Dana Boone Resigns at Texas State; Heads to Texas Tech

Dana Boone has resigned as Texas State’s track and field head coach to accept the position of associate head women’s coach at Texas Tech University.

“We want to thank Coach Boone for her time and effort over the past four years leading our program, and we wish her luck in her new endeavor. We have a first class track and field program, and we are very proud of both our academic and athletic accomplishments,” said Texas State Director of Athletics Dr. Larry Teis. “We plan to start a national search immediately for our next head coach, and look forward to building on the success established by Coach Boone.”While at Texas State, Boone led the Bobcats to four conference championships, earning conference Coach of the Year honors for each one. This past season, under her tutelage, the women won the Sun Belt Conference Indoor Championship. The Bobcats also took three athletes to the NCAA Indoor Championships and two athletes in three events and a 4×400-meter relay team to the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

“We think we have a terrific opportunity here that will attract a number of high-quality applicants, and we are very excited about getting the process started,” said Teis. “In the past few years, we have built a new track facility, locker rooms, offices and weight room with plans to provide cost of attendance for our track and field athletes. All of this will enable us to continue winning at Texas State.”

“I would like to thank Dr. Teis and Don Coryell for the tremendous opportunity they provided to me over the last four years,” Boone said. “It was truly a pleasure to lead this program. Thanks to everyone at Texas State for their support.”

Cathy Casey Named New SMU Track & Field Head Coach

Current SMU cross country head coach Cathy Casey has assumed the role of head track & field coach at SMU. Casey replaces Dave Wollman who stepped down after 28 years as track & field head coach.

Casey has been on the Hilltop for the past 14 years, becoming head cross country coach in 2005. During her time, she has also served as an assistant track & field coach, overseeing the middle and long distance groups.

As cross country coach, Casey has led the Mustangs to five conference championships in the past seven years, including three straight from 2011-13. She has been named the conference’s Coach of the Year five times. In addition, she has coached two All-Americans, three conference Athletes of the Year and 18 All-Conference performers.

“Coach Casey has done a tremendous job with our cross country program, and I know she will help us maintain the high level of success in our track & field program as a whole,” said SMU Director of Athletics Rick Hart. “She has a proven record of reaching and exceeding our standards both on and off the competitive surfaces. We are pleased to promote her to this new role.”

This past season, Casey guided the cross country team to a third-place finish at the American Athletic Conference Championship with three Mustangs earning all-conference honors. The team went on to place third at the NCAA South Central Regional, narrowly missing a berth to the NCAA Championship.

During the 2013-14 academic year, Casey helped the track & field program sweep the conference championships, as the Mustangs took home the cross country, indoor and outdoor titles. The indoor and outdoor track & field championships were the first conference crowns in school history. Casey and the rest of the SMU staff were named Coaching Staff of the Year at all three championships.

A native of Carbondale, Illinois, Casey was a member of the cross country and track & field teams at the University of Texas, earning her degree in 1997. Casey currently resides in Dallas with her husband Jim.

West Texas A&M Favored in Lone Star Conference Polls

West Texas A&M is favored to win the 2015 Lone Star Conference men’s and women’s cross country championships according to the league’s preseason poll announced on Thursday.

The Buffaloes received 19 first-place votes for a total of 139 points in the men’s poll, while the Lady Buffs were the top choice on 12 ballots for 126 points on the women’s side.

In 2014, WT won the men’s championship for the second consecutive year, while Midwestern State won their fifth title on the women’s side.

The league’s seven men’s and women’s teams start their season in September, while the postseason begins with the LSC Championships hosted by Tarleton State on October 26.

2015 LSC Men’s Cross Country Preseason Poll
Rank Team 1st Total
1 West Texas A&M 19 139
2 Tarleton State 1 104
3 Eastern New Mexico 93
4 Texas A&M-Commerce 83
5 Cameron 68
6 Angelo State 51
7 Texas A&M-Kingsville 22
2015 LSC Women’s Cross Country Preseason Poll
Rank Team 1st Total
1 West Texas A&M 12 126
2 Midwestern State 8 121
3 Eastern New Mexico 94
4 Tarleton State 76
5 Angelo State 73
6 Texas A&M-Commerce 46
7 Texas A&M-Kingsville 24

UIL State Meet – Friday Thoughts

I’m actually writing this on Saturday morning before head to the stadium to enjoy today’s events. Yesterday was, as always, a non-stop thrill ride for track & field fans. It’s always particularly fun for me because I know so many athletes and coaches who are participating each year.

