Building Blocks: McKay’s Track Captains Talk Building On The 2019 Season In 2020

In their program history, McKay Track has had four individual state champions: Linda Schill (1999), Kristin Hall (1999), Brooklyn Icalia (2000), and Susannah Philbrick (2013). These four are the highlights of McKay’s track history, which seems to be on a small rise after sending Senior Shay Coons to the state championships in 2019. While we aren’t sure what 2020 holds for anyone around the globe at this moment, three McKay team captains Ximena Nava, Tess Barnett, and Jazmine Liebl talk with Elite Oregon Girls about the Lady Royal Scots, the improvement they’ve seen from last season entering 2020, and talk from their own personal experiences and points of view about themselves as athletes and their fellow teammates…

Building Blocks: Going From 2019 To 2020

As noted above, McKay sent Shay Coons as their lone representative to the state championships last season. With 2020 marking the beginning of a new season and a new decade, Nava, Barnett, and Liebl talk about the team improvements from last year, even with a roster full of newcomers this season. Liebl noted that the newcomers caught her attention during the preseason, “Before everything got shut down, the biggest thing I noticed about our team was all the new people that would need guidance,” Liebl said, “the number of people coming out in the preseason was an improvement from last year and we’re seeing more commitment and dedication.” Barnett reinforced Liebl’s points, discussing the overall commitment shift within the team, “The biggest things I noticed about the team is that they were determined to perform their best not only for themselves but also for the team. We had multiple athletes who were willing to try new events all over the place as well as maintaining their training with their main events.”

Nava believes the cross country season showed how much McKay is capable of accomplishing, “We are definitely coming into this season stronger than last year. I believe one of last year’s biggest challenges for the team was wrapping our heads around the fact that we were now competing against some of the best schools in the state due to the league change. But as this year’s girls cross country team was able prove, McKay High School is capable of qualifying for state despite of our competition.” With a strong team mentality, all three girls discussed their own plans for personal improvement in 2020, as Barnett discussed some mental and medical setbacks from 2019, “My biggest goal as an athlete for this season is to come in stronger physically and mentally than my sophomore season,” Barnett told me, “I had gotten a concussion from wrestling and it was difficult to come back and compete at my fullest potential. I didn’t believe in myself and it really affected my performance.”

Credit: McKay Track and Field

Ximena Nava also went the route of mentality, “I often times allow my thoughts affect my performance. Personally, running is more of a mental challenge than physical; Therefore, my biggest goal for this season is to maintain a positive mindset at all times regardless of the results. For the most part, I was able to accomplish this throughout this previous XC season, and the results are evident.” With this mentality, Nava says, McKay can do great things even against stiff competition, “I believe that if we focus on our training and not allow our competition intimidate us, we will most certainly have a better season than last year.” Liebl rounded out the discussion with her thoughts on not only personal goals, but how McKay becomes more successful in 2020, “My biggest goals this year are succeeding in my events, improving as an athlete, and I also want to have a more positive mindset,” Liebl discussed, “another big goal is to be more of a leader and talk to more people.” Liebl also talked about how McKay needs the push in positivity, noting lack of coaching motivation, “I think we need to spread lots of positivity because its hard to continue pushing ourselves when we aren’t being motivated in person by our coaches.” However, Liebl is confident in McKay’s capabilities as a team, “We need to continue to act as if nothing is in the way of our season, and continue to work hard and stay positive. We have a strong team and I believe in everyone!”

Follow The Leader

Leaders are leaders: With track and field being a sport with many members, its crucial to have team captains and leaders who can serve as a bedrock for such a large team. Ximena Nava, Tess Barnett, and Jazmine Liebl talk about the team leaders and the qualities they possess in those roles. For Nava, she spoke on general terms with the team captains, speaking from her own perspective as a captain, “For the most part, the leaders in our team are the team captains. Our captains can be viewed as an example whom the team can follow, and they can also be referred to when in doubt. Although I am a captain myself, I personally look up to the other team captains and admire every single one of them.” Liebl followed suit with talking on general terms about the leadership, “The leaders of this team are the people selected as captains,” Liebl explained, “those people are selected on their perseverance and hard work. They are strong in those positions because they specialize in their roles, and they radiate positivity to the team.

Credit: McKay Track and Field

Barnett rattled off all the captains by name, but talked again in general terms of what makes them a strong unit, “We have 7 captains this year and they are Andy Nguyen, Zair KuBeiza, Tyler Kynaston, Stephanie Urenda, Jazmine Liebl, Ximena Nava, and finally myself. What makes us so strong as leaders is that each of us are all leaders in different ways. For example, some of us are leaders by example, leaders by just being vocal, or even leaders by being vocal and by example. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and all of us leading together evens all the weaknesses out.”

Athletic Motivation, Advice, and Adversity

Athletes are known in the public eye for being role models: Whether you look up to Simone Biles, Hope Solo, Elena Delle Donne, or whoever, all three of those women are viewed as role models in the eyes of young girls across the nation. So I asked the trio about their biggest motivations as athletes, with Liebl and Nava discussing theirs. Nava took the question to heart, breaking out a passionate response to the inquiry, “I know for a fact that I am not the only athlete who has contemplated on what the results of quitting would look like. Sometimes it is after a really tough day, or sometimes it is even during a workout, but those thoughts are instantly dismissed when I think of my teammates and on the effect that it would have on the team. I can very easily say that my biggest motivation that drives me during my competition is my teammates. There are times when although I know I have a hard work out waiting for me at practice, it is still the thing that I look forward to the most throughout the day because I know that I will have a fun time them.” Liebl went to some personal connection for her motivation, “My motivation in competition is making my parents and coaches proud. I like seeing the joy on their faces when I’m racing and when I’m not racing, and seeing that joy reassures me that I’m not disappointing the people that I love the most.”

McKay lies in an area of Salem that faces regular socioeconomic challenges, bringing financial hardships to many students and families of the school. As a result, many of them face adversity away from school along with their other challenges as students and athletes. Regardless, there are many students in the region that will stay and compete at McKay, so I asked the girls to provide advice for those future Lady Royal Scots. Tess Barnett spoke from her own experiences as an athlete, “My advice to the younger athletes on the team who watch me compete is always believe that you can achieve ANYTHING as long as you have the right mindset. When I was a freshman, I never believed I could be that good at running, and I wasn’t really confident in athletics. My amazing coaches made me realize that I can be any type of athlete I want, and throughout my high school career, I have grown so much when it comes to confidence and I have achieved so much more with my better mindset.”

Credit: McKay Track and Field

Ximena Nava sent out a message of positivity, “A piece of advice that can be applied both on and off the track is to maintain positive mindset. Having a positive approach to things and maintaining a an optimistic attitude makes the difference. Everything has its pros and cons, but we fortunately have the ability to choose what to focus and spend our energy on.” Jazmine Liebl finished it off with encouragement, “I hope the younger people who are able to watch me compete are able to recognize that juggling athletics and school isn’t easy, but it is very much worth it! Despite the challenges, being a student-athlete motivates me to do better academically and helps me to remain optimistic no matter the obstacles thrown at me!”

Credit: McKay Track and Field

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