Cougar track team is small in numbers but big in heart and commitment

by Rhett Sifford
Sports Editor
The Monument Valley High School track and field team got their season underway in Price on March 25 at the Carbon High School Invitational.
The Cougars took six boys to compete in the event and though they didn’t qualify for a team score, they still got some solid performances from their athletes.
Freshman Josiah Gipe led the way with a solid 20th in the 800-meter race, finishing in two minutes, 38 seconds. He also came home 29th in the 1600 meter with a time of 6:03 and he finished 40th in the 400 with a 1:06.
Senior Shonlee Stanley finished 43rd in the 400 in Price with a 1:18. Senior Tramon Jake and sophomore Devonte Thinn finished 61st and 65th respectively in the 200 with times of 32.72 and 35.34.
In the second meet of the year for the Cougars this past Wednesday, March 29 the team made the short trip up to Blanding to compete in the San Juan County Invitational.
Josiah Gipe again led the team, besting all his times from the Carbon Invite and scoring four of the team’s 11 total points. He finished fifth in the 800 meter, coming home in two minutes, 33 seconds.
He was ninth in the 400 with a time of 1:04, just outside the points in that event. And he finished 24th in the 200 meter.
Shonlee Stanley scored two points for the Cougars with a seventh-place performance in the javelin with a throw of 109 feet, eight inches.
The sprint medley relay team of Tyrek Benally, Tramon Jake, Devonte Thinn, Josiah Gipe, and Shonlee Stanley finished fourth to score the team’s remaining five points.
Other solid Monument Valley performances on the day included a tenth-place result for Benally in the long jump and a 12th-place jump for Thinn in that same event.
Stanley, Benally, and sophomore Tobias Gray got 14th, 17th, and 19th in the shot put respectively. Senior Tramon Jake came home 20th in the shot put.
Stanley earned a 17th-place result in the discus with Gray getting 21st in that event. And Benally finished 18th in the 100 meter dash with a time of 14.72.
The Cougars will compete in the Mustang Classic in Kayenta, AZ this Friday, April 7.
Monument Valley Head Coach Brad Upshaw, who is beginning his first year with the track and field team and just finished his first season at the helm of the football team, recently answered several questions about the team via email. Here are his comments:
Rhett Sifford: Coach, tell me about the weeks leading up to the start of the season and what you did in preparing the team to begin.
Coach Upshaw: We’re going into our sixth week of work. We started in the weight room and transitioned into a hybrid weight room/dynamic workout routine during the last three weeks. During the first three weeks we really focused on building strength in the body and in the mindset.
We are still working in the weight room but more time is being spent on the routines and nuances of each craft. As we get more meets under our belts we’ll make adjustments to our weight training and recovery. We believe it begins and ends in the weight room. Hopefully time will tell the story as some of our younger athletes continue to grow.
Sifford: Tell me about your team this season.
Upshaw: We haven’t had the turnout we were expecting despite recruiting efforts during the winter sports season. We have one freshman, Josiah Gipe, who also ran cross country so he has some race experience.
There are two sophmores on the team: Second-Team All-State football player Tobias Gray and Devonte Thinn. These two athletes have a healthy work ethic growing, they want to get better, and they have been grinding. “Determined” would be the word to described them because they have had some rough days in training.
We have three seniors, Shonlee Stanley, Tyrek Benally, and Tramon Jake. Tramon is the only senior with track and field experience. All three played football for us and all three competed in the regional and state cross country meets this past season. They just want to compete and this will be the last high school team they get to compete with. We’re glad to have them.
Sifford: Who do you expect to step up into leadership roles?
Upshaw: Shonlee Stanley has been extremely committed to the program and his rapid improvement has created some buzz within the team, so he’s a name that comes to mind. The other athlete that has begun to embrace the leadership role is Josiah Gipe. His competitiveness and raw volition have had a positive impact on the group.
Sifford: Has anyone already started to stick out and impress you?
Upshaw: We still have a ways to go with Josiah Gipe but we are pleased with his progress. His development is a credit to his determination and desire to leave some marks in the Monument Valley record books. As it has been said, “He’s got that dawg in him,” and he’s got a little swagger. But what freshman doesn’t have a little swagger, right?
We just want to help him continue to grow into the person and teammate he aspires to be. I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes that Alpha for us before the season is over. If that happens it would be great for the future of Monument Valley racing.
Sifford: What’s the feeling you get from your athletes as you start the year?
Upshaw: They are excited to compete. This group is very supportive of each other and with the team being small I feel the encouragement and positive energy is definitely carrying more weight as we get going.
Sifford: What do you think your strengths are going to be?
Upshaw: I know this is not the answer you’re looking for but I think our mental strength is growing. With the lack of participation our team feels the responsibility of not only representing themselves and their families but also their community and their school.
They see it as a challenge and they have embraced it despite their numbers. As a coach you want student athletes to create or have their own “whys”; fuel, purpose, reasons for pursuing success because this shows responsibility.
Sifford: What do you know about your opposition this year?
Upshaw: We’re following the 1A athletes throughout the state as well as other athletes we know are competing from other schools. At the Carbon Invitational we were very interested in watching Max Perry and Easton Eborn of Rich; Soren Welch, Ronnie Harris, Joshua Wheeler, Jesse Pettit, Curtis Bunker, and Kaden Pehrson of Monticello; and Josh Rust of North Summit. Studying these athletes helped our team understand what we’re building toward and perhaps created some targets and purpose for their work.
Sifford: What goals do you have as a team and coaching staff?
Upshaw: Overall we’ve set our priority on some individual school records, particularly within each grade level (9-12), and then some overall school records. This is simply because we wanted to teach and learn our own school’s history and culture. I’m sure as the season unfolds we’ll be hunting for opportunities to gain respect from our opposition.
As coach I want to ensure we are consistently setting attainable goals for each athlete and helping them gain from each opportunity they encounter. Whether the situation is in practice, the weight room, or at an athletic event it’s still an opportunity for them to showcase their commitment and hard work.
Sifford: Can you tell me about the other coaches who are helping you this year?
Upshaw: Lawrence Atine attended Monument Valley High School and participated in team sports throughout his high school career. His knowledge of the circumstances, challenges, and the environment of the school and community has been helpful.
We are both in our first season as track and field coaches but Lawrence has the experience of growing up here and being an athlete for the school. We discuss areas of improvement where he feels, as a former student athlete, we could create a better experience for current student athletes.
We are conscious of how much work needs to be done to create an environment and a program where future student athletes can expect to succeed.

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