Whitney Kitchen defends her 2A discus title.

Whitney Kitchen defends her 2A discus title.

Early morning rains gave way to a generally cool day on Friday which didn’t exactly help the speed events, but it sure didn’t dampen the competition at all.

A couple of things stood out for me personally. One was watching last year’s 2A champion Whitney Kitchen (Hawley) hold off a close competition with Haley Walker (Lockney) to win defend her title. I coached at Hawley las year and know Whitney is a great person who works very, very hard and I know Hawley head coach Jimmy Doyle is very proud of her.

I enjoyed watching Ellyana Long (The Woodlands) win the 6A high jump. Only 5′ 4″ and probably not much more than 100 pounds, Ellyana shows an incredible competitive spirit to go along with her incredible talent and a great coach in Noel Hansen that makes her a formidable foe going up against much taller opponents.

I was very impressed with Turkey Valley freshman Jake Merrell who, going up against favorite and seasoned veteran Jesse Roberts (Sanderson), opened up a huge lead in the 1A 800 with a 53.5 first lap. Looking like he was about to tie up at any moment, Merrell just kept running and running as Roberts closed in a little too late to make up the difference.

Boerne Champion's Heidi Borgerding won the 5A high jump.

Boerne Champion’s Heidi Borgerding won the 5A high jump.

In the 5A 4×100 girls relay, Arlington Seguin and Fort Bend Marshall took the last handoff side-by-side well ahead of the field setting up a thrilling battle down the last straightaway, but Fort Bend Bush’s Jarra Owens would not be denied. In one of those “ooooooh” moments that make the meet so much fun, Owens reeled in everyone with a awesome display of closing speed to give Bush the title in the final steps.

The highlight of day might have been the blazing 4×200 relay of the Fort Bend Marshall boys who sped to a 1:24.01 win in the #5 time in US history.

Today will undoubtedly hold many more special moments that will go down as part of the storied history of the world’s best high school meet.

If you get a chance, come down to the long jump pits at 4:00 today and watch Mesquite Horn’s Zuliat Alli compete for a state title. As Zu’s coach, I couldn’t be prouder of all this young lady has achieved. She is an example of how hard work combined with a powerful desire to succeed and the willingness to listen, learn, and be coached brings results. Keep your fingers crossed as we go for a state championship this afternoon!

Photo of the Week (May 11, 2015)

[Every week I’ll post an photo taken recently or pulled out from my archives of something I spotted in my travels. While usually a little off-beat, there is no theme – just a picture capturing something I think you might find interesting.]

San Antonio popsicle bike rack

San Antonio popsicle bike rack

I have to admit, I’ve never seen a bike rack made to look like a popsicle, but that’s what I found on the west side of San Antonio last weekend.

I was going around a block to return to a restaurant I had just passed when I saw this brilliantly decorated building. The murals first caught my eye, but then I realized that the giant popsicle was actually a bike rack! I grabbed my camera and took some pictures, but had to return early the next morning with a better lens to get a better shot.

Originally I thought the building was some kind of day care or children’s community organization building, but it was unmarked except for some small printing near the front door regarding a cultural arts center.

(This was shot with a Canon 60D and a Tokina 11-17mm lens.)

Concerns with Baylor’s UIL regional meet

Last weekend a the Region II 6A and 3A meets held at Baylor in Waco, I found a disturbing lack of concern by some Baylor officials regarding coaching and athletes at the regional meet.

It began at the Friday morning coaches’ meeting. I noticed that there were no heat sheets available including girls field events. When I asked, I was told these would be available in the press box around noon. Since the girls triple jump began at 12:30 this could have made a big difference. We do not begin warmup 30 minutes before the start of an event. Knowing which flight my athlete(s) are assigned to makes a difference in warmup and event preparation.

