Brownsville Veterans Memorial track coach Jaime Castaneda is one of many coaches disappointed that the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic caused the Lady Chargers’ season to end before they could try to improve upon their second place finish in the District 32-5A championship last season.
But he was especially moved by the fact that several seniors and four-year letterwinners — including Carolina Davila-Beltran, Monica Garcia, Irlanda Moreno and Alexa Martinez — wouldn’t be able to have a shot at qualifying for the University Interscholastic League Region IV-5A championship meet or the state meet.
“We expected a lot of great things from these girls,” Castaneda said. “We just couldn’t finish the season. And of course, I understand why. The safety (of the athletes) is more important. “
Davila-Beltran, a sprinter, competed in the 100-meter dash and the 400 and 800 relays. She has been to the regional championship meet in each of her first three seasons.
“She was a real quiet girl, but she just worked hard every single day,” Castaneda said. “She was a leader, she led by example.”
Davila-Beltran said her goal was to return to the regional meet for the fourth straight year.
“My goal was to make it to regionals one last time,” Davila-Beltran said. “I also wanted to beat my (personal record in the 100). My time was a 12.7, and I wanted to hit at least a 12.5 this year. This season, even though it was cut short due to the coronavirus situation, I still enjoyed it because I got to run with my teammates and I also got to push the younger girls. (Coach Castaneda) wanted me to be a leader for them. … It made me feel good and like I had an important role on the team.”
Garcia, a thrower, also competed in shot put and discus. She took first place in the shot put at the BISD City Track & Field Meet on March 13 with a throw of 33 feet and second place in the discus with a throw of 100 feet, 7 inches.
The Brownsville Veterans girls won the city meet with 129 points.
Moreno, another thrower, was the runner-up to Garcia in the shot put at the City Meet with a mark of 32 feet, 5 inches.
“(Moreno) was always at the top of our district in shot put and discus,” Castaneda said.
Moreno said she wasn’t expecting the city meet to be her last competition.
“It was hard,” Moreno said. “But it was a fun day, because I had time to spend with my friends and everyone. My coaches were really happy any time we would place (in an event). … It was a good day, but I was sad that I couldn’t finish my season.”
Brownsville Veterans has had its sights set on giving its girls the best chance to contend beyond the district level, but the citywide competition at Sams Stadium ended up being the final chance for many track athletes to showcase their skills.
“I know (the city meet) is not the district meet that we look forward to, but that was a step in the right direction,” Castaneda said. “I would never have imagined that (the season would be canceled) and it would just end altogether. We had hoped that we would be back by Easter and that we would continue our season at that point. … I understand why they did it, it’s just unfortunate, because it did affect a whole lot of kids.”
Martinez, a distance runner who competed in the 400, 800, 800 relay and 1,600 relay, said she was pleased with the healthy level of intersquad competition, adding that she felt it elevated the team’s performance.
“I knew we were going to do pretty well, especially with the team that we had built,” Martinez said. “The bond that we had, we pushed each other even more so this year. … It was good to motivate each other that way. I even discussed it with my coaches and my teammates, that I expected us to win district, and it was because of the high scores we would get from distance and middle distance alone. And to have such a good relay team, that helped us as well.”
The examples set by this year’s group of Lady Chargers and their mature handling of the events that shaped the season are just some of the reasons cited by Castaneda for his praise of his senior class.
“They came to work every single day, they didn’t say very much,” Castaneda said. “But they were good role models for the younger girls. I’m going to miss them a whole lot. We have some younger girls that are going to step up. … So I’m not worried about that. I do wish that those girls would have had a chance to just compete a little bit longer than we had this year.”