SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS - The Reagan
girls track and field team has been one of the top programs in San Antonio. The
Lady Rattlers have won the last six district titles and the last four Region
IV-6A titles. Last week, I had the opportunity to interview team leaders and
the head coach Jennifer McHugh to find out how they prepare for the
The Rattlers are once again favored to win the District 28-6A title and will be among the favorites for the Regional title. "We definitely feel the pressure now that it is championship season to try to uphold what the girls before us have done and to uphold that legacy," said senior Allie Snelgrove.
McHugh had a little different take, "I don't think it is added pressure necessarily, I think there is expectation of pursuing our best and meeting our potential," she said. "Every year is different. We are a very process-oriented team."
McHugh and her coaching staff try to get the team to focus on executing the little things that will help in their individual events. They know if the athletes focus on doing things correctly, that over time they will build into a team that can be in the championship conversation. "Just to have the opportunity and the privilege to be out on the track and be in these girls' lives at this time in their lives is a privilege," said McHugh.
This year's team has three outstanding relay squads along with excellent individuals in nearly every event. They boast the top hurdler in Region IV-6A in Isabella Dagrosa as well as top 200m/400m sprinters, Mackenzie Dagrosa and Josephine Zink. Their distance group is led by Kira Dietrich who is seeded as the top 3200m runner in the district. Mariana Salazar is the top shot putter in the district and the Dagrosa sisters are also outstanding jumpers.
After speaking with five seniors on the team; Snelgrove, Bailey Akers, Zink, Kayla Beach, and Jody Van Horn, I began to understand that two of the main things that make the Reagan program so good year after year is that the girls on the team have respect for each other and they give great effort individually to help the team. The team also holds each other to a high standard in workouts and one of the most important things according to Akers is being able to say, "Walk off the track being a better person than when you walked on the track."
Snelgrove did the best job of explaining why and how the Rattlers continue to perform at a high level and have few let downs. "Coach (McHugh) only asks us to do the best that we can do. This race isn't everything as long as I do my very best."
Van Horn said, "Pressure is a privilege."
McHugh reiterated the same thing that Van Horn said when I talked with her by saying that the quote was the team's mantra. "We do not look at pressure as a bad thing," said McHugh. "We look at pressure as something that is refining and defining us. We try to put ourselves in pressure rich situations even before we start competing just to be able to feel that feeling of stress and nervousness, so we know how to manage and deal with it."
Beach spoke at length in her interview about always being calm and relaxed when she competes. This likely comes from the confidence that the team gains throughout their practice sessions and meets. The team does a lot of visualization to mentally practice what they will do in stressful situations. Beach can take the nervousness and stress of competition and is able to problem solve to find the best way for her to succeed, something that McHugh encourages and tries to instill in all her girls.
While the Reagan program is known from the outside for some of the outstanding athletes that have come through the program like Jasmine Montgomery (now at Florida) and Taylen Wise (now at Arizona), McHugh's emphasis is on helping the girls to develop as a whole person and be ready for life after high school. The coach's focus has been instilling character and developing confident and driven young women while trying to help them be the best they can in track and field.
The focus for McHugh and the rest of the program is on the team. They believe that building the legacy of success cannot happen unless everyone is focused on the team rather than themselves. The big idea that McHugh and a few of the girls mentioned to me was that they wanted to, "deflect praise and give credit to others to highlight the contribution of another person."
I only think that the Rattlers will win District 28-6A and likely win the Region again. However, I am confident that the team will put their best foot forward and that the girls on the team will be supporting each other whole-heartedly.
I have noticed that the team generally performs their best during the championship season and McHugh had one final thought, "The idea of being process-oriented helps because we never say, 'you got to win,' said the coach. "We just say, 'what do you have to do in this moment to ensure that you are putting yourself in the best possible position?'"
McHugh would never say she thought her team were the favorites, but practices what she preaches when she says there are "a lot of great teams around doing wonderful things."
I would expect nothing less.