Anna’s track and field head coaches, Hoot Jones with the girls and Jeremy Patton with the boys, see an opportunity this season for their teams to make headway toward improvement over last year. Both have key top performers returning and both are optimistic about young prospects coming up.

Anna Lady Coyotes

In his 10th year at the helm of Anna girls track and field, Coach Hoot Jones says he still enjoys the experience.

“What I enjoy about it is (the girls’) willingness and their coming out here with a good attitude every day,” Jones said. “They are a joy for me to work with. I really and truly enjoy workouts.”

In fact, Jones says he enjoys training more than he does the meets.

During that training this season, Jones and the Lady Coyotes will seek to improve on their third-place district finish in 2016 and boost their numbers at the area and regional meets — and maybe even send representatives to state.

Lost to graduation from last year’s team is Courtney Hughes, a multi-year top performer in the mile and two-mile.

“She went to state two years,” Jones said, “her freshman and her junior year. She had a good work ethic and was a good role model for these other girls. They saw through her that her work ethic got results.”

This year, those role-model duties perhaps fall to Raye Moran, Jones’ talented lone senior.

“Raye is a pretty versatile girl,” he said. “I would say she could be in the picture from 400 meters up through one mile.”

Moran ran the 800 and 1,600 meters last year, making it to regionals in each.

“She did real well in both,” Jones said, “but at the regional meet she focused on the 800. … I felt like, and she felt like, she could have gone to state last year, but she had a mishap at about the 100-meter mark out. She got clipped in the heels and went down.”

Jones notes that Moran was injured her sophomore year and says that during her freshman year, “her potential was apparent but she didn’t know it yet. It’s taken a while, but she’s had some tremendous workouts lately. We’ll just see what happens.”

Jones says junior quarter-miler Tamaya Tutson also has fine prospects this year.

“She dabbles in the 100 and 200 at times, but her potential is probably greater in the 400 meters,” he said. “So she’s a valuable relay participant.”

Jones has high hopes as well for sophomore Madison Hemenway in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters.

“She may be one of the most dedicated high school runners I have had to privilege to coach,” he said.

Freshmen Jazmin Pender and Jada Ramirez also show great promise, Jones says.

“They are slowly, quietly making their presence known,” he said. “They will both emerge as very valuable team members as they contribute to the 4X400 relay.”

Junior Abby Sanders, whom Jones calls “a valuable contributor” in the relays, is out for now due to injury.

As for the district race this year, Jones says one team stands out.

“I think Melissa is head and shoulders above anyone else in the field,” he said. “I’d say the quality and quantity is just unbelievable. … They should not only win district, they have what it takes to do some major damage at the state track meet.”

Jones says Princeton’s program will likely have big numbers again.

“They’ve got quantity and, at a district meet, quantity can score some points,” he said. “But when you get past that and you start having those other districts coming in at the area and regional meets, then it becomes a quality thing. I think Melissa … (is) the class of the district and maybe the region.”

“Celina, traditionally, has had some pretty good teams,” Jones said, “so you can never count them out. They will get in there and they have their strengths … and they could make life miserable for us.” Aubrey, he says, is an “unknown,” being new to the district like Celina. “I know that they are in the midst of building a program… They may not be that great this year — I’m not saying they won’t be great — but at the middle school cross-country meet they had the numbers and they had good quality.”

Is it too early to tell how Anna will do?

“It’s always too early to tell,” Jones said. “We have some young ones that we’re depending on. So they’re kind of an unknown, as far as how they will hold up against competition. Every year, half of the battle is to stay healthy. If people are healthy, they can perform up to their potential, or have a chance to… We are very slim in our depth.”

When asked if some Lady Coyotes might make it to state this year, Jones said, “I would say it’s possible — it’s possible.” He adds that he’s also “holding out hope” that one relay makes it to Austin. “That’s a long shot, but long shots happen. I’ve been fooled before.”

