulldogs a shot at scoring at the State meet. “They have all been working really hard so far and have set goals for themselves,” said Garrison.
“Drewry, Richeson, and Quam should be over 8’5” this year and Pearl is back and should be able to pick up where she left off in 8th grade where she was already over 8 feet.” Hernke will be counted on in the High Jump and Sarah Robinson will be long jumping.
Even with the young team, Garrison is highly optimistic. “When we won the 2011 State title, we won it with a number of sophomores and freshmen and these girls remind me a lot of that group,” Garrison said. “Don’t get me wrong, they will have to work hard all season to get that opportunity to win a title and from what I’ve seen so far they are working for it.”
The goal for the girls is a simple one: win a state title. “Our goal has remain the same year in, year out and that’s to take state,” said Garrison. “I’ve been with this program for 20 years, the last eight as the High School Assistant to Randle Hawkins and if there is one thing he taught me it was that the team goal should never change.”
The Altus girls will come into the season as one of the top five teams in class 5A. “This class is the toughest of them all,” said Garrison. “Last year the top four teams at State were separated by only 15 points and all of us are coming back with the same, young teams.”
Edmund-Deer Creek, last year’s State Champ, is the preseason favorite. Shawnee, Tulsa, Washington, Altus, and Grove are the contenders trying to dethrone them. Lawton Ike may be the wildcard in the class 5A if they drop down for the Spring season like they did for the Cross Country Season. “5A is going to be stacked and no one has won a back-to-back title since 2010, we won in 2011, Shawnee into 2012, and Deercreek last year,” added Garrison.
“I’m really looking forward to the season. My ladies will do the very best they can for Altus and Altus High School and that’s all I can ask for,” said Garrison.
Lauren Bledsoe, BRittney Drewry, Sicily Gonzalez, Grace Hernke, Lexie Herron, Mena Kelly, Zetta McCaskill, Julia Pack, Belicia Ramirez, Andrea Reynolds, Sidney Richeson, Ebriannah Ward, Brianna Barker, Ashlee Baker, Chauncey Beckner, Dayna Brown, Jimmie Dollins, Ashley Hughes, Kiandra Knight, Stacey Louks, Racquel McClellon, Cassity Pearl, Caroline Quam, Aerial Robinson, and Sarah Robinson.
March 14- McGuinness, March 28- Vernon, March 29- Duncan, April 4- Cache, April 15- Chicksha, April 18- OU, April 22- Western Conference Meet (Elgin), April 26-Altus, May 1- Duncan, May 10- Regionals, May 16-17 State (Yukon), May 20- Meet of Champions.