Hawk track is bubbling over with excitement

The Dalles track and field team had big numbers and solid finishes in the 2017 season, and had a handful of state qualifiers open eyes. With an even larger roster of athletes back in the mix for head coach Garth Miller, the Riverhawks appear to be ready to take another step forward against a challenging 5A class of athletes. Part of the promising returning standouts include state participants, Cameron Perez, Jenna Miller, Emma Mullins, Justin Conklin, Shyanne Cady, Tressa Wood and Elizabeth Tapia. Coach Miller also introduced new discus and shotput throw coaches in Neticia and Aleluia Fanene, mid-distance assistant coach Ashley Sandoz and welcomed back long-time assistant coach Steve Thompson.

Mercy I’aulualo wrapped up her freshman track and field season with third place in the shotput and discus events after personal-record tosses.

So far in two weeks of practice under the new coaching duo of Neticia and Aleluia Fanene, I’aulualo is already hitting her marks, which is giving her the motivation to pencil herself in for state competition.

“Last year really showed me that I can do what I set my mind to and that I can beat anybody that is in my way,” I’aulualo said. “Right now, my confidence is pretty high this year. I believe that it is going to be state season for me and I will do whatever it takes to finish as high as I can. It is going to take me beating Hermiston and all the other schools that want to go up against me this year. I am ready for this.”

I’aulualo is just one of more than 80 track and field participants practicing for head coach Garth Miller, as the desire is to perform well on the district stage in May to vault into state competition.

During 2017, Tressa Wood, Elizabeth Tapia, Shyanne Cady, Emma Mullins, Jenna Miller, Cameron Perez, Justin Conklin, Julian Hernandez and Molly Nelson all earned state invites, and only Nelson and Hernandez are not on the roster.

At state last season, Wood set a personal record in the 3,000 meters at 11 minutes and 15.63 seconds to get on the podium in eighth place, Perez added a top toss of 159-07 to claim seventh place and the girls’ 4x400-meter relay team of Mullins, Miller, Tapia and Cady set a new season-best time of 4:23.81 for 12th place.

Mullins scored 10th place in the 800 meters with a final time of 2:28.14, just a few seconds shy of her personal record of 2:25.66, and Conklin amassed a final time of 16.35 seconds to lock down 10th place in the 110-meter hurdle preliminaries.

“I don’t think going to state last year adds any extra pressure more than we what we already put on ourselves,” Conklin said. “We just have to take it one meet at a time. If you don’t have the best meet, you have to work harder and ask questions and see what you can do to improve. We had a lot of kids do very good, so I think they will bring back that mentality this year.”

In just two seasons, Mullins is already one name to watch in the 5A classification.

She made a name for herself last spring and fall in both track and cross country with state berths, but now that she is an upperclassman, the expectations are higher.

She knows very well what is at stake, but her mind is on being a sounding board for her teammates, lending words of wisdom that could get them competing at a high level.

“You want your teammates to have open communication,” Mullins said. “If you are constantly talking with your teammates about their events and working toward pushing each other to do better, I think it will help everyone here on this team.”

In addition to Neticia and Aleluia Fanene, Coach Miller introduced mid-distance assistant coach Ashley Sandoz and welcomed back long-time assistant coach Steve Thompson, to go along with Tom Conklin, Jim Taylor and a few others.

“I have been blessed to have such a great coaching staff over my time here,” coach Miller said. “It is always good to know I can lean on my coaches and trust them with the kids’ best interest at heart. We all want the best for these student-athletes, and when you have coaches that want to see them have success, good things will follow.”

The Dalles hosts the Mullen-Leavitt Invitational at 2 p.m. (field events) and 4 p.m. (running and jumping events) on Friday.

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