Track and field looks to reclaim GMC

Rahul Parikh | Sports Editor

(Left to right) Seniors Alexia Thomas and Lilly Hallum and junior Maddie Ullom discuss their aspirations for the upcoming season.

For the Mason Girls track and field team, it’s redemption season.

Last year, Princeton dethroned the Comets as Greater Miami Conference (GMC) champions by half a point, after the Mason girls had held the title for 10 consecutive seasons. This season, the team will rely on experience and consistency in their quest to reclaim the GMC championship.

Seniors Jenna Burns (400M), Alexia Thomas (110M Hurdles, 300M Hurdles), Lilly Hallum (800M, 1600M) and Mackenzie Snyder (400M) will lead the team in their final season, along with Juniors Regan Morton (100M, 200M), Faith Min (800M,1600M), Maddie Ullom (400M, 800M), and Sophomore Nimi Oyelese (100M, 200M).

Head coach Tony Affatato knows that this squad certainly has the talent and experience necessary to be successful in the conference and hopefully a strong finish at the state meet in June. Affatato said that in order for this team to reach their potential and get back on top of the league, they need to focus on pushing themselves in every aspect of the sport, and be more than prepared when the postseason rolls around.

“Last year was tough; losing by half a point in the GMC meet is going to be really tough anywhere you go, ” Affatato said. “This season, we have to work extra hard in practice and in meets in order to put ourselves in a good position when championship season comes around in May and June.”

Leading sprints (100-400 Meter) for the Comets this season will be juniors Regan Morton and Maddie Ullom, sophomore Nimi Oyelese, and senior Jenna Burns. Morton, who didn’t compete last year due to injury, said attention to detail in practice for the sprinters will be critical for better results this year.

“We have days set aside where we work on mechanical things like handoffs and block starts,” Morton said. “If you don’t excel in those things it makes it really hard to succeed in sprinting events, so it’s super important to be very attentive to the mechanics in practice.”

Junior Haleigh Eckert looks to reach new heights in the Pole Vault to qualify for state after finishing one spot away last season.

After finishing on the GMC first team for the 400 meter dash and placing fifth in the conference meet in the 200 meter dash last year, not to mention a third place finish at indoor state championships this season, junior Maddie Ullom is poised for another great year, competing in multiple events. Ullom said that this year, she is focused heavily on both the 400 and 800 meter runs, and has specific goals to measure her success in both.

“I’ve been close to the school record in the 400 meter, and I want to get that this year,” Ullom said. “For the 800, getting podium at state is a big goal that I have, and I think I can get it done if I keep working hard.”

This year’s distance team will feature junior Faith Min and senior Lilly Hallum, who finished first and second, respectively, in the conference meet in the 800 meter run. Coach Affatato said that with these two top runners returning, among others, the distance team should continue their dominance and lead the charge in individual events and relays.

“Having both of them back as well as a boatload of other talented distance runners this year will be huge,” Affatato said. “They will help us big time to earn points and in relays as well.”

Senior Alexia Thomas will be a key returning hurdler for the Comets, as she finished in the top five of last year’s conference meet in the 110M and 300M hurdles. Affatato said that Thomas’s continued success and guidance for the younger hurdles will be crucial for the Comets to win.

“Alexia has worked really hard through the winter and I’m very excited to see what she can do this year, ” Affatato said. “She’s always learning from Coach Doyle and taking his expertise to her advantage, and has done a great job taking the younger runners under her wing as well.”

As for the field events, junior Pole Vaulter Haleigh Eckert will be a star, after finishing 2nd in the conference tournament in the event last season. After finishing one spot away from qualifying to the state tournament last season, Eckert said she hopes to improve on her heights from last season and compete at states this time around.

“This year I would really like to compete at state because last year I got fifth in the regional tournament and they only took the top four,” Eckert said. “Improving my technique and height is something I’ll be working on to get me there this year.”

Photo by Mia Sweitzer.

Video by Rahul Parikh.