Slowly but surely, the Portal Panthers’ girls track team are beginning to etch their name in the school record books. Last year, the track team crowned its first state champion in Unique Mosley. This year the girls accomplished hoisting the school’s first region title in girls track.
With the sectional track meet just a few days away, head coach Valarie Kinard said she’s amazed with the team making school history this year, but she knows there’s still a bigger prize ahead.
“We’re all about making history,” Kinard said. “The girls are all about proving themselves and going to sectionals. We’re going to a lot of events that we’ve never run before. We have six girls going to sectionals and some are running more than one event.”
The journey to becoming the Panthers’ girls track coach came full-circle for Kinard. A former softball player for Portal, Kinard came back to the Panther community to take over the track program with little to no track experience.
In just four short years, with the help of assistant coach Steven Smith, Kinard has helped turn the program around.
“It’s a small community and it’s been great for me. When they offered me the coaching position I was like ‘ok, I guess I’ll give it a shot.’ I just wanted to come back and contribute to the community,” Kinard said.
Kinard said the team has worked diligently in practice to prepare for the sectional meet. The Panthers will try to follow-up on a region-title performance that netted 100 team points. 13 points better than the next closest team (Telfair). Mosley continued her quest for a second-straight state championship by winning the high-point award with 34.5.
Teammate Tia Hagins finished in second, finishing first in the 100 and 200-meter race. Hagins and Mosley, along with Jasmin Graham and Aleaha Wiggins won the 4X100 event with a time of 51.18.
“It’s team chemistry. These girls have bonded together. They’ve known each other their whole lives. Every sport they play, they play together,” Kinard said. “All the kids are familiar with each other and it’s good to know the kids are knowlegable about what’s going on…it’s a great thing.”
Dashonda Morgan will also look to ride the momentum of her region second place finish in the triple jump.
So far, the future looks bright for the Panthers’ girls track team this season and beyond. With only one senior on the team, Hagins, Portal will return several athletes of its historic region-title team.
“I think the program is just going to get better and better. We have a pretty good middle school group and we’ll get better as the years go on,” Kinard said. “These girls have seen what it takes to win and they want it.” Portal will compete in the sectional meet this Saturday in Camilla.
Horace Holloman may be reached at (912) 489-9408.