Athlete snapshots

Sprinter Tamaya Tutson says she enjoys the positive effect running has on her.

“I like the adrenaline I get when I’m running and how I feel after I run. It gets me going.”

Tutson plans to get happy this year in the 100-and-200 meters and in the 4x400 relay.

“I think it takes the passion for it,” she said. “You have to love track.”

Her goals for 2017 include getting to state in her races, including “hopefully” the relay.

Raye Moran says running “takes away stress” and adds, “I just love running.” She’ll compete this year in the 800 meters and the 4x400 relay, though her favorite is still the 800.

“Just having motivation for it,” she said, is the main requirement for achieving on the track. Her goals this year are to break her personal record of 2 minutes, 19 seconds in the 800 and “to become closer with the team.”

Madison Hemenway says running the mile and two-mile requires “dedication and mental toughness — and just wanting to do it.”

Her brother ran track in college and now serves as her role model.

“I really look up to him,” she said, and added that he offers advice all the time.

“We were talking about a race and he goes, ‘What’s your strategy?’” Hemenway said. “I said, ‘I guess just run.’”

Her brother responded, “You need to run a 5:40, so you need to run 80-second laps.” He added that he’d be there, yelling out her times.

Of the two-mile, Hemenway says she tries to stay in front and maintain a good pace.

“For the mile, it’s a little more difficult because there’s a lot of fast people.”

Not that two-milers are slow, she adds, but some milers tend to push it, as in “Let’s run this like two 800s.”

Anna Coyotes

Jeremy Patton is starting his first season as head coach of Anna boys track and field, though he’s been an assistant with the program for the past five years. He’s been on the property even longer, serving as an assistant baseball coach before that.

This year, Patton’s Coyotes, like the Anna girls, will push to better their third-place district-meet finish and send more athletes to regionals and maybe to state.

“Last year, our season didn’t quite go as we had planned,” Patton said. “We were a little bit younger. We had lost a lot of good athletes the year before.”

Still, he notes there were highlights, including Elijah Smith winning district in the 400 meters and setting a new school record in the process (49.01 seconds). Smith was also district-champ in the triple jump.

“Hopefully, if all things go well, we may try to get a repeat performance to get to the state meet,” he said. “He should be able to get there, as long as we can get that time down (in the 400).”

Another top performer last year, now graduated, was Eric Jackson who made it to the regional meet in the 300- and 110-meter hurdles. Patton also points to last year’s 4x200-meter relay team of Aaron Lee, Malik Mason, Antonio Moon and Josh Abara, which placed fourth at area. The mile-relay team — Smith, Mason, Keelan Crosby and Jonathan Venable — made it to regionals last year, but Patton says a better outcome was expected.

“We kind of had a little bit of disappointing performance there,” he said. “We’re just two years removed from being at the state meet, running a 3:21. But last year, we ended up running in the high 3:20s — 3:29 or 3:30. In our region, that’s not going to get you out from there, by any means.”

This year’s mile-relay team will be stocked with seniors Smith and Venable, junior Crosby and sophomore newcomer Amyri Cox.

“If they can all stay healthy and do what we think they can, we should at least make it back to regionals,” Patton said.

As for field events, Patton says Anna hasn’t had a pole-vaulter in some time.

“We just haven’t had anybody that really had any interest,” he said, adding it’s a “very technical” endeavor. “That’s one thing that we’re trying to focus on a little bit, especially down at middle school and on up. We’ve got some guys that we’re looking to do that.”

“Jumps-wise,” he said, “I think we’ll be alright.” Smith is back in the triple jump and “we’re looking at some guys in the long jump.” In the high jump, Patton looks to senior Dillon Lewis and promising new junior Mason Williams. Returning in the shot put are seniors Daunte Rose and Travis Shouse and junior Jacob Perez. Rose missed the area meet last year by inches. Otherwise in throwing, Patton says, the Coyotes are “kind of young.”

