PORT NECHES — If competition was based on personality alone, the Port Neches-Groves High School Unified Track Team would return from San Antonio this week as state champions.
And they certainly go there with confidence.
“I’m really excited to see how far we can go,” said Mariela Dublon, who competes in the 4×100 relay. “We already got the first place before the state, which is much better than last year. So I think we can achieve a lot more than we did last year at State.
Her teammate, Chase Fontenot, took that confidence up a notch.
“I train arriving here at 4:30 a.m. every day,” he said last week. “I rake the sand. It’s just blood, sweat and tears from that point on.
The laughter of his teammates made it clear that the athlete was joking.
“But he sometimes rakes the sand in practice,” coach Lauren Hanratty said.
After being named regional champions on April 19, the PNGHS Unified Track team prepares for Wednesday’s competition.
Congratulations to the PNG Unified Track & Field team! REGIONAL CHAMPIONS!!! WE WILL DECLARE!!! WAY TO GO, INDIANS!!! pic.twitter.com/DpLyVB0t1A
– PNGPrimetime (@PngPrimetime) April 19, 2022
“We’re doubling up,” Fontenot said to more laughter. “Three in the morning now. Hope we get top quality sand – order it online. Maximum performance in training. Everyone doubles up. We expect nothing more than first place at the national meeting. Quote me on that one.
But through the jokes, this team takes every moment seriously.
Today they will begin their journey with a school-wide pep rally.
“For me as a teacher, it’s so special and makes my job so easy that I have the support of every principal on campus, the superintendent, the assistant superintendent,” Hanratty said. “It feels good that the whole community and the whole school are supporting us.”
Students will walk through the halls with Indian spirit and be greeted by all classes in the school, with most students holding signs and shouting congratulations. The Indianettes, cheerleaders, band, twirlers and more perform as the team fights their way through the school.
From there they will load and head towards San Antonio. Competition begins at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
“It feels good to be with friends,” Jaden Hoffpauir said. “We support each other, we love each other and we talk to each other. In basketball, we’ve been successful so far, and we’re doing well right now. And we’re having a great time playing sports and chilling with friends. .
Off the track, teammates are hitting hard in the books to stay on top of the marks for participation in their UIL sports.
For Colby Babb, it’s all about math. Dublon loves English. Hoffpauir loves science.
“I love Special Olympics, if that’s a topic,” Fontenot said, adding that he enjoys learning about history.
But it’s more than power and performance for the Unified Track team.
“It impacted my life,” Babb said. “I have more friends. We had more people at Special Olympics, so I’m grateful for our sport.
Dublon, who joined last year during the trail, echoed those statements.
“I saw the friendships I made and the impact I had on the lives of others. I love seeing the happiness on their faces and knowing that I was doing more than I did in school,” she said. “It’s an organization I never thought I would be in, but I love it. I like being here. It’s usually something that’s hard for people to understand. But once you get there, you learn about the kids and you get to know how each of them acts. It’s a truly amazing experience to see what everyone can do and what everyone is capable of.