Appreciative. That is one word that Wayne Lady Falcons Head Track and Field Coach Aaron Cooper feels describes this season being underway after last season’s cancellation.
During the 2019 spring sports seasons, four qualifying Falcons earned their trip to the state track and field tournament competing in three events as two Lady Falcons earned their right to compete in a total of four events under head coaches Cooper and Boys Head Coach Joe Nekvinda. The boy’s golf program was also celebrating a team advancement to the second round of districts under Head Coach Kim Hicks.
At the beginning of 2020, each coach was looking for the opportunity to improve from the season before knowing how many talented athletes would be returning, some for their senior years. Unfortunately, while they were able to get in a few weeks of practices, the season was never able to get up off the ground being cancelled completely, leaving several talented seniors unable to officially close out their high school chapters in spring sports. This was a loss that affected every age of athlete in a multitude of ways.
“I knew I had talented seniors that had put a lot of time in returning as well as a talented group coming into last year’s freshman class,” said Cooper. “We were looking pretty good for our 2020 season and the girls were ready to go.”
“I had high expectations and having a couple girls returning that went to state added to that,” Cooper continued. “Reese [Brown, a 2019 three-event state qualifier as a freshman] had high goals of wanting to be a four-time state qualifier and she was really motivated coming off her freshman year so it was disappointing that she lost her sophomore year.”
Cooper admits though, as disappointing as it was losing the 2020 season, it has proved to be great motivation for this year.
“The girls really appreciate what we have now,” Cooper stated. “We talked about that a lot the day before our first meet. We wanted to compete and appreciate what we’ve got.”
Coming out of the gates to kickoff the season, Cooper and his Lady Falcons were definitely ready to put on a show and prove they were more than ready for this season. As a team, they put up 171 points to take first place at the Bedford meet on March 29, which was 77 points more than the second place team finisher.
The Lady Falcons brought home an impressive 11 first place finishes in events including five individual gold medals being won while winning six out of seven relay events. Wayne was back on the road on April 1 traveling to Osceola where they finished second overall against some extremely talented teams including the first place Nodaway Valley team who returned several state qualifiers from their 2019 season as well.
Cooper knows this year is a completely different team with freshman that haven’t competed in quite some time as junior high aged athletes weren’t even given practices last year, but he feels Wayne should have a great season and they will only continue to improve as the season goes on.
“We have had a full year off, but we have done a lot of preparing to get where we are now,” Cooper added. “We have a full roster of girls with depth in many events and that helps too.”
The boys track season was also kicked off in Bedford on March 29, where Coach Nekvinda is seeing many new faces this year after losing three of his 2019 state qualifiers to graduation and the final one on a school transfer. With the Falcons having a small 10-man roster with only one senior this year, it will be a season of growth and learning as they compete each meet.
Joining Cooper and Nekvinda this season are Assistant Coaches Haylee Fortune and Cole Crawford. Each new assistant is proving to be an asset to the teams and head coaches, providing their knowledge and skills in the sport and with athletes in general. Returning volunteer throwing Coach Mike Jones also adds to the dynamic for the boys and girls teams.
Hicks returns this year for her seventh season coaching the boys and girls golf teams after missing her sixth year last year due to COVID pandemic cancellations. While she acknowledges missing last year does hurt when it comes to experience, she knows everyone is in the same boat.
“We are returning some varsity players and we have a few newcomers and some up and coming players that are only going to get better everyday,” said Hicks. “If we can continue to improve and play at our potential, we should win some meets.”
The golf teams were busy last week competing amongst themselves to earn a place on the varsity squads. The girls golf team will travel to Centerville today, Tuesday, April 6 for their first meet of the year while the boys won’t begin their season until Tuesday, April 13 when they travel to Mount Ayr.
A full list of our Wayne Falcon and Lady Falcons track and field and golf schedules can be found on page 7 in this week’s issue.