By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– It’s coming down to the final stretch for Juan ‘Peanut’ Rangel as the McKay senior enters his final year of jumping for the Track and Field squad in Northeast Salem.
Having finished 11th at Varsity Districts in his second-year ever competing in the triple jump and after competing at the JV level his sophomore year and knows it’s coming down to his last three months of his jumping prep career.
“The way I can make this year count…myself and as a team is that everyone has to keep on working, I have to keep on working and I’m making as far as I can in the triple jump and the times I want in hurdles. Making sure everybody’s doing, self-improving, to make the team better,” said Rangel.
Between his sophomore year to his junior year, Rangel saw a three second improvement in his 300 meter hurdles race. But the improvement in the hurdles and the triple jump, Rangel credits to his coaches.
“It’s helped me a lot, a lot of the coaches believe in me. They know that I am a really good athlete,” said Rangel, who played receiver and defensive back for McKay as well. “They always pushed me to be at my best level that I can be and I like that. I didn’t have many coaches who did that for me and these track coaches, they’re always out here pushing me and I believe with them, I can go to State in the triple jump and the 300 meter hurdles.”
From State Aspirations to State Placer, after taking a week off in healing up from basketball, Israel Garza had his first Track and Field practice as a senior Monday afternoon.
“It went pretty good, I felt pretty conditioned as far as that went,” said Garza. “I feel like I’m becoming a stronger runner than the last few years have gone. But yeah the start of the practice went pretty good.”
With Garza entering his final season as a Scots sprinter, the past three years for Garza has been a learning experience as he prepares for his senior season.
“I have to start training more smart, healthier and not going so hard early in the season and progress as the season goes on as it gets more important towards the end of the season,” said Garza.
The plan for him is to use the first couple of meets, the first couple of races, as a feeling component as he checks out what race he’s strongest in between the 100 and 200 meters and from that he’s going to study up and see how he can improve upon them for Districts and State
“As the races go on, I’m going to focus more on the things I need to work on. Starts, finishes, that’s how I’m going to get better,” said Garza, who’s won the 2016 and 2017 District Titles in the 100 meter and 200 meter dashes while finishing sixth in the 200 and eighth in the 100 meter races at State as a Junior. “I’m going to have to stay real healthy, I’m going to have to train harder than I have ever trained.
“I’m going to get help from my teammates, my teammates are going to push me. The coaches and hopefully I can go out there and win the State Title.”
With sprinters like Damian Rios and RJay Chokai around this year, Garza will have that external influence to go with his internal drive and possibly leave a lasting memory as he wraps up his prep career.
“It all starts in practice, I’m going to do what I can do with the younger guys,” starts Garza. “I’m going to push them, help them out and give them tips. I’m going to do what I can as myself, place and hopefully they can see that all the hard work I put in can help out too.”
For Head Coach Curt Everetts, this group of seniors this year is the same group of kids that started as freshman when he took over the Head Coaching job four years ago as he expects the guys to compete in the District Meet as they take advantage of the increased numbers on the girls side.
“Just for them to get better, better District standing in the boys,” said Everetts. “You know we want to compete there with West (Salem) and Sprague and so I’m expecting big things. That group of seniors, this is my first four-year group so I’ve had been with them since their freshman year, so I’m expecting big things and I think they’ll perform.
“Our numbers (on the girls side) are about 20 more girls than last year, which is huge. I think we’re up to 58 girls, so it makes us deeper and it makes us able to fill those varsity spots.”
Hanna Caldwell returning in the distance races after a successful sophomore season where she PR’d in the 1500 meter race at the District Meet (5:30.54) and finished 11th in the 3,000 meter race at Districts after PR-ing in the race earlier in the season at 11:43.1.
“I’m really excited,” said Caldwell, who’s looking to qualify for State this year. “I think I’m going to take the lessons from last year and better them for this year.”
Steffani Rodriguez-Aquino, who went to State as a freshman as part of the 4×400 meter team, too returns as the sprinter looks as well to build off of her third-place finish at Districts along with Racquel Williams who will be returning as well. Bailey Bryant is another athlete who saw some varsity race action as a junior as well as Jesse Garcia.
A new comer that Everetts mentioned too was Tess Barnett as the State Qualifer in Wrestling will look to break into the High School Track and Field level in the distance races after a solid Cross Country year. Barnett also brought out wrestling teammate Norely Lara as well.