It’s never hard to find Steve Carson at a track meet.
The Chandler boys track coach isn’t one to be down along the fence, shouting encouragement or giving last-second coaching tips. No, Carson likes to perch himself on the top row of the bleachers and let his athletes do their thing.
“It’s a great view from up there,” Carson said.
Beginning today, Carson will be in his familiar perch as the 2012 Arizona track and field state championships begin at Mesa Community College. This year will be Carson’s final state meet as head coach of the Wolves, a team he has guided to four state championships since he took over in 1997.
“This year is going to have a little more meaning for me,” said Carson, who will retire after the end of the season. “I’m excited for Chandler’s chances, both boys and girls. There are going to be some historical times.”
Carson’s teams were state champs in 2001, 2005, 2006 and 2010, more state titles since 2000 than any other large school boys programs in the state. Chandler Valley Christian has won seven during that span.
“In this decade, we have been the dominant program,” said Carson, whose teams finished second at state in 2007, 2009 and 2011. “With Desert Vista and Mountain View and now Brophy, we’ve had some great competitions.
“But I’ve had 35 years of coaching, so it’s time to step down. I’ll still put in my two-cents, though.”
Carson said he had planned on retiring last year, but the way the season finished compelled him to stick it out for one more year. The Wolves were runners-up last year to Brophy, just four points behind the Broncos. The loss stung even more since Chandler had its 4x400-meter relay team (which finished second) disqualified for throwing the baton after the race.
If the Wolves are going to send Carson off into retirement with a championship, a lot of the responsibility will fall on the broad shoulders of four athletes: Travis Colby, Shawn Collins, Dominic Nappe and Ryan Knapik.
Chandler, always known for its sprinters and jumpers in boys and girls, has developed one of the top group of throwers in the state. In the shot put finals on Wednesday, Chandler will have four of the top nine seeds, while in Saturday’s discus competition, Colby (with a throw of 171-feet, 3 inches) and Collins (169-7) are ranked 1-2 coming in, with six feet separating them and the rest of the field.
Collins has the top shot put effort on the team at 58-8 1/2, behind only Desert Vista’s Dylan Fischer (60-6 1/2). Nappe has the fifth-best throw in Division I at 57-1, followed by Colby at 56-8. Knapik is seeded at No. 9 entering the meet at 54-7 1/2.
“That’s where the competition lies, it’s between our own throwers,” Carson said. “They are friends, but the competitive environment when you have some of the best throwers on one team, it’s crazy. It goes as far as when they take practice throws. No one wants to finish second or third.”
Based solely on qualifying marks entering the state meet, the Chandler boys are the favorites to win. If the Wolves can meet expectations in the shot put and discus, that will put them in the driver’s seat.
“We were very disappointed last year,” said Carson, whose throwers managed only 15 points at the state meet a year ago. “They didn’t come through for us like they should have, but this year, there shouldn’t be a letdown there.”