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From left to right, Angel Nwodu, Brooke Coleman, Daniella Herrera, and Bayleigh Minor composed Fort Bend Christian Academy's two record-setting relays at The Woodlands Christian Academy Invitational last weekend.
In 40-degree weather, with treacherous winds that sent a handful of team tents scattering across the track and field complex, Fort Bend Christian Academy still managed to set records at its first meet of the season last Saturday at The Woodlands Christian Invitational.
The Eagles’ 4x100 and 4x200 relays set school records of 49.73 seconds and 1.45.93 seconds, respectively. The 4x100 mark broke the previous best of 50.2 seconds. The 4x200 mark broke the 1.47 seconds set at the TAPPS 5A state meet last year, when the relay won first place.
Both relays consisted of the same four girls: junior Brooke Coleman ran the first leg, followed by senior Angel Nwodu, newcomer junior Daniella Herrera (a move-in from Colombia), and freshman Bayleigh Minor, daughter of head coach Deon Minor.
Herrera was an alternate for the relays, filling in for senior Gabbie Washington, who was sick all of last week and forced to miss the meet.
“I was running with an alternate, and we broke school records,” said Deon Minor, in his fourth year as head track and field coach. “I was like, ‘Oh, wow.’ In those conditions, too? I was really happy and excited. The sky’s the limit on what we’re capable of doing as a team, but we’ve got to continue to work.”
The Eagles had only six girls on the team last year and still managed to finish sixth at state.
“If we could get to state and these girls run well, hopefully coming into this year others will see that we won and broke records and it could draw some attention to get girls to come out,” Minor said. “They’re coming out. I’m loaded.”
Now the Eagles have 22 on the team. Only three are seniors.
“Now I have the depth and I have missing pieces of the puzzle,” Minor said. “I definitely knew for sure that all my relays would be really strong this year.”
Bayleigh Minor is a crucial addition. She is a 10-time All-American and an AAU Junior Olympics champion in the 400 meters.
Coleman, healthy after an injury-riddled campaign last year, is a standout sprinter in the 100 meters and 200 meters. She finished second at state in the 100 meters behind Nwodu, another star sprinter.
Washington is a stud in the 400 meters.
“With the depth I have, the No. 1 goal this year is to try and win the state championship,” Minor said. “That’s what we’ve been aiming for. The relays, we ran in record-setting times. Angel and Brooke were 1-2 in the 100 meters last year; Angel PR’ed. We’re on track. It’s just a matter of getting them going full-time.”
The British International School of Houston's volleyball program is in its first year competing in the hotly contested TAPPS 5A-District 7.
The Bulldogs have taken their growing pains, as expected when going up against perennial powers like Fort Bend Christian, Lutheran South, and The Woodlands Christian Academy on a consistent basis, but first-year head coach Mary Garesche has her players focused on the process and experience, not the result.
"I'm not going to define (this season) by wins or losses," Garesche said. "I'm going to define it on everyone having a positive experience. They'll be exposed to a lot of new things, new teams, and they'll have some really tough games. But if they can walk away from a game or this season with a positive experience, then that's a win for me."
Garesche was hired in December as assistant athletic director and aquatics and volleyball coordinator after a successful stint leading her volleyball team to the Athletic Association of Independent Schools of New York playoffs each of the last six years.
Her first mission at BIS-Houston: Guide the program as it enters its initial year of TAPPS.
"It's been really fun," Garesche said. "The team experienced their first every volleyball preseason, coming in two weeks before the start of school. They trained four hours a day for two weeks to get ready to compete in this league. It's exciting to be a part of something new."
With only two seniors, it's been a trying time for the Bulldogs, but they are getting out of it what they expected.
"It's the level of play," Garesche said. "They're exposed to a higher level of play, and that only pushes them harder. They'll improve faster than they would've in another league."
Garesche's varsity consists of a handful of freshmen, and Garesche said this year is vital to their development.
"They're going to be part of the building of a new program, and they'll be able to see over the next four years how big the program is going to get," Garesche said. "That'll be partly due to them and their commitment to the team."
Garesche's philosophy centers around support, communication, and growth. Positivity is key.
She has been encouraged by what she's seen on the court, with players coaching each other and helping each other learn the ins and outs of playing an advanced level of volleyball.
"I really focus on the emphasis of being a part of a team," Garesche said. "We play together, we win together, we lose together, we work hard together. Every experience is a learning opportunity, whether we win in three sets or lose in three sets. Every opportunity is a chance to grow and learn."