New blood, new coach spark Tiger track season

With a new coach this year, the Sweet Home Junior High track and field team expereinced a few growing pains, but the Tigers’ season turned out to be successful not only in the number of athletes who participated, but with a state champion in the final meet.

Coach Lela Danforth, who has spent many years as a volunteer and youth coach, stepped in at the last minute after former Coach Angela Stevens was unable to take the reins this year and Alan Temple, who also formerly headed the program, had retired.

“It was hard to fill the shoes of Coaches Angela Stevens and Alan Temple since my coaching style is a little different,” Danforth said. “However, after the adjustments I believe that things smoothed out for everyone.”

Danforth and Athletic Director Dave Goetz visited all the district sixth-grade classrooms prior to the season and 80 students showed up for the first practice, with about 60 finishing the season after losses to grades, injuries or other conflicts.

Twenty-four of them were sixth-graders.

“We had a young and inexperienced team,” Danforth said. “Unfortunately, unlike high school, the track season is very short.”

She said help from a large group of volunteer assistants made it all work.

“I could not have pulled the season off without their help and knowledege,” Danforth said. “We also had the high school coaches and student athletes instructing as the season progressed also. I appreciated their time and assistance.”

After district athletic directors decided not to hold a district meet, Sweet Home coaches decided to host an invitational district for any teams that wanted to come. Seven did, and Danforth said it’s likely the Twilight Meet, as it was called, will be back.

“Feedback has been very positive and we are looking to keep that as an annual meet each year, although Saturday events for the Junior High are not traditional,” she said. The Veteran’s Auxilary, with Bessie Lovik and Linda Doles taking the lead, donated funds to purchase ribbons to hand out to the top eight finishers, as would happen at a normal district meet.

Ten athletes traveled to La Pine June 5 to compete in the Middle School State Meet (non qualifying) and three brought back medals.

Angel Negron threw a 14-foot PR €“ with a heavier discus than his usual one €“ to win the state championship in the event. Sprinter Kyler Gaskey and high jumper Jakob Hiett also placed.

Danforth said the eighth-graders’ numbers were sparse this year, thanks in part to injuries, but there were some very promising future Huskies among those who competed.

She said school officials are updating the Track and Field Record board to include sixth-grade records.

“Since our school is a junior high and not a middle school, sixth-graders are invited to compete as other schools in our league are middle schools,” Danforth said. “Since there have never been sixth- grade records kept, we feel it is important to begin that tradition. The 2010 sixth-graders will be the first class of sixth-graders to be included.”

She said Martha Wells and her concessions crew helped make funding of the team possible. She also credited high school Coach Billy Snow, and “the many volunteers who helped at our home meets, school staff, parents, community members, high school track athletes and coaches” who helped make it possible to host “a great meet.”