Paul Lucas hit the weight room for the first time, produced a national-best time and in the process raised expectations if that is possible.
And yet as the track season got under way this week, including this weekend’s Aztec Invitational at Corona del Sol, the Mountain Pointe junior star wasn’t remembering just the races he crossed the finish line first.
“I was thinking a lot of people are going to be aiming for me, but I am not really racing against people,” he said. “I am racing against time. I’ve never been worried about other people. From eighth grade on up I’ve been beat. I don’t always get first.
“I don’t worry about them, just whether or not I am getting better.”
Lucas, who won the Division I state titles in the 100 and 400 as a sophomore, assured that during the indoor season when he posted the nation’s best time in the 200 by clocking a time of 21.32 seconds at Northern Arizona during the USATF Youth Zonal Indoor Track & Field Championships on Feb. 16.
As impressive as the time was at this point in the year, the plan for the season — break the state record in the 100 (10.33), get closer in the 200 (20.22) and break the junior record if the not the state in the 400 (46.47) — remains the same.
“We are still focused on the original goals,” assistant coach Larry Todd said. “Right now, he’s better in the 200 and 400. He’s gotta work on his running position in the drive to attack (100) record.”
While Lucas’ progress throughout the season will be one of the state’s hot topics, there are plenty of area athletes to keep an eye on in 2014.
The Pride boys are young, but there are still some quality upperclassmen in AJ Davalos (hurdles), Trey Lauer (hurdles) and Isaiah Banks (jumps, sprints).
“We have some very good freshmen that can help us,” Todd said. “We will see where we can work them in and where they can help us.”
The Mountain Pointe girls are led by Reece Young (long and triple jump), Autumn Smith (hurdles, long jump) and Shannon Jackson (sprints, shot put).
Desert Vista is always a state contender and this year should be no different especially with the girls.
The Thunder girls will have contenders in the distance events in Dani and Baylee Jones, the longer relays, pole vault with Vanessa Davis, Makenzi Holmes-Digiovine in the throws, and Shannon Frtiz in the high jump along with unmatched depth in many of the events.
Dani Jones is the 800 and 1,600 defending champ, Holmes-Digiovine, who is headed to Auburn, won the discus, while Davis has competed at national events in the pole vault.
The boys might enter the year a less accomplished, but there are some breakout candidates based on their “work ethic and character,” according to boys coach Chris Hanson.
Some of the top competitors are Isaiah Ford (sprints), Xavier Esparza (distance), Jakob Alme (pole vault) and Jordan Rezac (throws).
The depth, despite being limited because of the four athletes per school for each event, will be the Thunder’s strength as they figure to be competing with Corona del Sol, Mountain Pointe, Brophy, Hamilton and Highland for positioning among the top in DI.
“We will compete with the best team by performing PR (personal records) individually,” Hanson said.
Horizon Honors always finds a way to get some competitors on the state placement podium and this year shouldn’t be any different.
The Eagles will be led by distance runner Mikaela Martin, who will continue at Biola University in the fall, while boys will have seniors Connor Pendleton (sprints, 400), Luis Hernandez (sprints) and Austin Howard (sprints) to make three-quarters of the 4x100 relay team.
“I’ve been impressed with the attitudes and abilities that I see this early in the season,” sixth-year coach Lura Beets said. “I look forward to the state competition so the team members can show what they can do since we are now in Division III. But throughout the season, the gratification of each individual creating a new PR for themselves no matter how slight or grand is well worth all the work.”
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