The HFV Wilson Community Center Track Club will compete for a USA Track and Field regional title today and tomorrow at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark.
Inspired by Daylen Baker, Max Benson wants to earn a berth at nationals.
A rising junior at Ardmore High School, Benson witnessed Baker’s quest to unseat Durant’s Kevin Roddy.
Baker, a 2014 graduate of Ardmore High School, defeated Roddy on May 17 in Yukon to win a state championship.
“It (drove me),” Benson said. “I’ve seen him practice the whole year and last year, walking up to about every track meet, coming in second to (Roddy). I saw the look on his face, it actually was kind of funny.
“His determination in practice kind of did help me, practicing for this.”
The club’s athletes will compete against kids from Missouri, Kansas, Missouri and fellow Oklahomans.
Program Coordinator Bryan Davis said he is excited to show a different part of the country the amount of talent in South Central Oklahoma.
“I’d like to see them make it to nationals,” he said. “More than half of them actually qualified from the state meet to make it to regionals, so that’s an accomplishment. It’s good. We’ve seen improvement — half of our athletes, this is our first year running track, so it’s good to see their improvements. Others, they’ve been doing it for years, so it’s just good see them to continue to do well.”
Chris Pelton coaches all of the girls’ running events and relays. He also helps coach Lone Grove’s Marshall Zabonik, who will compete in the decathlon. Pelton said that the athletes have to qualify for each meet in which they participate, by finishing among the top 8. This weekend, the top 5 will advance to nationals in Houston.
“They’ve worked really hard, especially the ones that haven’t ran before,” he said.
“It’s a new experience trying to learn how to run, how to do the drills. A lot of people think track is just running. There’s a lot more to it. Before we ever start running, we work on a lot of different things technique-wise.”
Pelton said the club has a good group of coaches this year, allowing for more individualized and event-specific coaching.
“We hope that our times can continue to improve, and everybody continues to get better,” he said. “Hopefully we can qualify as many as we can.”
The club has a pair of athletes who will compete in multiple events.
Zabonik was already in Arkansas on Tuesday, the last day of practice before the team left, Davis said. Zabonik placed fifth in the decathlon at the AAU National Qualifier in Joplin, Mo., two weeks ago.
He finished with 3,770 points. He’ll participate in the decathlon for USATF, too.
Alesia Horner, a rising eighth-grader at Ardmore, will compete in the pentathlon.
“That’ll be the first time they’re doing that, so that’s exciting,” Davis said. “We anticipate that they’ll both make it to nationals.”
Nationals take place in two weeks.
“We have a short amount of time,” Davis said, “to practice and get ready for nationals.”
Fans can visit www.coacho.com for results, which will be posted under Region 9.