WELLS – Despite losing its best athlete, the Wells track and field team has a “large nucleus of the team returning,” according to head coach Amy Hunsaker.
Wells’ girls ranked as the state runners-up last season.
The Lady Leopards will be without the services of graduated of Mikayla Rodriguez, who notched back-to-back state championships in the high jump.
She cleared the bar at 5-feet-3-inches last season, leaving Wells with the school record in the event.
Rodriguez also placed second in the state in the long jump – sailing 14-feet-7-1/4-inches – taking third in the triple jump, spanning 31-feet-10-1/2-inches.
Wells also graduated Jenny McKinley, who took fifth at state in the shot put with a 28-foot-6-inch heave.
“I hope that the three juniors – Danielle Wadda-Martinez, Sandra Casas and Jade Kelly – will be able to step in and have big improvements in the throws,” Hunsaker said.
Senior pole vaulter Camberlin Uhlig is back after placing second in the event as a junior with a 6-foot-6 effort.
The Lady Leopards will also bring back their best middle-distance runner.
As only a freshman, Vanessa Solis took third place in the 800 meters with a time of 2:43.16 and placed fifth in the 400 meters with a personal record of 1:05.05 at the state meet.
Another freshman put in work during her first time to the big stage.
Aubree Talbert took fourth in two events, competing in the 100-meters hurdles and the high jump.
Now a sophomore, she will look to build on her personal-record time of 19.42 seconds in the hurdles and her 4-foot-4 leap in the high jump.
While the Lady Leopards return several key athletes, their biggest strength comes as a collective.
The Wells girls sped past the competition of the 4x400-meter relay – gaining a state championship with a time of 4:29.82 – graduating Zalie Peters but returning now-senior Victoria Young, Solis and Uhlig.
Wells’ effort in the race was the second-fastest time in the history of the school.
The Lady Leopards finished as the runners-up in the 4x800 relay with a time of 11:13.15, consisting of now-senior Liberty Johnson, Uhlig, Solis and Young.
The team of Talbert, then-freshman Jackie Berumen, Young and Peters placed fourth in the 4x100 with a time of 55.98 seconds.
The Lady Leopards – Rodriguez, Uhlig, McKinley and Peters – added to Wells’ point total with a time of 2:03.31 in the 4x200 relay for fifth place.
“We are looking good in the distance and mid-distance with a core of cross country runners out: Ruth Gale, Liberty, Camberlin and Vanessa. We also have Victoria back in the long jump, 800 meters and 400 meters,” Hunsaker said. “Joining her in the 400 meters is Amanda Murphy. Amanda looks to run the 100, 200, 400 and strengthen a relay. Aubree Talbert is back to hurdle and high jump. Vanessa will be running mid-distance and will try the 300 hurdles.”
The Wells boys had just one individual qualify for the state meet last year, graduating 300-meter hurdler Britton Johnny.
Johnny placed fourth in the state with a time of 44.33 seconds, setting a personal record.
He was also a member of two relay teams, the Leopards qualifying in the 4x400 and 4x800 relays.
Johnny and Roberto Roque-Luna each graduated, but the Leopards will bring back their cohorts from the relay teams – Brent Battenfeld and Matthew James.
Wells placed seventh in both the 4x400 and 4x800, finishing with times of 3:58.57 and 9:48.40, respectively.
“We are really excited to have a new bunch of boys out. Joining us in the 1600 meters and 800 meters will be Jesus Quintero and Dameion Mercado. Brent Battenfeld is back out and looking forward to having some relay help in the 4x800 and possibly the 4x400,” Hunsaker said. “Junior Dallin Myers is out, along with freshman Quinlin Jackson and Brody Middleton. We will be trying new events to find where they can be the most successful.”
The Leopards will start the season in the track events at 10 a.m. Saturday during the Elko League Meet at Warrior Field.