On Mallard Creek High’s first day of indoor track and field practice, 57 students showed up.
“I was pretty happy about that,” Mavericks coach Londell McClary said. “Those are the kind of numbers you get for outdoors.”
McClary, who has 34 years of track and field coaching experience, took over the Mavericks before the 2013 outdoor season and steered the team to an impressive year.
McClary expected to be off after the season, but in mid-October, he started to get calls from students who wanted to know when indoor track would begin.
“I didn’t anticipate coaching indoor,” he said. “But a month-and-a-half ago, a couple kids asked me when it would start, and I said, ‘go ask the athletic director.’ They came back and told me they heard I was coaching it and was the one to ask.”
McClary paid a visit to Mallard Creek athletic director Karen McKaig to straighten things out. “She told me that if I didn’t want to that she’d try to find someone else,” McClary. “But I said, ‘No, I’ll do it.’
“I like being around athletes and around sports. I feel real confident about my knowledge of track. This group of kids is very dedicated.”
Leading the Mavericks boys’ team this year is senior Quashawn Cunningham.
Cunningham, who verbally committed to UNC Charlotte in late November, is back after placing second in the 200-meter dash and fifth in the 100-meter during last spring’s 4A state outdoor championships.
According to McClary, Cunningham will likely anchor this season’s 1,600-meter relay team.
“Last year, I ran the second leg,” Cunningham said. “But I’ll probably anchor this year. I definitely prefer it, just in case if the challenge comes, I would like to be the last man (trying to seal a win).”
Cunningham, who is also a wide receiver on the Mavericks’ football team, set two school records this spring in outdoor track, running a 21.62-second 200-meter dash and a 10.69 in the 100-meter dash.
He was also a member of the 800-meter relay team that won at the 4A state meet, as well as the 400-meter relay team that placed second.
“Winning the (800 relay) is the highlight of my career so far,” he said. “The relays are always more fun because you can share in the win with your teammates, and we were really excited. We went in confident, but when it actually happened, it was great.”
“Cunningham’s dedication really sets him apart,” McClary said. “His mindset is all about track. He doesn’t talk much. He’s quiet but makes up for that by being one of the hardest-working kids on the team.”
Two more boys to watch on this year’s Mavericks team will be high jumpers K.J. Webb and Keon Howe, both of whom jumped 6-4 in the outdoor state meet this spring.
Webb, who is a senior, began competing in the high jump at the request of his basketball coach, who saw him first dunk a basketball in the eighth grade.
On the girls side, the Mavericks have three returning outdoor state qualifiers in Gabrielle Cunningham, Alycia Springs and Ashley Wingo.
Cunningham, who is a junior, is the team’s top hurdler and has been competing in the event since the seventh grade. She’s also been working with McClary for the past two years.
After placing ninth in the 300-meter hurdles in last spring’s 4A outdoor state meet, she has high expectations for herself this winter.
“For this season, I want to run at least a 13.9 in the 100 (meter) hurdles,” she said. “In the 300 (meter) hurdles, I’m working on running a 43 (seconds) and in the 200 (meter dash) 24 (seconds), and in the 100 (meter) an 11.9. We haven’t been working with times in practice yet, but based on how fast I’ve felt, I think I’ll be pretty close to those marks.”
Springs, a sophomore, and Wingo, a senior, both qualified for the states in the discus and shot put and have looked in form early on.
“When you find individuals who want to do something, and you’re in a position to coach them, it’s something you want to be a part of,” said McClary.