Originally Published: March 1, 2015 6:03 a.m.
CHINO VALLEY, Arizona - Chino Valley High's track and field program lost some strong state qualifiers from this past season, but veteran coach Marc Metz says he still has a big roster heading into the 2015 campaign.
The Cougars kick off the spring season at 4 p.m. this Wednesday, March 4, at Wickenburg.
Metz, who's coached Chino's varsity track and field team since 2007, said he has more than 50 athletes, including 10 football players, on his boys' and girls' squads combined. Twenty of the boys and nine of the girls are new to the sport.
"We are kind of an inexperienced team," Metz said from practice Feb. 18. "We have a lot of new faces, boys and girls."
Keeping that in mind, Metz split his schedule between multi meets, where every one of his athletes can run, and invites, where they can attempt to qualify for state.
"This is the highest numbers we've had out at the start of the season (since I've been the coach)," Metz said. "I'm excited this year. It's good to see a lot of people wanting to do different things (events). And they don't know what they want to do, and so it's kind of fun to see how they'll do."
On the boys' side, McKenzie Nez, a varsity cross-country runner and wrestler, will lead the way in the 1600 meters (the mile), the 3200m (2-mile) and perhaps even the 800m. In 2014, Nez qualified for the 2-mile at the Division 3 state meet, notching a personal best time of 10 minutes, 21 seconds.
"He's looking really good," Metz said of Nez.
In the field, Michael Brillhart will run in the 110m hurdles, 100m dash and 200m dash. Brillhart has a chance to qualify for state in the 110m hurdles, Metz said.
Levi Arce, a standout varsity wrestler for Chino, will throw the shot put and discus.
"He's improved a lot, and wrestling really helped him," Metz said of Arce.
On the girls' side, Jenny Ballard returns as a state-qualifying thrower who placed as a sophomore two years ago.
Kassidy Hampton qualified for state last year in the 300m hurdles, the long jump and the 4x400m relay. Metz said he expects Hampton to compete in the 100m hurdles and 300m hurdles, the long jump and "hopefully" one of the relays this spring.
Minus a few of his standouts from last season who didn't return to the team, Metz is turning to newcomers for help, including Katie Farnsworth, who starred for Chino's varsity girls' soccer team last fall. Farnsworth should run the sprints and middle distances, the coach said.
Metz has three assistant coaches this season, including varsity volleyball coach April Jelovic, who'll handle the jumpers; former varsity softball coach Kevin Grell, who'll assist the throwers; and former football coach Tracy Hunter, who'll mentor the sprinters.
"People just want to try to get out here, have fun and increase their speed, their strength," Metz said, "and just try to get better for their (other) sports."