After serving as an assistant under Dee Bonds in the program’s opening season, Julia Cagle has taken over as head coach for the Tigers and Lady Tigers.
“When (Bonds) decided not to do it this year, she handed over the torch to me,” Cagle said.
Although the 2001 Dalton graduate was not a distance runner in her school days, she has competed in local 5K road races for the past six years.
“I love the individual side of it,” Cagle said. “I played soccer in high school, which certainly required running.”
Cagle has almost all new names on her roster.
“Due to the turnover we have here in the school, we have only one returning boy,” Cagle related. “We only had one girl out last year, and she got injured. We have four girls out now.”
Ethan Martinez, a junior, is the returning boy whom the Tigers’ coach praised as a “committed runner.” However, sophomore Jonathan Herrera has been setting the early pace in the 21-minute range.
Seniors Russell Burse and Diego Fraire provide leadership. Junior Ronald Bueso and sophomore Ty Hill round out the boys’ squad.
“Ty is conditioning for basketball,” Cagle said. “That is fine with me.”
The girls are a work in progress.
“Most of them have never run in an actual race,” the coach said. “They’re brand new to running.”
Jennifer Hernandez represents the senior class. The others are all juniors — Diana Alvarez, Denisse Cuevas and Anastasia Murphy.
“Denisse also plays (junior varsity) volleyball,” Cagle said. “She splits time with us.”
With five runners needed to garner a team score, numbers are a concern.
“We do need one more girl to count in the team scoring,” Cagle said. “On the boys, we need to keep the people that we have.”
A second-place finish at last year’s Region 7-2A boys meet gives Murray County coach Sam Young confidence the Indians could take home the top league prize this time.
“We have as good a shot as anybody at winning the region,” Young said. “We should be a better team. We lost only our No. 5 boy from last year. Model, which won the region, lost their No. 1 runner who finished high in the state.”
Ivan Delgado and Servio Martinez appear even for the top spot in a battle of seniors. They both run in the 17-minute range.
“They push each other,” Young said. “That is good for both of them.”
A balanced trio of seniors Austin Pearson and Jose Ruiz and junior John David Adams are the other probable scorers.
Other Murray candidates include Fernando Arias, Antonio Bautista, Filberto Nunez and Jose Moreno, seniors; Daniel Albor, Richard Cruz, Noel Moreno and Brian Yanez, juniors; Antonio Martinez, Hilario Reymundo and Eric Soto, sophomores; and Jordy Martinez and Cristian Roses, freshmen.
Although Murray County’s girls did not have the required five runners last year to score, the Lady Indians featured one of the area’s top runners in Nayeli Jacobo. She finished seventh at region — one spot shy of going to state — is now running for Dalton State College.
This time there are seven candidates to gain the team scoring qualification.
“If we can hold them together, we have a shot at going to state with the girls,” Young said. “Some other teams in our region also have had trouble fielding full girls’ teams.”
Kaitylin Richardson, a junior, is in her first season, Nevertheless, she has the nod at No. 1.
“Kaitylin’s very athletic,” Young lauded. “She has been in track, where she ran the mile. She also plays basketball.”
Nicole Hammett appears solid at No. 2. She and Rubi Perez provide senior leadership.
Other Lady Indians participants include juniors Monica Bermudez, Kloe Brown and Celena Sanchez and freshman Maddie Phillips.