The trophy case for girls track and field at Desert Academy is a lonely place.
Echoes can bounce off its empty shelves.
But this season, the Wildcats just may change that behind a strong group of athletes who dedicated themselves in the off season to turning in some stellar performances.
And heading into the Class 1A-2A State Track & Field Championships today and Saturday at the University of New Mexico, several Wildcats find themselves among the top seeds.
With just a handful of athletes qualifying for the state meet last season, Desert Academy still managed to tie for seventh with 24 points.
Making that next leap to the medal stand may be a bit tougher, coach Liz Desmond said, but it’s not because the team hasn’t given full effort.
“They all came back very committed,” she said. “Getting a medal is going to be tough because Fort Sumner and Jal and Jemez Valley have so many qualified. And Jemez Valley beat us in the district meet.”
Still, Desmond said, at the state meet funny things can happen, especially if the Wildcats can pull off a few surprises in a few of the events.
What could be a large factor are the relays, where Desert Academy qualified for just one last season but got into three this season, including the second seed in the medley relay.
“When athletes are willing to put off personal glory for the good of the team, anything can happen,” Desmond said.
Junior distance runner Taylor Bacon, the defending cross country champ in the fall, has already seen plenty of personal glory.
She leads the Wildcats contingent with top times in the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs.
“I feel much better prepared,” Bacon said. “Ideally, I’d like to sweep all three and get a triple.”
Bacon, who also competes in swimming and debate, has her eyes set on a bit of history, as well.
“I’m just eight seconds off a state record in the 1,600, so I’m going to try for that,” she said.
Bacon nearly pulled off the sweep last season, finishing a little more than two seconds out of first in the 800.
“That’s not my strongest event, but I’ve really been concentrating on it and running it a lot,” she said.
Sophomore sprinter Isabel Pearson Kramer, who picked up points in the 100 and 200 last season, wanted to improve on those results. So she forsook club soccer this spring, concentrating instead on track training.
It’s paid off as she has the top time by a healthy margin in the 100 and is a close second in the 200.
“It’s kind of nerve-wracking because I’m worried I’m going to disappoint myself,” Pearson Kramer said. “But I’m excited that I could be the fastest girl in my class. It’s exciting and it’s a big leap.”
After going fifth in the 200 and seventh in the 100, “I realized I could be doing better if I put all my focus on track,” she said.
So Pearson Kramer began training early on so that, when the team began its session, “I didn’t have to get back in shape, I was already in shape.”
And with help from other athletes, like junior Zoe Castro, who is seeded third in the 400 and fourth in the 800, the Wildcats just might fill some space in that trophy case.
“I think it’s really pretty cool because we’ve never had the opportunity to be so good,” Pearson Kramer said. “This is a big opportunity to make a name for Desert Academy.”
Other top seeds from around the area include Cimarron’s Henry Sime in the 1A 800, 1,600 and 3,200; Alexis Romo of the Academy for Technology and the Classics in the 2A 100, as well second in the 200 and the long jump; Santa Fe Prep’s Ian Andersson in the 2A high jump; and Escalante’s Adam Gurule in the 1A 100.