CUERO — Victor Mathis overheard some spectators at the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation regional meet in Marble Falls talking about the Cuero athletes participating in the competition.

“One of them said they didn’t know where Cuero was,” Mathis recalled, “but that our kids were really fast.”

Members of the Cuero summer track program were hard not to notice as 38 qualified for the TAAF state meet scheduled for Thursday through Sunday at the Cabaniss Multipurpose Complex in Corpus Christi.

“I think it’s fun and you get to learn new things,” said Jake Janssen, who will be a sixth grader. “This helps you improve and run faster.”

Mathis coached track and field at Cuero High School for over three decades before retiring after the 2015-2016 school year.

He was an assistant coach on the Gobblers’ 1987 state championship team and was the head coach when Cuero won state titles in 2005, 2006 and 2008 and finished as the runner-up in 2007.

Mathis gives much of the credit for the Gobblers’ success in track and field to the summer program.

“All the kids who won state for me, every one of them, did AAU summer track,” he said. “They started young and they stayed with it and they had fun. The workouts in high school were a lot harder, but once they saw the results of working hard, it paid off and they got better.”

The Cuero team missed last season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and moved to the TAAF this summer because the cost of attending AAU meets was prohibitive.

But the program has remained popular with a large number of boys and girls of different ages attending practices, which are held Monday through Wednesday at Gobbler Stadium.

“Sometimes you just have to get out there and work,” said Cydine Johnson, who will be a junior at Cuero. “If you don’t put the work in, you don’t get anywhere. You just have to come out here and run what we run. But it’s fun.”

Layla Lucas, who will be a sixth grader, enjoys running and decided to join the program at the suggestion of her school coaches.

“I’ve been a really good runner since I was like 7,” Lucas said. “My coaches told me to come out since I have a lot of medals from running at school. Sometimes it’s challenging because the other girls are really, really fast. When you run you can’t turn around and look behind you and you can’t look at the ground when you run. You have to stay focused.”

Mathis does his best to teach the fundamentals of running and jumping.

“You have to sit there and convince the kids this is why we’re running this,” he said. “They have to know what it takes to get to the next level. I think that’s the key to any sport. To be able to teach fundamentals, technique and what made my track teams so successful when I was head coach was I had kids 9,10, 11, 12, 13-years old and by the time they got to high school, they already had their form down. All I had to do was basically get them in shape.”

But Mathis knows the most important part of summer track is to have a good time.

“The main thing is to have fun,” he said. “If kids are having fun out there, they are usually going to be successful.”

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Mike Forman is the sports editor of the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or by email at mforman@vicad.com. Follow him on Twitter at @mikeforman21

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Mike Forman is the sports editor of the Victoria Advocate. He has worked at the Advocate since 1982. He has a bachelor's degree from SMU and a master's degree from UCLA.

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