Prior to the District 6-4A Track and Field Championships, Cleburne Lady Jacket head coach Richard Naylor was searching for what he called the “X-factor.”

“What we need is someone to step up and surprise us. We need that kind of X-factor if we want to repeat as district champs,” he said.

And although the Lady Jackets didn’t repeat as 6-4A champions, Naylor found that X-factor.

Three versions of it.

Juniors Lisa Jeffcoat and Dannielle Nunley, along with sophomore Lauren Sloan, proved to be valuable assets on the track for the Lady Jackets as all three are qualified for the Region I-4A Meet, which begins Friday at Angelo State in San Angelo.

Jeffcoat, Nunley and Sloan are qualified in a combined six events, with Jeffcoat running the 100-meter dash and opening both of Cleburne’s regional bound relays.

Naylor said Jeffcoat has a great deal of natural ability.

“Lisa has a lot of ability, natural ability,” he said. “She is learning how to use that natural ability and she is getting better and better.”

Jeffcoat has been the second-fastest sprinter in the district the past two years and is key in getting Cleburne out to a fast start in the 400- and 800-meter relays.

“I just try to make up the stagger and get us in first place,” Jeffcoat said. “Everyone is important on a relay, but I just want to get us in a position to win.”

Jeffcoat is excited about the upcoming regional meet and the prospects of running at the state competition.

“This is exciting,” she said. “It would be great to go to state, especially for our seniors.”

Nunley, a three-year member of the varsity squad, is often overshadowed in her events — the 1,600 meters and 3,200 meters.

Why? When it comes to those events, when Cleburne is mentioned, the first name to come to mind is often senior Katie Shaw.

“Nobody ever realizes how much she contributes to our team,” Naylor said. “Dannielle was a huge reason for our success at district. She ran her heart out.”

With Shaw drawing the majority of the headlines, Nunley doesn’t seem to mind going almost unnoticed.

“I know I have the potential to be a good runner and I have to work at it,” she said. “Katie is such a good runner and I know she’s a better runner than me. So I just try to do what I can to help the team.”

On the first day of the district meet, Nunley capped off the 3,200-meter race by finishing fifth.

“I wasn’t happy with the 32,” she said. “So I just tried to do better the next day.”

And she came through in a big way for the Lady Jackets.

On the second lap, she made her way into the runner-up spot behind Shaw and never let up, finishing second and qualifying for regionals.

“I’m really excited about regionals and I want to have fun,” she said. “This is my first time to go to regionals. My third year was the charm.”

Sloan began the 2006 campaign on the varsity team, but found herself on junior varsity about two weeks into the season.

“Lauren has all the ability in the world, but didn’t feel like she belonged on varsity,” Naylor said. “She had set some high goals, and when she didn’t reach them, she got down on herself.”

“I moved down to JV because I needed some confidence,” Sloan said. “I was finishing fourth or fifth and I didn’t like it. I hate to lose.”

But when the district meet came up, Sloan was ready, finishing second in both the 300-meter intermediate hurdles and the 800-meter run.

“I didn’t know what we’d get from her,” Naylor said. “And what we got was a very pleasant surprise. She was always a varsity player, she just had to learn how to compete.”

According to Sloan, she had a lot of fun at the district meet.

“I really felt like I helped the team and I had a lot of fun,” she said. “I got a little confidence and it’s great knowing your among the best in your district.”

Naylor believes the Lady Jackets wouldn’t have been able to do what they did on the second day of the district meet without the contributions of the X-factor trio.

“Without them, we would have never made that charge on the second day,” he said. “They were just tremendous.”



Daniel Green can be reached at 817-645-2441, ext. 2334, or sports@trcle.com

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