Track and Field: Balers are deep and talented

Balers senior Kaylie Voechting is expected to have a strong season coming off an injury-plagued junior year.

The San Benito High track and field team needed four buses to get to the North Salinas Time Trials on March 4. The Haybalers routinely carry around 200 athletes on their roster, and this year is no exception.
“Taking four buses on a Saturday is unheard of,” said Rob Macias, the coach of the boys team.
Leanna Morgan, who is the coach of the girls team, said it’s no coincidence hundreds of student-athletes compete for the program every year.
“There’s a good culture around the team,” Morgan said. “And it’s proven by how we embrace every individual, whether they’re a superstar athlete or someone brand new to the sport. The culture around the track team is very supporting and welcoming.”
Said Macias: “This has turned into a family.”
A pretty big family. As usual, the Balers return several standouts, including Marisa Villegas, Isaac Regalado, Shraee Harrison and Shannon Skowbo—just to name a few. Villegas is a two-time participant in the CIF State Meet, having qualified in the 1600-meter run in each of her first two years.
Morgan said Villegas is focusing on the 800 and 1600 this season a year after she ran a half-dozen different events (including relays). At the 2015 Monterey Bay League Championships, Villegas won a record-breaking four individual events. The junior comes in with a lifetime best of 4 minutes, 56.85 seconds in the 1600, finishing second in that event at last year’s CCS Championships.
Harrison is the defending CCS champion in the 400, and he finished second in the 200 despite being the slowest runner out of the blocks. Regalado is the reigning MBL champion in the 110 hurdles, and he’ll be flanked by emerging freshman Anthony Delgado, who won the 65-meter hurdles at the North Salinas Time Trials—in his tennis shoes.
Delgado lost his track shoes before the event, but it didn’t slow him down from winning the event in 10.22 seconds while also running a solid time in the 300 hurdles. Other boys expected to do well include Kenton Kpeglo (long jump, triple jump and relays), Elijah Changco and Juan Gutierrez.
Changco and Gutierrez are seniors who are looking for a track breakthrough after having some outstanding seasons on the cross-country team.
“Probably the strongest part of the boys team is the distance events,” Macias said. “Elijah, Juan and Nolan (Sanchez) are definitely some of the heart and soul of the boys team. They’re running a lot of laps.”
The girls have strong returners in Shannon Skowbo (hurdles and triple jump), Kaylie Voechting (100, relays), Annie Breger (long jump, triple jump), Camille Finley (long jump, triple jump) and Caitlyn Gonzales (shot put, discus).
“Kaylie is looking for a bounceback year,” Macias said. “She was injured most of last year and had surgery in the off-season. She’s been working hard and looks strong in the early going. I think she’ll have a strong senior season.”
The girls 4×400 relay team entered the season with great expectations, but the squad is down two runners due to injury. Fortunately for the Balers, there are always athletes willing to make a step up to prominence.
“We love having choice and depth on the team,” Morgan said. “And we love being able to develop that talent.”
Will Gularte is a returning standout in the field events. Gularte made the semifinals of the CCS Championships last year in the shot put, and newcomer Richard Justo is expected to make a strong contribution in that event as well. With 200 athletes on the roster, Macias and Morgan said the program couldn’t run without the help from assistant coaches Ryan Shorey (sprints), Art Soza (throws), Julie Carriere (throws), Bob Rawles (throws), Courtney Allen (distance), Ryan Bartylla (hurdles) and Eddie Valencia (pole vault).
“We only have a couple of stipend coaches, and you’re talking a lot of hours,” Morgan said. “They deserve a lot of thanks.”
Said Macias: “We give it up to the coaching staff. Paid or non-paid, they come out here and put in a lot of work everyday. And they enjoy the interaction with the athletes.”
Last year, San Benito narrowly missed a championship sweep—the girls won the league championship, but the boys finished in second. This season the Balers plan on finishing the title sweep.
“Our goal is to win both the boys and girls league championships, and I think we have a pretty good chance of doing that,” Macias said. “We’ve got some work to do, but that’s the plan.”

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