For all the section title banners that hang from the rafters of the Davis High School gym, just three belong to track and field — two for the girls and one for the boys.
Last year, the Blue Devil boys were this close to adding a pennant, but finished 5 points behind Jesuit in the Sac-Joaquin Championships.
Despite losing standout seniors like Paul Mohr, Jack Scranton and Nick Denton, DHS won’t settle for second place again.
“One of our team goals, as it was last year, is to win the section title,” said Devil boys and girls coach Spencer Elliott. “Last year, we fell short of our goal. I give Jesuit credit for simply executing better than we did when it counted. We had put together great performances all season long, and we did it again a week later (at the SJS Masters). We did not perform badly at sections, just not good enough.”
Among those who stood out that day for Davis were returning juniors Blake Croft and Kyle Clancy, who qualified for last year’s Masters in the 800 meters and high jump, respectively.
Also back for the local boys in 2014 are distance runners Jasper Laca and Brian Song, sprinters Alex McIntyre and Ben Salcedo and long jumper Victor Choi, among others.
With the quality of returning talent, both young athletes and veterans, the Delta Valley Conference championship may be something of a formality for the Blue Devil boys, who defeated second-place Monterey Trail by 120 points last year.
“As we approach the postseason, we will continue to help prepare mentally and physically for our section competition just as we always have,” Elliot said. “We definitely have the horses to get it done this year and I expect we will.”
While the DHS boys lost out on the 2013 section title by just 5 points, it wasn’t any less agonizing for the Devil girls, who finished 7.5 points behind St. Francis to take third place at the SJS Division I meet.
Despite their slightly larger margin of loss, Elliott has the exact same expectations for the Davis girls that he does for the boys.
“We expect to win the Delta Valley Conference and we expect to win a section title,” Elliott said. “Like the boys, the girls have the talent to do so.
“Last year’s team had a great showing at sections, scoring about as many points as I thought we could going in,” Elliott added. “Unfortunately for us, a couple of schools were able to score more. We’ll get our share of the points this year, too, and see what happens.”
The local girls team returns a multitude of stars including sophomore Fiona O’Keeffe — also one of the best cross country runners in the nation — who finished 22nd in the Masters 3,200, an event dominated by upperclassmen. Also back is senior Han-ah Sumner, who finished 20th in the 800 at Masters and contributed to DHS’ dominant 4×400 relay team.
Other returning girls standouts include distance runners Jeanne-Marie McPherson and Sophie Meads, high jumpers Amelia Otto-Cutting and Zoe Hunt-Murray and pole vaulter Lily Wolfe.
The Blue Devils dominated the DVC girls championship last year, blowing out Monterey Trail by a 218-151 margin.
But despite the perceived superiority of both teams, Elliott will keep the athletes grounded with his blue-collar mentality.
“In practice, we will continue to work hard, as we always do,” Elliott said. “As a coaching staff, we constantly seek to improve in our event areas, acknowledging what we have done well in addition to what we can do better. I have complete faith in our coaching staff to design the right workouts for our athletes, I have complete faith in our senior leaders to model rigorous, intelligent training, and I have complete faith in our athletes to work hard and improve.”
Notes: DHS opens its season Wednesday at Brown Stadium with the annual Battle for the Spade dual meet against Woodland. Last year, the Devils destroyed a “Woodland United” team — which included Woodland, Pioneer, Woodland Christian and Woodland Polytechnic — 224-74.
— Reach Evan Ream at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanReam.