Track teams to start season at home Saturday

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By LAUREN JETTE

The Liberty Hill track team will start the season off from the comfort of Panther Stadium Saturday for the Panther Relays.

The Panther Relays offer a chance for athletes to get some race experience early in the season as the meet limits running events to relays only, so more kids get time on the track, said girls coach Gretchen Peterson.

“The only open races will be 100m hurdles and the 300m hurdles, field events are normal, but everything else is a relay,” she explained.

“There’s a distance medley, a sprint medley, a 4×8, so even our distance kids are getting to run with a baton, which is kind of fun for them and you get to put different combinations together.”

With basketball teams in the playoffs, most track teams aren’t at full strength yet either.

“It’s early, so you never really fully have (your team). We still have kids in basketball, other schools are in the same boat, so it’s nice to be able to put different people in different areas,” Peterson said.

“Also it’s a training day, so they get a little bit of extra in, even though it’s a meet, it’s so early in the season, we just want our kids to get more mileage in.”

The strongest events for the Lady Panthers are the distance races, thanks to a successful cross country team, and the relays.

“We obviously have had a great cross country season again, so distance is great with Mckynzie King and Danielle Rimann, and even some of those freshmen and sophomores who ran varsity are going to come in and do a great job,” Peterson said.

“Our hurdlers are back, Ana Rodriguez is going to be great in the 300 hurdles, Bethany McLeod, when she comes out from basketball, Kelby Jones came on really strong and ran on varsity for us and so we have those events.”

The members of the mile relay team that won the 4A title at the state track meet last spring are all returning, Peterson added.

The only question mark she sees with the Lady Panthers is the youth of the team, which relies on several underclassmen.

“I think where we maybe are a little inexperienced is in the long and triple jumps because we don’t have those types of jumpers and our 4×100 relay is going to be really fast this year, but again, we’re inexperienced because we’re running with a lot of freshmen and sophomores, but that’s ok,” Peterson said.

On the Panthers side, coach Jimmy Duncan said the strongest events are the middle distance and distance races.

“Since we are so young, our goal is simply to improve each week,” he said.

“Each week we are on the track competing and gaining valuable experience will hopefully pay off at the district meet.”

Liberty Hill has six meets before the district meet at Burnet April 13 and 14.

“Our district is extremely tough,” Duncan said.

“Taylor, Burnet, and Lampasas all have excellent track programs and have represented our district well at the regional and state meets.”

While the district competition is tough, coaches believe Liberty Hill can field a team at the state track meet in Austin in May.

“It’s all about getting as many points as we can at the district and area meets, and that’s our goal,” Peterson said.

“We realistically think we have a shot at getting there as a team at state and getting points there and hopefully getting on the podium stand as a team at track, which we just need a couple more kids. We need like one or two more and a couple points here or there and we can do that. It’s exciting.”

The work put in during in the offseason is showing now, as the athletes are already looking strong and ready this early in the season, Peterson said.

“Our kids are stronger, they have been working phenomenally hard all year,” she said.

“Coach (Monica) Miller has been with them since August, so they’ve been training in the weight room and doing strength and conditioning stuff and getting their legs underneath them, so I think we’re really ahead of the game of where we were last year, and that offseason has done a great job for us.”

In addition to building up confidence and lowering times for the district meet, it will be important to keep the athletes healthy throughout the season, with meets at Burnet, Fredericksburg, Lampasas, Marble Falls and Georgetown all on the schedule.

“It all is going to come down to keeping them healthy, to win meets early on, but that doesn’t really matter if you get to district and you don’t really have your best kids on the track because they are overworked or injured,” Peterson explained.

“So we just want to keep everyone healthy. Our job is to not mess them up.”

The Panther Relays will open with field events starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, and relays starting at 12:30 p.m. at Panther Stadium.

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