• Cabana finishes third in girls pentathlon; McGregor just warming up on hurdles
By Sean Pearson
After years of tripping over dislodged chunks of asphalt and dodging flying pieces of gravel, members of Homer’s track and field program are more than ready to try out their new rubber track.
Mother Nature is the only one not cooperating.
“We had 27 kids sign up for track this year, so it should be an exciting season” said Head Coach Bill Steyer. “We have the largest team we’ve ever had since I started coaching at Homer — and a new track we’re all dying to get on.”
Steyer said the delay in using the new track is the continued cold weather, which isn’t helping the 2-3 inches of condensed snow and ice on the track.
And, apparently, hard metal shovels and flaming blow torches just aren’t welcome on the new rubber track.
“The weather looks promising for next week,” Steyer said. “Hopefully, warmer temperatures and maybe some rain will help to break things up a bit.”
The team’s only other option for practice is the school’s parking lot. But they are used to that.
The Mariners will see a few new faces as they move over to 3A competition this year.
“That should make a difference, but there are still a lot of competitive 3A athletes across the state,” Steyer said.
The M’s traveled north over the weekend to compete against several teams — including larger 4A teams — at the Big C Relays in the Dome in Anchorage. Steyer said he was pleased with the team’s performance this early in the season.
Senior Mark McGregor finished seventh in the 110-meter hurdles, falling just one slot away from making the finals.
“It was a nice performance, considering he hadn’t had a chance to run any hurdles on a track so far this year,” Steyer said. “And the sprint hurdles are so technical. It’s all about getting the steps and the timing down.”
McGregor also finished 16th in the discus with a throw of 102 feet, nine inches.
Junior Connor Seay continued his strong performance in the 300 hurdles, finishing ninth with a time of 45.02 seconds. Senior and first-year trackster Sam Reinert finished 13th in 46.03.
Steyer said he is also excited about junior Pedro Ochoa, who finished 15th in both the 800 and 3200-meter events.
“Pedro is extremely motivated and a very hard-worker,” Steyer said. “This is his first year running track and he is one of our top two distance runners.”
Steyer said he is seeing some exciting growth on the girls’ side of the Mariner track program.
“Tayla Cabana looks promising in a variety of events,” he said. “She is just an incredibly talented all-around athlete.”
Cabana, a junior, placed third in the pentathlon over the weekend with a total of 1,167 points. Of the five events, she took first in the shot put with a 28 foot, 3.23-inch toss. She finished third in the high jump, the 300 hurdles and the 100m dash. She finished fifth in the 800m run.
“Tayla is coachable and amazingly versatile, with both an outstanding vertical jump, as well as a horizontal one,” Steyer said. “Midway through last season, I asked her to try the long jump at the Skyview Invite. She jumped 14 feet, 11 inches on her very first jump. It ended up being one of the top jumps in the state.”
Sophomore long-jumper Crystal Crane kicked off her season with a jump of just over 14 feet in the Dome. Her best jump last year was 13 feet, 7 inches.
“Crystal is also a strong 200 and 400 runner, so I will probably use her in relay events as well,” Steyer said.
Crane was also part of two Lady Mariner relay teams that finished ninth and 12th overall.
Steyer said he is also very excited about three outstanding freshman girls who were part of his second-place-finish cross country running team last fall.
Aurora Waclawksi, Barae Hirsch and Aziza Shemet-Pitcher are stepping up to lead Homer’s long-distance running threat.
“All three girls are very talented and quite coachable,” Steyer said. “They are all extremely self-motivated, and because of that, I expect them to just keep improving over the years.”
For now, the M’s just hope to get a little track time in on the school parking lot, and continue with their circuit training at the Alaska Training Room.
“We have a great team and are really lucky to have Mary Jo Campbell working with us,” said Steyer. “She has helped us out substantially.”
The Mariners will host the Homer Invitational on April 19-20 — as long as Mother Nature cooperates.
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