Patton views the District 11-4A race thus: “I think our district got much, much tougher that it has been with the addition of Celina, who for years has always had teams go to the regional meet and lots of state qualifiers and state champions. They do real well in the relays, particularly the mile relay, and in the hurdle events.”

Aubrey, also new to the district, is “always a strong team,” he added.

“They’ve got a bunch of tough kids that don’t mind running hard and running those quarter(-miles) and things,” he said. “Princeton is always going to be fast with all those athletes they’ve got. … And Melissa’s got a great track program, with great coaches there. They’ve got some young talent that’s super-fast.”

Bonham, he said, “had some good relays last year, particularly the 4x100.”

As for Patton’s current goals for the Coyotes, besides staying healthy, he said, “We definitely want to improve on some of our field events, like pole vault and high jump. But we want to see those (running) times go down, obviously, each week… If we’re able to do our best each and every week, there’s not a moment where we say, ‘Ah, that kid kind of slacked off a little bit,’ that would be great for us. That would give us a good chance to be successful… and put ourselves in a good position to move on into area and regionals.”


Athlete snapshots

“Once I started running,” Elijah Smith said, “and started realizing how good I could be I just kept going on from there.”

His primary event is the 400 meters, and he’s out to set another school record in the event.

“I definitely know I can break it this year,” he said.

What does it takes to master the 400?

“It takes some genes from my mom, I know that’s for sure,” Smith said. He adds, “It takes not only pride but it takes a lot of endurance and a lot of strength — core strength, too, to be a 400 runner… When I watched the Olympics, I saw how they were in control, they were relaxed. And they kept their pace until, like, the last hundred — just to go full out on the last 100 meters.”

Keelan Crosby says starting out in seventh grade he was always put on the 4x400 relay.

“As the years grew I just kept doing it, to prepare me for football and help me get faster,” he said.

This year he expects to compete in that event, plus the 4x100 and the 4X200 relays, and the triple jump and high jump. He said the 4X4 is his favorite event.

“It’s just the most exciting event,” he said.

One of his current goals is to get his 400 time down to 49 or 50 seconds. His fastest time last year was 52. Crosby says Usain Bolt, the current world record-holder in the 100 and 200 meters, impresses him the most. Crosby said it takes hard work and dedication.

“Even if you don’t like it, you have to be willing to go out here and push yourself to the limits.”

Daunte Rose began track in eighth grade with nothing but relays and was introduced to the shot put a year later. This season, Rose expects to run the 200 and 400 meters and maybe the 4x400 if his time qualifies.

“I personally like the 200,” he said, “because I don’t do too well just running straight. With the 200, it gives me a chance to hit the curve and get a little more momentum heading into the straightaway.”

Rose says “attention to detail” and “focus on your form and technique” are keys to success. That, and getting “used to being tired.” Like Crosby, Rose most admires sprinter Usain Bolt. “When you watch his races, everything is the same. He comes out pretty well and once he gets to the middle he uses the same technique and just uses his strides really well.”

“I really would like to get past area for shot put (this year), that’s for sure,” Rose said, “because I came so close last year. And if I do make the 4x400, hopefully, I can help us get back to state.”

Jonathan Venable didn’t start track until his sophomore year, when he arrived in Anna from Anchorage, Alaska. And it came about as result of injury, after he’d started playing football and powerlifting. A coach suggested it to him and he began by running the relays.

“I always held strong with my team,” Venable said, “and we always had fun. We were always depending on each other, making sure everyone gets their time and practices hard every day.”

Individually, he said, it takes perseverance.

“You’ll have those days where you just don’t want to be at practice, or you just don’t want to run.”

Venable plans to run relays again this year.

“The most important one to me is the 4x400,” he said. “That’s where we do really well. I feel like we have a huge shot this year at going to state.”

Venerable hopes to break 50 seconds in the 400 this time around.

“Last year, I hit 50-flat,” he said. “So I was, like, you know what? I think I can do better.”