Unfortunately, some kind of monster truck event at the next door McLane Stadium took precedence with parking and forced meet officials to move everything up on Saturday. Scheduling created a conflict with the girls high jump and long jump held at the same time at 9 am. I had two long jumpers competing and one of these ladies was simultaneously competing in the high jump. They had gone 19-5 and 19-3 the week before and came into the meet seeded #1 and #2 so this was a big concern for me,

I brought this up with meet director Tom Hill. While he did allow a change in long jump flights to accommodate jumper preferences, he made it clear that there would be no coaching boxes at either event. Coaches in the long jump and high jump were required to stand outside the fence and compete for space to see their athletes with parents and spectators. He said that coaches had priority but there was no official procedure to clear space for coaches to see. If it was a problem, we could “ask an official to help.

I tried to get an explanation of what that meant several times and only received a repeat of his original comment. As I understood, if our athlete was about to come down the long jump runway, we could ask a parent/spectator to allow us space to watch. If they refused we could ask an official for help. Of course, by that time the athlete would already have completed her jump!

I then asked Mr. Hill about coaches who would have to go back and forth quickly during the competition. His response was, “I hope you’re in good shape.” Seriously, Mr. Hill? That is your response to the lack of a coaching box set aside so competitors can receive adequate coaching during the regional championships?

For those coaches who do coach in the long jump, we were required to go back and forth from the takeoff area of the LJ to the end of the runway so we could talk to your athlete and share video of the preceding jump. If I was at the board (so I could see the takeoff spot which was not being marked by officials as it is in many championships meets) I would have to give up my spot to talk to my athlete and hope I would be able to get a spot when I returned.

Waco regional LJ area

Long jump competition area and unused space that could have served as a coaching box.

During the competition, my assistant coach held me a spot near the takeoff board so I could have a good view, but spectators leaning over the fence blocked my ability to video my athletes’ approaches. As you can see from the photo, there was tons of room for a coaching box on the track which would not have interfered with the relay warmups though it’s likely the competition would be ended before then anyway.

The high jump officials tried to be accommodating to the coaches and entertained the idea of a coaching box next to the pit, but changed to allowing coaches to stay in the infield grass behind the venue where it is impossible to accurately assess any neccessary approach adjustments.

(At some point officials were reported told by the meet referee that no coaches were allowed on the infield. I was at the long jump when this announcement was made so my bag holding my equipment was left on the grass in the infield where I could not retrieve it until the competition was over.)

High jump area

High jump area

Like the long jump area, the high jump venue was surrounded by huge amounts of empty space which could have been used as a coaching box. Instead coaches were placed along the fence (again having to compete with spectators for the small mount of adequate spots from which to assess critical takeoff positioning) far away from the pit itself.

Both sets of officials tried their best to work with coaches and athletes. In particular, HJ official Gary Bowdoin worked hard to allow competitors every chance to compete fairly if they were in both events.

It was frustrating to have to literally run back and forth from the fence on the west side to the long jump area on the east side while my girls competed at the same time. (If you were along the north fence and saw a coach in a red shirt huffing and puffing as he ran from side to side on Saturday morning, that was me!)

Fortunately, Mr Hill, I am in good enough shape to do this, but it never should have been required. It is obvious that there was plenty of space to provide coaching boxes. Forcing coaches to compete with spectators for space just to see their athletes compete is inexcusable. Forcing coaches to run back and forth around the track dodging spectators and your only response is “I hope you’re in good shape” is also unexcusable.

And to the marshall who told a group of stunned coaches that it’s the same way at the state meet: you need to go to the state meet because coaches are allowed in coaching boxes on the infield. One coach at the time commented that we’d never accept such a statement in the classroom from one of our students.)

I understand the incredile complexities of hosting a regional meet. I’ve seen it up close while serving as the referee for many regional meets at Sam Houston State University and have attended regional meets all across the state. (For years SHSU has been an example of how to do a meet right and how to make sure it’s all about the athletes and the competition.) It’s a job I wouldn’t want and Mr. Hill, the officials working, and the folks at Baylor do a very good job hosting the meet. However, there are always ways to improve.

