Pawhuska track and field looks to resume winning ways

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

As Pawhuska High School's track and field teams begin their 2021 seasons, Coach Mark Frye recalls that the spring of 2020 was a traumatic experience he never wants to repeat.

The varsity boys would have been the defending 2A  champions a year ago, and the varsity girls were coming off two straight years as the state 2A runner-up. The Huskies and Lady Huskies were loaded with outstanding athletes and preparing for memorable performances.

Then COVID-19 cancelled the season and deprived them of the opportunity to compete.

“It was one of the most hurtful things I’ve ever been through for these kids in my life,” Frye said. “It was a disaster for our kids.”

Frye said he had rather lose every race than just miss an entire season of competition again.

The first meet of 2021 for Pawhuska junior high athletes was scheduled for last Friday at Dewey, and the first meet for the varsity was Saturday in Stroud. Frye said he didn't enter earlier meets because the teams simply had not been able to work out enough to be ready. Frye said he had his athletes for just four days of workouts before spring break, and did not feel comfortable sending them to a meet before then.

This week, however, the biggest home track and field event of the season is scheduled, as Pawhuska will host to its annual meet. Junior high athletes were to compete on Tuesday, and the varsity meet is this Thursday, April 1.

Frye said the home meet activities are the biggest fundraising time of the year for track and field, and Pawhuska Public Schools will take precautions to look after the well-being of participating athletes.

As many as 16 teams could compete in the meet. New uniforms and other items that had been ordered for the Pawhuska squads were still in transit last week, somewhere between Minnesota and Pawhuska, Frye said.

Among the Pawhuska boys, Mason Gilkey and Jack Long are back after participating in relay races two years ago. Frye said he is also looking to junior Dalton Hurd as one of the athletes who can step up into key roles for the Huskies. He said he figures Hurd is probably faster than he was two springs ago.

Some fresh faces have been at workouts, as students who previously have not participated in track and field are coming out.

“I’ve been really tickled that they’re coming out,” Frye said. “We’ve got quality kids.”

Frye said that Jamar Goff, who injured an ankle in basketball, is healing and could be in a position to compete in the shot put and discus for the Huskies.

“We expect to be successful, but we always want to work to exceed the past successes that we’ve had,” Frye said, emphasizing that Pawhuska's teams will focus on developing an appropriate work ethic and taking nothing for granted. “We want to be a team that models what other teams want to be like.”

Frye said it is still early and adjustments can be made to improve the team.

“We have a lot of things that we can tinker with and put the best version of us on the track,” he said.

Frye, who has more than 20 years of coaching experience, said there’s still a lot he and his teams don’t know about how this season will unfold.

“We’re still working into shape,” he said, adding that the season is short. High school track competition is over by the beginning of May in Oklahoma. In Kansas, by way of comparison, state finals are on the Memorial Day weekend.

Pawhuska's athletes will be committed to attempting to outwork the competition, Frye said.

The Pawhuska girls varsity team could be In for a bit of a rebuilding experience, Frye said. Only one of the 16 to 17 girls who are out for track has any high school experience, and she hasn’t run in the state meet before, he said. There is a lot of talent, but it’s still raw talent.

“They are more than capable," he said. “We are going to go out and we’re going to work”