Teams step outside for meet

In this March 18, 2018, Clinton Herald file photo, Tahlicia Bailey passes the baton to Montaya Ford during last season's Early Bird Invitational. This year's event will be held March 26. 

CLINTON — With the weather gradually shifting from tumultuous snow storms to steady rain, spring athletic programs around the area have quietly commenced preparations for the upcoming season.

The Clinton High girls’ track and field team is no different, and coach Tony Steen and the River Queens are ready to surprise the Mississippi Athletic Conference.

Steen is excited about the deep freshman class that has already flexed their muscle at the season-opening University of Dubuque Early Bird Co-Ed Invitational on Feb. 26 in Dubuque. In that meet, a trio of freshmen paired with a few proven juniors to lead the way.

Kimberly Powell, a junior, secured Clinton’s lone first-place finish in the shot put event with a toss of 35-02.00. Fellow junior Montaya Ford, who was a part of the team’s state-qualifying relay last season, recorded the team’s highest finish in the 55-meter dash with a 14th-place spot (8.02). Selena rounded out the group with an 11th-place spot in the 800-meter run.

Newcomers Jamie Greenwalt, Greta Greenley and Emma Milder all impressed in their prep debuts. Milder claimed the freshman trio’s best finish with a fifth-place effort in the 55-meter hurdles event (10.22). Greenley finished ninth in that event and also trailed teammate Ford on the 55-meter leaderboard in the 24th spot. Greenwalt captured a top-20 finish (19th) in the 55-meter dash, too.

“We have one of the biggest freshman classes since I have started coaching,” Steen said. “Our sophomores are pretty decent and we have good numbers for our varsity. It’s really turning out to be decent.”

Like several programs in the area, Clinton has primarily been confined to indoor practices up to this point, although Steen said the team has stepped outside sparingly. The coach, who took over in 2014, credited the school’s facilities during a cruel winter.

“Right now, with the way the weather has been, [practice] has been kind of difficult,” Steen said. “We have some pretty good facilities here, though, so we have been using the pool a lot, the hallways and we have three gyms so that is nice. We have some good opportunities here to use different things so it has been nice.”

Last season, the River Queens were represented at the state competition by a 4X200 relay team and both a discus and shot put thrower. Of those six student-athletes with experience on the grand stage, however, only Tahlicia Bailey (relay) and Ford competed in the indoor event in Dubuque.

Nonetheless, Steen has been pleased with the way his team has began to adjust to new or increased roles throughout the team. In fact, he believes a widespread improvement from 2018 is on the horizon.

“I honestly think this could be one of our better teams this year,” Steen said. “I think we can get a couple different things to state, probably more than last year. I think we have some relays and individuals that could get there.”