Kaylor Harris and Zuliat Alli

Kaylor Harris and Zuliat Alli

So how did all this work out for us? I couldn’t be prouder of how my athletes competed. Kaylor Harris finished 3rd in the long jump – a remarkable performance in the regional finals considering she was nursing a serious hamstring injury.

Zuliat Alli went out early in the high jump. (She was so far away that she could’t hear me calling her over to the fence when she was taking her last 2 attempts after coming straight over from the long jump).

Fortunately for Zuliat, going out early in the high jump was likely a good thing as she was able to focus in the finals on the long jump where she took over the lead on her last jump to win the competition by 8 inches with a PR (wind-legal) of 19-4.

Congratulations, ZuZu, on being regional champion!

San Antonio Missions in the Spring

I finally took a short weekend to get away during the break between UIL regional championships and Texas’ state championships and headed south to San Antonio.

Without a real plan, I headed out this morning to check out one of my favorite places in the world –  Mission San Jose – with my camera in hand. (Problems with my video camera aborted my original plans to do some filming while here.)

Mission San Jose outer wall

Mission San Jose outer wall

Mission San Jose was established 295 years ago in 1720 by Spanish missionaries and took over 60 years to complete the church, massive surrounding walls, and other structures that mostly still exist today. When you arrive, it doesn’t look very impressive at all, but that’s because the tall stone walls hide an expansive interior.

Mission San Jose

Mission San Jose

Once you walk inside the main gate, it is very easy to imagine what it must have been like nearly three centuries ago as it very nearly resembles the original mission. The surrounding walls form the back wall for dozens of small rooms which housed Indians who lived inside the mission compound. (You can even enter a couple of these rooms to see just how they must have looked hundreds of years ago. Directly ahead you can can see the church across the grassy plaza where the outline of other long-gone building once stood.

The church itself is very beautiful. It’s not some little wooden church in the wilderness, but a large stone edifice built to last. If there is no event or church services being conducted, visitors are welcome to walk through the church itself. I have always found it hard to imagine how hard it must have been to construct such a building in the early 18th century in the middle of hostile Indian country.

Besides the exterior walls protecting the compound from raiding Indians, the church includes a large complex of living quarters for missionaries and a garden. The gravel walkways which once were covered next to the garden still bring images of friars quietly going about the business of daily life thousands of miles from home or perhaps engaging in quiet contemplation amongst the garden flowers.Mission-San-Jose-gardenMission-San-Jose-walkway


I also traveled to the Mission Concepcion a little farther to the north. It is the largest unrestored stone mission in the United States and still holds services and supports a congregation (as do all the original Spanish missions in San Antonio except the Alamo).

Mission Concepcion

Mission Concepcion

Mission Concepcion is much smaller and has a different atmosphere compared to Mission San Jose. From the front is looks older, but was actually founded several decades later. There are some very interesting original frescoes which still exist on the walls and ceilings of the few remaining buildings.

A beautiful Saturday afternoon, of course, brought crowds to the missions which are run by the National Park Service, but it’s still easy to find places without tourists to get some beautifully framed photographs.

(For those interested, I shot these photos with my Canon 60D with a Sigma 17-50mm lens at Mission San Jose which was replaced by the Tokina 11-16mm lens at Mission Concepcion.)


Ronny Lowrance: track and field loses a great coach

The track and field coaching fraternity lost a great one with the passing of Munday head coach Ronny Lowrance on Sunday morning from an apparent heart attack.

Lowrance, a graduate of Munday High, was in his 11th year of coaching in his hometown where he his teams have won three state championships. He also served as defensive coordinator for the football team which won two state titles.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Ronny though we frequently talked during the spring by email. His teams were noticeable in that they were always very well-rounded. No sprint-heavy teams winning titles thanks to a couple of great sprinters. His teams over the years consistently had quality athletes across the board in all events which is very unusual for a small school with limited enrollment. Ronny was also one of the first coaches to use automatic timing at all his events. It was always nice to know that, when Munday hosted a meet, Ronny would send the results right after the meet and they were always FAT.

Ronny is survived by his wife, Jamie, and his children Kandace (20), Mitchell (16) and Kasey (13).

The track and field world lost a good friend and a great coach. We will sure miss him.