Improvement is always a relative term in track and field: Did you improve your time? Your place? Your standing relative to your league or the state at large?
What's not up for debate, though, is that Liberty's girls track and field team improved by any measure. And for that, second-year Patriots coach Ryan Renz is The Californian's Coach of the Year.
Renz, who manages the whole program but specializes in sprints, hurdles and relays, oversaw the breakout year from star sophomore Morganne Hill and a 1,600-meter relay team that started out average and became a state-medal contender by year's end, placing third in the section and 14th in the state in 3:54.04.
"I just think these kids really bought in," said Renz, who previously coached at Centennial. "Kaulyn (Lee-McNeill, a 2012 graduate) really taught Morganne how to train, and then Morganne being the leader she is, her attitude was kind of infectious. The other kids said, 'Hey, we can do something special.'"
As a team, Liberty placed fifth in the section, the highest among Kern County teams.
Elsewhere, junior Rae Blansett became a state finalist in the discus and several young stars, like freshman sprinters R Leesha Gooden and Jasemine Green and sophomore jumper Marissa Brown, emerged.
"We have some very good assistant coaches who did a great job behind the scenes," Renz said. "We kept working each week, we got faster and stronger, and we were fortunate to have this happen."
-- ZACH EWING