CONYERS - The Rockdale track and field teams are hoping for good things this season.
But if coaches Bryon Curtis and Chester Fuller are to lead the Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs to successful seasons, the two will have to do it with a lot of youth.
"What we are looking to do this year is build the program, raise expectations in practice, work ethic and results," Curtis said. "Overall, I have to say we are inexperienced. We have a number of boys who quite simply have not run track before or have not run track since ninth grade or middle school. So we are trying to put the guys in events where they can be the most successful. A few of our returnees will also compete in events this year that they haven't previously competed in."
Leading the Rockdale boys cast of returning athletes are Lavon Allen (200 meters, 400, 400 relay), Kafuba Donzon (100, 200, 400 relay) and Treyon Washington (110 and 300 hurdles, 1600 relay, triple jump).
Curtis said the upside to having so much youth is the number of athletes he has at his disposal.
"We have pretty good numbers for the boys. I think we can do well in the jumps early in the season," he said. "As far as sprints go, we have a lot of work to do, but the key is the boys are willing to work hard to get better. As long as they have that attitude, we will improve as the season goes on. I feel we are solid in the distance events and throws are in a similar situation with sprints."
Curtis said he has set some general goals for his team, but some of the runners have also set very specific goals.
"The first goal is to perform better than last season and for every competitor to put up a personal record this season. I believe in setting high expectations and teaching each athlete to expect a lot of them self," Curtis said. "I would be lying if I said I don't want to win the region or I don't want to take a large group to the state championships, but to achieve any of the goals set forth, we must work hard extremely hard.
"Lavon Allen has set a personal goal of breaking the school record in the 400-meter dash and winning the region. But he knows he has to put in the work to make that happen and it will not be easy. He really can be a leader for this team this year and has the ability to be an asset in motivating his teammates to get better. Lavon's success as a runner and team leader will depend on if he is willing to accept those challenges this season."
On the girls side, Fuller said he hopes to build on what his team accomplished last year.
"Last year, we brought two girls to the state meet in Albany, with Faith Middlebrooks placing seventh in the long jump," he said. "This year, we have a young team with 10 freshmen, a mix of sophomores and juniors and only two seniors. We have some potential in our jumps and a few of our sprint events. We are also looking at some freshmen who may really help the team later in the year in some of the sprint events."
Leading the list of returning athletes are Gabrielle Abrams (300 hurdles, triple jump), Lamonica Johnson (100, 200, 400 relay) and Gabrielle Chapman (400, 1600 relay).
"Our strengths are in our sprints and jumps," Fuller said. "My expectation for the year is to see the girls show individual improvement as they reach their potential. I would like to see personal bests each week as we move toward region. Our work ethic will be the key to success. 'Practice as you would compete' is our emphasis."
Brandon Evans can be reached at email@example.com.
SideBar: At a glance
Teams: Rockdale track and field
Coaches: Byron Curtis (boys), Chester Fuller (girls)
Next meet: Friday, Loch Johnson Invitational at Cedar Shoals