MCALLEN — Warming up for the annual Cats Relays, to be run Saturday at Cats Stadium, the three city teams competed well at the 62nd annual McAllen Relays over the weekend, and each has high hopes heading into the home event.

The North girls brought their usual array of young talent, as coaches Rene Saenz and Hector Gandara seek to get the most out of the Lady Coogs once again. Gandara, the ex-UTPA star who is now the North cross country coach, thinks his distance group will be good in 2010, led by cross country state qualifier Jenyse Vazquez, who paced the mile relay team to a No. 1 finish over the weekend.

The sprint/middle relay team of Vanessa Garza, Audrey Ayala, Ashley Olivarez and soph Abby Garza has also turned some heads so far this season.

The long-range stars for the boys’ program are back and there are a number of youngsters looking to follow in the school’s extended tradition of greats under Coach Homer Martinez. The boys competed at the 54th Sams Relays in Brownsville Saturday, finishing fourth. Adrian Coronado and Lucas Lozano were 1-2 in the 800 while Joe Morales and Lozano took the top spots in the 1,600 with Joe Acevedo fourth. The 1,600-meter relay team won it.

Distance may not be the focal point at Econ, but the boys’ unit can boast a first-class relay outfit. Coach Doug Erickson has a bunch of fliers again in 2010, led by Nelson “The Little Cat” Hampton and Danny Garcia. Those football stars are joined by teammates Andrew Fox and Isaac “Washington” Vazquez as all three baton groups are looking good so far.

“We’ve got a small core of veteran athletes returning, they went to regionals last year,” Erickson said. “People are going to have work hard to beat us this year.”

Does the Orange contingent stack up with the vaunted 2004-05 team with Ryan Richardson, John Eric Ybarra, thrower Gene Iglesias and the rest? Erickson thinks that the potential is there.

“As far as the front line of talent, I think this is one of the best teams we have had,” said the veteran coach, who mentioned a number of promising kids, including Greg Lara, Robert Leal and Danny Saavedra. “That team in 2004-05 had a lot of depth.”

If the current Jags throwers, paced by Pedro Ornelas and Mariano Rivera, can come through at the Cats Relays, Econ could be among the top team finishers. Hampton scored 28 points in McAllen, winning the long jump with 21-8 (with Garcia second) and getting second in the triple. The team will have to find a way to replace champion pole-vaulters Gavino Galvan and J.D. Perez; the former went to state as a senior.

Selena Brown’s Econ girls also have some good young talent, despite the loss of point-scoring star Shay Hernandez to graduation. Long-legged hurdling freshman Leigha Brown should have an outstanding career ahead of her, while athletic soph Kenya Gonzalez is ready to break out this season, along with relay partners Kayla Longoria, Emme Leal, and Ashley Garcia. Deissy Sauceda had a good meet, getting fourth in the high jump and fifth in the 110 hurdles.

As for the Bobcats, Coach Jesse Oviedo can count on veteran distance guys Omar Trujillo and Jeremy Castaneda, while sprinter Carlos Nino had a nice run in the 200 Saturday. Castaneda won the 800 with Trujillo third.

The EHS girls might be ready to regain their prowess after a down year in 2009. Coach Sarah Salinas says that if she can get a full contingent together for consistent workouts before the season gets too long in the tooth, the results could be excellent.

“We just have a lot of people missing so far, in other sports,” she said, and case in point was middle-distance Beckah Rodriguez, on the side wearing sandals instead of track spikes Saturday as she continues a successful soccer season. She and Alyssa Perez, plus softballers Anyssa Gonzalez and Brit Davila should be able to chip in as the spring wears on, but for the time being, Salinas has some other athletes beginning to find the rhythm.

Besides a veteran long-range group led by the Gallosos, Robin and Liz, a smooth sophomore was able to make some noise in McAllen, jingling two medals together after a fine performance.

Amy Avila is an up-and-coming point girl who made the regionals in the high jump as a freshman. In the second meet of 2010 she finished third in the 100 and second in the high behind North’s Alma Chavez. In addition, classmate Stephanie Vazquez is a hurdler of note, while thrower Jen Acosta hit 33 feet for a fourth-place showing in the shot.

“If things fall into place we could do well, though we have a lot of kids doing new events this year,” Salinas concluded.

The North girls finished third at McAllen, setting the stage for an intriguing city battle at the Cats Relays. Field events start at 9 a.m. with running finals set for 4 p.m. at the Stadium.

NOTES: Hampton gave a hopeful report on older brother Bryan Iglesias, seriously injured in a car accident earlier this year. He said that “The Black Cat,” a former Jag football standout, is resting at home and intent on recovering from the wreck in which Econ teammate Mike Garza lost his life.


GIRLS TEAM TOTALS: 3. North 69; 6. EHS 41

DISCUS: Christy Brandt, North 103-5.25

SHOT: 4. Jennifer Acosta, EHS 33-0

HIGH JUMP: Alma Chavez, North 4-10; 3. Amy Avila, EHS 4-8; 4. Deissy Sauceda, Econ 4-8

TRIPLE JUMP: 5. Leigha Brown, Econ 34-6

POLE VAULT: 2. Erika Guzman, North 8-6; 6. Karla Silva, North 7-0

3,200 RELAY: 4. North 10:50.84

800: Elizabeth Galloso, EHS 2:25.40

110 HURDLES: 2. Emily Lucero, North 17.31; 5. Sauceda, Econ 18.37; 6. Jessica Sanches, EHS 18.44

100: 3. Avila, EHS 13.19

800 RELAY: 6. North 1:53.47

300 HURDLES: 3. Brown, Econ 49.27; 5. Stephanie Vazquez, EHS 51.57

1,600 RELAY: 2. EHS 4:18.70; 4. North 4:24.31; Econ 4:29.68


SHOT: 3. Pedro Ornelas, Econ 48-0

LONG JUMP: 1. Nelson Hampton 21-8; Danny Garcia, Econ 20-4.5

TRIPLE JUMP: 2. Hampton, Econ 42-0

400 RELAY: 2. Econ 44.02

800: 1. Jeremy Castaneda, EHS 2:02.26; 3. Omar Trujillo, EHS 2:02.70

800 RELAY: 2. Econ 1:32.16

400: 4. Daniel Saavedra, Econ 55.12

200: 5. Carlos Nino, EHS 23.59

1,600: 4. Trujillo, EHS 4:38.64

1,600 RELAY: 4. Econ 3:33.89