Wildcats roar in Oberly’s debut

First-year coach guides Lexington to narrow win in state championship

ainelson@thestate.com May 22, 2012 

On May 12, the Lexington Wildcats snagged their first boys track and field state championship. The Wildcats opened the meet at Spring Valley by setting a state record in the 3,200 relay and sealed their victory with a third place finish in the 1,600 relay — run by four athletes who were appearing in the state final for the first time.

Lexington edged Spring Valley by 10 points to earn its place in the record books.

First-year coach Matt Oberly talked to The State about the achievement.

Did you know going into this season that your team could win the state title?

It was probably a project that I didn’t think would happen my first year. We had a lot of kids from cross country that had experience running in the big meets. But my goal at the beginning of the season was to win region championship, and a lot more kids were involved in that. But we were able to do that, and then with the qualifiers we tried to get as many people out as we could. There were a lot of other teams and a lot of other variables, and I definitely was not sure that it would happen this year.

What were the key factors to putting your team in position to win the crown?

We had talked the whole season about expecting the distance guys to be there. We put them in more events than we would have if we hadn’t been going for the team championship.

Then, our 1,600 relay team got there, and that was great for us to get there. Because that was four guys who had never been to the state championship, but they really worked hard and made that their goal too.

The hard work really paid off for all of those guys.

Who were the team leaders?

Trey Carson was a real good leader for the sprint group. He was a senior and this was the last time he was going to be wearing a Lexington jersey, and he was good about making sure everybody was focused on the little things we needed to get done. On the distance side, Tony Morales, Colby Coulter, Erik Wendt and Blake White have been very, very important. Blake really worked very hard with the younger guys, who we are going to need in the next years.

What was it like watching the 3,200 team win the title and set a state record?

That was really, really exciting. That kind of set the tone for us. We knew it was going to be a great race with us and Spartanburg. Those four guys were really more focused on that than anything, and it was bigger for them than any individual goals.

What was it like going into the final day?

We got the most points we could get on Friday night, but on Saturday morning, it was hard. We had to sit around and wait for the mile to start scoring points, and we saw a lot of other teams jump out front. It was kind of nerve-wracking waiting to get to our events. But by the time we got out there, the guys really showed up to race. They knew what they had to do, and they went out and did it.

What was it like having Spring Valley on your heels?

We got beat pretty bad by Spring Valley when we competed against them at Dutch Fork, when they had a lot of people in field events which we didn’t have at that time. ... I kind of had my eye on Spring Valley because I knew they were going to race hard. It’s going to be interesting next year because we’re getting Dutch Fork into the region.

How do you feel about the team’s future?

It’s great for the school, and hopefully it will get a lot more kids to come out. It’s going to be tough to replace a Colby Coulter, but on the sprint side, we’ve got three of the four 1,600 relay guys coming back.

What did you learn after a successful first year as coach?

It’s been a fun ride, and one thing I’ve learned is kids are going to do what you ask them to do. It’s been great to work with great kids. They make my job easier.

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