Including track and field, football, and baseball, Londell McClary has coached middle school and high school sports for more than 30 years. When it comes to track and field, he understands that it is primarily a sport of individual efforts.
Still, McClary coaches his athletes to buy into a team concept, even when concentrating on personal results. In his first season back as Mallard Creek High’s girls coach, McClary has stressed the importance of being a good teammate more than anything else.
On May 10, the Mavericks finished third at the 4A West Regional at Providence High.
Mallard Creek’s girls’ team entered 4A state championship meet May 16-17 hoping to improve on last year’s eighth place finish.
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“There are some kinks to work out,” said McClary. “But most of it is getting the girls to understand what kind of coach I am and what my expectations are. I’m a team-first guy. I try to get them to understand that it’s an individual sport, but if everyone works hard it means success for the whole team.”
McClary coached the Vance girls’ track team to much success in the late 1990s and early 2000s before he transferred to Mallard Creek when it opened in 2007. The Cougars’ Tracy Prohoniak won a state championship in the pole vault under McClary’s guidance and so did his 400-meter relay team in 2004.
“The thing I had at Vance, the program was so secure, it kind of ran itself,” said McClary. “They really enjoyed each other and they enjoyed track. That’s what I’m trying to get the kids at Mallard Creek to feel.”
McClary served as the Mavericks’ girls head coach in 2008 and 2009. He retired from teaching but continued to serve as an assistant coach for both track and field, and football.
When girls’ track and field coach Nick Leeson left Mallard Creek for a job in Fayetteville, McClary told athletic director Karen McKaig that he would take over if she couldn’t find another coach.
McKaig told McClary in the fall of 2013 that he would coach the girls outdoor team. McClary also helped assistant coach Antoine Sanders with the boys’ and girls’ indoor teams this year once the Mallard Creek’s state football championship season ended in December.
Despite having just nine athletes, the girls’ team finished seventh at the indoor state meet. Sophomore Alycia Springs was the shot put state champion.
More than 70 athletes signed up for the outdoor track season. McClary says he doesn’t cut athletes from the team because he feels that everyone has potential if they find the right event.
The outdoor team returned many of the same athletes that helped Mallard Creek win a conference championship and finish second at regionals last year. Gabriele Cunningham, now a junior, was named the regional MVP in 2013.
“As far as a team, we all work together,” said Mictasha Mickle, a senior sprinter. “If we get dehydrated, (a teammate) is bringing us water. People pat us on the back and help us off the ground. When we’re at big meets you can hear our team cheering for us.”
At last week’s regional meet, Cunningham won the 100-meter hurdles and the 200-meter dash. Springs won the shot put and finished second in the discus.
With only three seniors graduating, McClary feels that next year could be even better.