Staff photo by Eric Lusk
Jason Stutheit is one of the top throwers on this year's Mingus team. Here, he gives the discus a hurl at Wednesday's Sedona meet.
Sedona Red Rock bid a fond farewell to a number of top athletes from last year’s West Region championship boys team – names like Johnny Cunningham, Paul Freeman and Nick Colon.
The consensus around the area this season is that teams are rebuilding.
Numbers are down a bit from recent years and many of the varsity spots are being filled by underclassmen. Still, coaches mention the word "promise" and "potential" plenty of times when talking about their lineups.
Here’s a preview of the season ahead.
MINGUS UNION: The new faces aren’t just limited to the competitors. The Marauders have a new head coach, Rick Walsworth. He comes to Cottonwood from Shadow Mountain High, where he coached track a year ago. He also has experience coaching the sport in Arkansas.
Walsworth has about 35 athletes on his first Mingus team.
"Over half our kids are sophomores or freshmen," Walsworth said. "Our strong events for the boys are going to be our throws. For the girls, it’s distance (running) and pole vault."
Mingus throwers already have a solid showing under their belt. Jason Stutheit, James Piasano and Jeremiah Lord won the discus "relay" at the Arcadia Titan Relays last Saturday. They out-threw some notable athletes from schools like Mesa Mountain View and Red Mountain.
The Marauders also placed in the girls and boys pole vault "relay" at Arcadia. Shantell Hartley and Kaley Noble earned second place with a combined vault of 15-6. Ryan Hauser and Kirk Tyler took third with a combined height of 20-6.
Brianna Lawton and Shane Logan lead the distance running contingent. Lawton had a great cross country season in the fall, qualifying for state, and should be strong in the events that Latimer made famous the past few years.
Logan has already hit two personal records in races this season. Assistant coach Howie Usher, who trains the distance runners, calls him "a man on a mission." At Arcadia last week, Logan dropped nine seconds off a previous best.
Duane Badger returns as another assistant coach and will work with the sprinters, hurdlers and short-distance relay teams.
He’s plenty familiar with the Mingus runner who has his eyes on the school record in the 400 meters – it’s his son, Larry. The senior is the lone returning runner from last year’s 4x400 relay team that edited a long-standing school mark.
Corby Rice and Travis Barron look solid in the 100 and 200 meters. Rafael Molina looks to be the top 110- and 300-meter hurdler.
The Marauders return no girl sprinters but Badger and company are excited about the addition of runners like Winslow Scott, Mischa Luksich and Blaze Scott. The threesome will join Kaley Noble in what could be a mean relay team this spring.
"The girls sprint relay is going to be the one to watch this year," coach Badger said.
Other newcomers who show promise include Mychal Rorls, Guy Lightfoot, Jared Christophersen, Josh Kowal, Matt Cartia, Brian Libby, Eric DiRe and Melody Wills.
"Most of them are young, which makes predominately a JV team with a few at the varsity level," coach Badger said. "Most of the expectations are for individual events this season."
Mingus will compete again this weekend at North Canyon before taking two weeks off from competition for Spring Break.
SEDONA RED ROCK: Coach Harry Schneider is back at the helm this season, and his Scorpion team has already achieved a milestone. The Scorpions hosted their first ever meet on Wednesday.
"I figured it was time to do that," said the coach, who is now in his 100th season of coaching either indoor track, outdoor track or cross country. "We’re trying to build the sport up here, and that’s one way of doing that."
Sedona has about 30 kids on the roster right now. Like Mingus, many are new to the sport, which will make it tough to repeat last year’s state meet results (boys seventh, girls eighth). Still, the Scorpions should be among the best in the region by April and May.
"We’re a good team. We just lack a little depth," Schneider said. "Chino, they are the team to beat right now. And we’re going to go after them."
Mike Sanders, Emily Denison, Alex Robie and Ananda Robie headline the top returnees.
Sanders, who took third in the 800 meters at state a year ago, won the 800 on Wednesday in 2:04.2, anchored the victorious 4x800 relay and ran legs on the 4x400 and 4x200.
Denison, a senior, tied for first in the 100 hurdles and high jump, and won the long jump on Wednesday.
Alex Robie broke two school records last week at Queen Creek in the shot put and discus. She won both events Wednesday, with her sister Ananda taking second in both.
Sophomore Mark Maurer looks solid in the intermediate hurdles, an event Colon and Freeman starred in last season. Maurer took second in Wednesday’s meet in 46.1
Junior Mark Uvanajo could develop into the team’s top thrower. He’s new to the sport but threw the discus a respectable 110 feet on Wednesday, good enough for fourth place.
"He is going to be good," Schneider said. "He’ll probably be our school record holder by next year, maybe this year."
Sedona will compete in a three-way with Fountain Hills and Parker this weekend, then will go to the Bourgade Catholic meet in two weeks. The upcoming Spring Break will make fielding a full team tough for awhile.
"We’re not going to look good for three weeks or so," Schneider said.
CAMP VERDE: The Bugle and The Verde Independent ran a preview of the Cowboys track team in last Friday’s edition. Coach Lori Showers has about 20 athletes, many of them new to the sport.
Amy Showers (hurdles) and Travis Dixon (sprints) are among the top returnees.