Canyon Cowboys’ track and field capped off an undefeated season in the Foothill League with league championships for both boys’ and girls’ teams.
Canyon’s boys finished 6-0 while the Cowboys’ girls team finished 5-0-1, with a young team that rosters just seven seniors.
Cowboys head coach George Velarde has been with the program for over 20 years and now adds another league championship to his resume, for the first time for either team in eight years.
“For the whole coaching staff, parents, athletes or just the whole school, we saw it as a major accomplishment just because of our tradition,” Velarde said. “We haven’t won in many years and for us to win not one but two league titles with the boys and girls, it’s very exciting. The kids have earned it. They’ve worked really hard from summer to winter and all throughout the season. It was special.”
The veteran coach knows it’s a long season, where you need a lot to go right to finish at your best. However, in the offseason, Velarde saw signs that his 2023 team could be something special.
“We knew going into the season that this could be a special season,” Velarde said. “But a lot of things can happen. Injuries, health, etc., but on paper, we knew we’re looking pretty good. So obviously with the dedication and the kids just working hard, they saw that and they got rewarded.”
According to Velarde, last season left a bad taste in the girls’ mouths as they missed out on a league championship. The group took it personally and finished in flying colors throughout nearly event in the sport.
Canyon has seen consistent scoring from its girls’ sprints team, highlighted by Mikaela Warr and Brianna Bartone. Warr’s 11.75-second mark in the 100-meter dash ranks fifth in the state while her 24.74-second mark in the 200-meter dash ranks her second in league.
Bartone is less than a second behind Warr in the 200 and serves as vital member of the 4×100 relay team. The two, along with Madison Desvarieux and Cayden Panariello, broke the school record in the 4×100 twice this season, and are ranked eighth in the state with their 47.38-second finish.
Panariello has made huge strides since last season and has been key in the record-breaking relay team. Velarde sees Panariello as one of the most improved athletes on the team along with Savannah Holcombe. The two are standouts in the hurdles while Holcombe also has improved well in the high jump.
Brianna Campbell and Cynthia Herrera have led the distance teams and will be crucial in league preliminaries and finals.
For the boys, freshman Keyshawn Wooten is milliseconds away from cracking into the 10-second mark in the 100. Wooten leads the Foothill League with an 11.02-second mark in the 100 and is a force in the 200 alongside Jeremiah Taylor and Keston Banos.
Taylor will also look to take home a league title in the 400 meters.
Sophomore Jordehn Gammage has dominated in the hurdles this season, with a personal best mark of 39.64 seconds in the 300-meter hurdles.
George Stansell has become the face of Canyon throws and is aiming to break a pair of school records. Stansell leads the Foothill League with a shot-put throw of 53 feet, 4 inches and in discus with a 154-foot, 2-inch throw.
Even with so many young stars on the team, Velarde has seen every individual put the team first.
“It’s about the we more than the I, and they’ve embraced that,” Velarde said. “It’s one of our mantras.”
Canyon headed into league preliminaries on Friday and will look to extend the year into the postseason on Friday, April 28, at the Foothill League finals for the chance to head to the CIF playoffs.
“This is a good place to be, don’t get me wrong,” Velarde said. “I’m pleased to be here and obviously, we’re very excited. Now, it’s like having a second season. Everything that we’ve accomplished during the dual meet season, that’s now over. We’ve already celebrated that, you know, kind of lived in that moment for the last couple of days, but now, we’re refocusing on what we’re trying to accomplish.”