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Brandon Molina hadn’t coached girls in several years, but he had no reservations when he was suddenly tabbed as Sam Houston’s interim girls track coach shortly before the season.
Molina was about to start his second season as the Hurricanes’ baseball coach when the candidate to replace longtime girls track coach Michael Davis, who retired after the 2017 season, resigned in mid-January. SAISD athletic director Brian Clancy and assistant AD Barbara Wise, who oversees the district’s track programs, were aware Molina had coached Highlands boys track for six years.
He never actually applied for the interim job.
“Barbara Wise knew my background in track and talked to our principal (Dr. Mateen Diop),” Molina explained.
Subsequently, Molina was asked by Sam Houston football coach/athletic coordinator Melton Schultz how he felt about the potential development.
“I said track was really my second sport after football, so I don’t have a problem with it,” Molina recalled. “The next morning, our principal sent an e-mail sent to our entire campus, saying I would be the girls track coach.”
Molina hadn’t coached girls sports since 2003, when he was basketball and soccer coach at Heritage Middle School in East Central’s district. Molina said he knew some of the Hurricanes team members only on a “high-five basis” — he congratulated them after they’d done well in other sports.
“(The administration) knew we had some pretty good girls,” Molina said. “So they started moving on it pretty quickly.”
With some key track athletes competing in girls basketball, it took a while to get the program rolling. For example, he didn’t put together relay teams until just before the District 27-5A meet. But results became tangible thereafter.
The Hurricanes held off Alamo Heights to win the district title 149 points to 145.
“Going into the second day, we were 30 points behind Alamo Heights. A couple girls thought we didn’t have a chance,” Molina said. “I told the girls, ‘If you see Alamo Heights girls in front of you, you have to beat them.’
“Walking off that bus, they believed.”
Sam Houston placed fourth in the 27-5A/28-5A area meet and fifth in the Region IV meet. The 800-meter relay team of junior basketball standout Khadija Derry, senior Aujayana Williams, sophomore Ariyana Winfrey and junior Sauda Shannon qualified for state.
“If Brandon wouldn’t have coached those girls,” Schultz said, “we wouldn’t have won district. He brought a different mentality and set of expectations to the track.”
Molina won’t be back for an encore.
He was hired by Harlandale as a football defensive coordinator and track assistant coach for 2019-20 at the end of the just-completed school year. Molina had been the offensive coordinator on Schultz’s staff for the past two seasons, but previously was defensive coordinator at Highlands and sought to return to that role.
“Defense pulled on my heartstrings,” Molina said.
Molina confirmed Cheryl Fernandez has been hired to coach the Hurricanes in girls track and cross country next year. She’ll also be girls athletic coordinator.
In addition to the sprint relay teams, the Hurricanes will return key contributors Kiree Turbin, Aniya Davis and Tyinesha Wilson.
“The relationships we built from everything we went through were very important to me,” Molina said. “We got the best out of them we could. But you don’t do that without talent.
“They’ll have a great team next year, with almost everybody coming back.”
If Molina had returned to Sam Houston, he would have coached baseball.