March 23, 2013 in Washington Voices

Veterans core of talented U-Hi track team

Steve Christilaw wurdsmith2002@msn.com
 
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Eddie Gonzalez, state high jump champion, warms up on Thursday at University High. Gonzalez has already cleared 6-8 this season.
(Full-size photo)

Mike Barbero is happy about pretty much everything to do with the University boys track team except the weather.

But in his defense, there’s been a lot of weather to be unhappy with.

Take Wednesday, for example. It rained. It snowed. It hailed. It had lots of wind to blow them all around. It cleared up for a while only to have thunder and lightning bring an early end to the workout.

“I am definitely looking forward to some good weather,” the first-year head track coach said.

The veteran boys cross country coach takes over head coaching duties for boys track this year. Former head coach Doug Fry is now coaching three sports in Arizona.

“Mike and Doug were pretty much co-head coaches,” U-Hi athletics director Ken VanSickle said. “It worked out pretty well since Mike was in the building and Doug wasn’t.”

“I took care of the paperwork,” Barbero laughed. “Aside from that, I primarily worked with the boys and girls distance runners.”

The Titans start the season with a wealth of excitement after placing seventh at last year’s state Class 3A meet.

“We had a lot of success with a pretty small group of athletes,” Barbero said. “And most of them are back, so we’re pretty excited. I have 105 athletes out for track, which is up from last year’s 80-something. There’s a lot of talent there, and that includes a very talented, young freshman class.”

Leading the group of returning state-meet veterans is senior high jumper Eddie Gonzalez, who won last year’s championship by clearing 6-feet-6 in the finals.

And he’s already left that performance in the dust.

“Eddie has already cleared 6-8 this spring, and that’s his new P.R. (personal record),” Barbero said. “That’s unheard of for this early in the season. I think that mark sent shockwaves across the state.”

Also back is three-fourths of one of the state’s best 4x400 relay teams.

Seniors Austin Upmeyer, Daniel Brunner and Adrian Bonner helped power the Titans to a fifth-place finish at state last year.

“It’s an interesting story – that team has been really good for a while,” Barbero said. “Two years ago they had one of the fastest times in the state and finished third in the regional meet, but only the top two teams advanced to state. They definitely would have placed at state, but they just couldn’t get there.

“Last year they broke through and placed fifth.”

All three are standouts in individual events as well.

Upmeyer reached the finals at 400 meters at last year’s state meet. Brunner excels at the 800 and Bonner, coming off outstanding football and basketball seasons, is U-Hi’s top sprinter.

“Right now, Justin and Danny both figure to break the school record in their respective events,” Barbero said.

The one state placer from last year who will not be back is pole vaulter Jay Alexander, who is not on the team this year.

“We still have some great vaulters and I think we’ll be just fine in that event,” Barbero said. “We have one of the best vault programs in the state and it’s just a matter of who will step up from a very good group.”

Barbero said he’s already looking forward to what happens when the weather officially warms up and his team heats up.

“It’s all about who gets hot at the end of the year,” he said. “It’s all about who performs when it counts at the end of the year.”

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