In its four years of existence, the Mallard Creek track-and-field team has developed into a powerhouse, and the first class of seniors wants to go out state champions to cap off their final season.
The boys team handily won the conference meet in April, their third I-Meck 4A title in four years. The girls missed out by less than two overall points, after winning last year, but are posed to make amends in the state meet on Saturday.
Getisso Dentamo, Lauren Gulley and Jasmine Suydam have each been competing for the Mustangs since their freshman years and have enjoyed tremendous individual and team success. The three will continue together next year and compete for UNC Charlotte.
Dentamo, who did not score a point in his freshman season, has developed into one of the best distance runners in the state and is turning his focus to winning the 800 meter race.
"It has been great being able to start up the program and see the success that we have had each year," Dentamo said. "I think we are all focused on the state meet and I know that I am, for sure. I want to be a state champion for the first time."
Gulley, who won the 400, was a part of the 4-by-100 relay team and finished second in the 200 at the conference championships, where he was named MVP of the meet. She won a state title as a freshman and is hopeful she can go out on top this year.
"I have already done it once, and I would love to go out a winner again," Gulley said.
Suydam competes in the shot put and discus and was named most outstanding field athlete at the conference tournament.
She is proud to be going to UNC Charlotte and is hoping to win a state title and make up for the close loss at states last year.
"Jasmine threw 40 feet in the shot put, and for a female that is pretty amazing; not too many female athletes in N.C. are doing that," said Maverick head coach Lillian Anderson.
While the three Charlotte-bound athletes have been together since their freshman years, key boys contributor and senior sprinter Jeff Hendricks has been at Mallard Creek for two years but has adjusted well to the Mavericks system.
He had attended West Charlotte and Vance but has found a home with the Mavericks. He has signed to run track at Western Carolina next year.
"Coming to Mallard Creek was probably the best decision for me," Hendricks said. "Everywhere else I had been was full of distractions, but there is so much structure here that it really was a fit for me. Coach Anderson has been great, and she really has helped in my development, and I see how she helps other people also."
Hendricks is relatively new to the Mallard Creek program, but for Gulley, Dentamo and Suydam, they are ready to finish what they started and go out on top.
"I know that for me, I have not trained as hard as I could have at every event and could probably be in better game shape but am working as hard as I can because I do want to win our last meet," Gulley said.
Dentamo said he and his teammates are proud to be the first Mavericks senior class, and he is proud of how far he has come individually and as a teammate.
"I want Mallard Creek to carry on the tradition that we started," Dentamo said. "Three titles in four years is great, but I hope the teams after us take as much pride as we did and win many more."
Gulley said she is proud of what the boys accomplished and looks for future success for the girls program as well.
"I am proud that we have helped to start the program and have been able to enjoy some success," Gulley said. "It has been fun to be a part of it and I think we did a good job of laying the foundation for the program. I hope the athletes who come behind us see that we have put lots of hard work into starting the program the right way."
Gulley thinks the Mavericks are looking forward to states and now feel like they have something to prove. The boys want to validate their conference title, but the girls have revenge on their mind.
"I think we didn't look at ourselves the same way this year as we had last year," Gulley said. "Last year, we had goals for ourselves and felt like we had something to prove. This year, some teams kind of snuck up on us, but we will be ready for them this time."
Hendricks hopes no matter what this year and team has accomplished things that everyone should be proud of.
"I did things I never thought I could do, I think we all did." Hendricks said. "I laid it out there on the line and this is really special to me because I was able to contribute to a team. This is the first time a team I have been on has ever won anything together, and that will always stick with me."