MCHS track looks to soar to big heights

By: 
Theo Tate

Montgomery County senior Renee Finke clears the bar while competing in the high jump at the Montgomery County Invite on March 23. THEO TATE PHOTO

For four hours, the Montgomery County track team competed through rainy and windy conditions at its season-opening MCHS Early Invite meet on March 23 at Jim Blacklock Field.

Despite the conditions, the Wildcats were glad to compete in a meet for the first time in two years. Their 2020 season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m glad we got it in,” MCHS coach Stephanie Finke said. “I was a little bit worried. The kids have been working hard for the last three weeks. We had two weeks last year of working, but they never really got the reward part of it. So it’s nice to finally have something where they could see the results of the hard work that they put in it.”

The Wildcats turned in a strong performance at their own meet, winning a total of 11 events and breaking school records in two of them. The girls team placed second and the boys squad came in third.

But Finke believes her team is still showing some signs of rustiness due to the 1-year layoff.

“It will be fun to watch and see what happens when that hard work pays off and we get some more training in because we have a long way to go,” Finke said. “Our kids are not in shape yet.”

Senior Renee Finke – the coach’s daughter – is the Wildcats’ top returning athlete. Two years ago, she won a Class 3 state title in the high jump. At the MCHS Early Invite, Finke won the high jump in a school-record 5-7, placed first in the 100-meter hurdles and helped the 1,600-meter relay team pick up a win.

“She’s going to be fun to watch if she continues to get better,” Stephanie Finke said.

Renee Finke will lead a girls team that includes other strong performers such as freshmen Malia Rodgers and Claire Cobb, sophomores Carson Flake and Lyric Ford and senior Andrea Knapp. Rodgers ran a school-record time 12:44 in her victory in the 3,200.

“I think this might be the first year we can take multiple girls to the state meet,” said Finke, whose girls team won district and conference titles in 2019. “There are a lot of pieces in there. We have a lot of kids who really work hard and have the ability if they could put the work into it. I think our girls team will be pretty successful.”

Seniors Connor Galarza and Aidan Hall, juniors Dawson McCown and Gavin Mendoza and sophomore Matt Clark are among the top athletes on the boys team.

“We’re loaded in the sprinter side,” Finke said. “We have a couple of distance runners, but we have a lot of sprinters. We’re really young. I have two or three seniors, which is a good thing. It’s a good problem. I have a lot of young kids, so I can figure out where they’re going to fit in and what events they’re going to do.”

Finke is in her 11th season at MCHS coach. Since she took over the program in 2011, the Wildcats have been successful in both boys and girls divisions. The MCHS girls won three conference and two district titles, while the boys team won a league championship in 2012.

“I don’t beg kids to do (track),” Finke said. “If they want to do it and they come out and do it, I put them in an event to be successful. My biggest thing is I’m not going to ever put them in a position to fail.”

 

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