By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — McAlester’s nine state track and field qualifiers last season would be impressive no matter the circumstances, but the 2013 team pulled it off without having a home track on which to practice.
With the track complex at Hook Eales Stadium now finished, the 2014 Buffs and Lady Buffs will be able to practice all their events all season long.
“Anything new is great, and this is a nice, nice track that we have,” Buffs track coach Richard Carney said Feb. 28. “The money was well-spent, and it’s going to be a big contribution to the school, the athletes and also to the community.”
Carney said approximately 20 have come out for track this spring, but that number could reach as high as 40 in the coming weeks. Juniors Keaton Slater and Shattee Robinson, for instance, both made State in track and field last season but couldn’t join this season until basketball ended this past weekend.
As many as 10 football players, Carney said, might join track and field after the state powerlifting meet this weekend. Once all of McAlester’s potential track athletes finally join the team, Carney said his team’s should again be able to send several to State.
Robinson should be part of the Lady Buffs’ strong corps of hurdlers. Robinson placed third in the 300 meter hurdles at State last spring and also qualified in the 4x400 meter relay.
Casey Jones, a senior, placed second in the 300 hurdles and would’ve won the 100 meter hurdles had she not tripped towards the end. Jones was also a member of last season’s 4x400 relay team.
“She has two or three people, they talk to me all the time about her,” Carney said of Jones.
“She has the ability to go to the next level.”
Megan Fassino should also be back this season. Fassino was part of the 4x400 state-qualifying relay team last season and this season could also compete in the 400 meter run, the 800 meter run and the high jump.
Sophomore Shelbie Walker could help the Lady Buffs in any number of events, including potentially the long jump, pole vault and several races. Both Walker and junior Hallie Light were Lady Buffs cheerleaders earlier in the school year, and Carney said that sport’s combination of physical strength and athleticism should translate to track.
Carney also said he’s had a good turnout of freshmen to his practices, including Katelyn Ferrell, Ashley Taylor and Texas move-in Madelyn Hunter.
“She’s a sprinter,” Carney said of Hunter. “She has some good wheels.”
For the Buffs, Kyler Thompson returns for another shot at the state high jump competition. Thompson finished 13th in that event at State last season.
“He qualified for State with a 6-foot jump, and that’s what (2013 state high jump champion Zach) Skimbo did when he was a junior,” Carney said of Thompson.
Slater was part of McAlester’s state-qualifying boys’ 4x400 relay team last season. Carney said other events for Slater this season could include the 400 meter and 800 meter.
The Buffs could also get an infusion of distance runners from McAlester’s cross country team. Carryovers from the fall could include seniors Hank Brown and Noah Rose, plus brothers Sam and Stone Adams.
“He’s a hard worker, and he’s a senior,” Carney said of Rose.
“I’ve got some distance runners that it’s hard to tell; they’re still pretty young.”
Other potential contributors include junior Riley Smith, who’ll throw the shot put, and senior Caden Pratt, though Pratt has yet to come out for track. Pratt finished fourth in the state long jump competition in 2013.
Carney said that with a season’s worth of practice, many Buffs and Lady Buffs who came up just short of qualifying for State last season should get over the hump this season. Smith, for example, missed the state shot put competition by half an inch.
But to go from individual placers to a high finish as a team, Carney said, “we just don’t have that depth. You have to be able to score somewhere in all the events.”
Because basketball and powerlifting prevented many of Carney’s track athletes from coming out before this week, McAlester withdrew from Friday’s meet in Skiatook. The Buffs begin their season this Friday in Glenpool.
With Hook Eales Stadium’s track now ready for everyday use, McAlester will also host four track meets this season: a fifth- and sixth-grade meet April 8; a varsity meet April 17; a seventh- and eighth-grade meet April 21; and the Organization of Rural elementary Schools state meet in late April.
Contact Matt Goisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.