MOORE — Seven points. That is all Westmoore needed Saturday to win the regional boys track and field championship at Edmond North.
Instead, they took second behind Yukon. It was their highest finish in many years and they took home several gold medals. However, two days later, first year coach John Ross was still upset that his squad let the title slip away from them. And as a team, they were not satisfied with runner-up.
That attitude more than anything exemplifies the type of transformation that has taken place around the Westmoore boys track team this season.
“I am a bit surprised on the level of success we have achieved,” Ross said. “I knew I could get it turned around I just didn’t know how fast. If someone would have told me we would be conference runner up and six points away from winning regionals I might have looked at them funny. Let me reiterate that this is a credit to my runners and not to me.”
Alex Davis has been part of the program since he was a freshman. He remembers what it was like when the Jaguars would show up to a track meet and there was no thought of winning.
Now, in Davis’ senior season, he can see a different mindset around the team.
“We are a lot better now, from top to bottom,” Davis said. “I think there is a lot more senior leadership now. More leadership in the coaching. More of a coaching presence. I think people decided we are sick of being a joke. So we decided to be better.”
The turn around started when Ross took over as head coach. He had been an assistant under coach Laura Clay on the girls team. But it was his role as defensive coordinator on the football team that helped him the most.
“Getting athletes out was huge,” Ross said. “I have an advantage being the defensive coordinator in that I had a relationship with many of the football players. I have invested a lot of time with those players and it paid off. Addison Staggs, Johnny Randle, Channell, Austin Richards are all state qualifiers who played football. They make me look good. Without them I have very little.”
Even with the team full of football players, when the season started, Westmoore came out of the gates slow. In the first meet of the season at Norman High they didn’t score a single point from its running events.
At that point, Ross said he wondered what he got him self into. But he had a plan and he stuck to it.
“My plan was to out work other programs and invest in each athlete,” Ross said. “I want them to know that I truly care about their success and I am willing to stay up here as long possible to see their dreams in track fulfilled.”
Every week the Jaguars started to show improvement. Then they started winning individual events then meets.
“Coach Ross has pushed us hard this year,” Randle said. “He doesn’t let us slack off. He pushes us. He doesn’t like to drag. He likes to work, work, work and get it done right. For some of us coming from football, we knew what to expect. For others, it took them a while to adjust to it.”
Westmoore heads into the 2013 state track and field championships as one of the top teams in the state. It’s not a favorite to win, but they are expected to do well. With three relay teams and a strong contingent in the field events, they may put a scare into a few of the elite teams.
“It’s a very big accomplishment,” Staggs said. “Seeing how hard everybody has worked. Coming from really nothing to something, it’s really special to be part of and to be able to experience with everybody.”
But if Jaguars scored only one point, it would still be one more than they scored in the past two state meets combined. But they have higher expectations than that.
“The key for us at state is not to be satisfied just making it there,” Ross said. “I have a lot of first year runners who have never ran in a track meet in their lives until this year. They need to focus on the task and finish. The rest will take care of itself.”
Regardless of what happens at state, the turn around the program has been through has made it a successful and unexpected season.
“I remember the first time they got medals, they were excited,” Ross said. “Then all of a sudden, it was coach we have a chance to win this. Then it all of a sudden it was coach, we’re going to win this meet. It just snowballed all year. Success kind of breeds success. The kids have grabbed it and ran with it.”
Michael Kinney Follow me @eyeamtruth firstname.lastname@example.org