POLACCA -- More depth may mean a better season for the Hopi High girls and boys track and field teams this year.
Hopi High girls and boys track and field teams will open the season today (March 8) at a multiple meet at Winslow High School.
The girls placed fifth and the boys took fourth in the eight team 3A North Regionals last year. The top four teams from the conference make it to the state meet so the girls barely missed last year and the boys barely made it, but didn't make much noise at state.
Hopi High Coach John Schimon expects both teams to improve this year. He said the girls can finish at least fourth and the boys can move up to second or third place.
Winslow won both boys and girls regional meets last year and appears to be the favorite against this year.
Hopi has 30 boys and 35 girls out for the track and field teams and will continue to take athletes for the next week.
Hopi traditionally does well in the running events, but not in the field events.
Coach Schimon said with so many athletes out this year that they can also expect to score points in the field events.
Tina Clayton will be one of the leaders for the girls in the 100 and 200-yard dashes as well as the long jump and the high jump.
Jackie Rivers is expected to be strong in the mile, 800 and 400 runs.
Tamecia Lomawaima will compete in the mile and 800.
Erika Namoki will be the leader in the two-mile and Samantha Lucas will run strong in the one and two mile runs.
Povi Lomayaoma, Namoki, Rivers and Lucas will makeup strong relay teams for the Lady Bruins.
Kristy Pavatea will help with the long jump and high jump.
Kaleigh Robertson will throw the discuss and Deidra Jones will lead the shot put.
Last year, the Hopi High boys were led by Derrick Dick, but he broke his leg during the football season.
Dick is running, but he isn't expected to be at full strength until midseason. He qualified in four events at state last year.
The Hopi High boys can be expected to be strong and deep in the sprints with Lionel Nevayaktewa, Vince Timms, Thomas Yoyokie, Shawn Honanie and Shawn Bahnimptewa all competing.
Matt Lamson will lead the Bruins in the two mile.
Chad Baker will be strong in the one-mile, 800 and the relays.
Vonn Secakuku, Andrew Honyaktewa and Kevin "Fat Boy" Rivers will bring more depth to the long distance runners. Last year, Hopi had three runners for the distances; this year they have seven.
Vince Timms will lead the Bruins in the high jump and long jump.
Hopi has eight players out for the discuss throw including Charles Villa, Evan Silas, Sean Whitehair and Nathan Tallas.
Coach Schimon said Hopi's success depends on keeping the athletes injury-free and academically eligible. He said they are starting off on the right foot with only two or three of the 65 athletes academically ineligible.
Coach Schimon said the track and field athletes will probably be rusty at the March 8 opener as he views it as a warm-up for the season.
This is Schimon's second year coaching track and field at Hopi. He previously was the head track and field coach one year at Ganado.
"Track and field is more laid back then football and wrestling, but I like watching the kids improve," he said.
(Stan Bindell, former Observer editor, is journalism and radio teacher at Hopi High School.)