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While the ominous specter of an ongoing drawdown spreads across most of DODDS-Europe, Wiesbaden appears to be bucking the trend.

“The hallways are a lot more packed, there are a lot more people in the classrooms,” Wiesbaden junior DeQuan Reed said. “Everything is just growing here.”

That includes the rosters — and as a result, the European championship aspirations — of the Warriors athletic programs.

In DODDS-Europe, sustained sports success has traditionally emanated from the size of a school’s student body. A larger school population yields a larger talent base: statistically, there are more likely to be 11 serviceable soccer players in any group of 500 than a group of 50. And while some schools are forced to recruit and cajole to fill out minimum rosters, large schools can deploy the motivating factors of tryouts, roster cuts and competition for prominent roles on the team, ultimately fielding lineups of tested and proven performers prodded season-long by capable backups.

That’s exactly what it is going on at Wiesbaden.

The headquarters of U.S. Army Europe is in the final stages of moving from Heidelberg to Wiesbaden, bringing a steady influx of new faces into what was a fringe Division I track program. The school’s opening-day population of 415 has grown to 556 at the end of April. That’s still far short of its largest Division I opponents: Ramstein opened its doors with 931 students, while Patch welcomed 791 and Kaiserslautern 725. But Wiesbaden’s upward trajectory — primarily at the expense of storied Heidelberg, which will close its doors for good at school year’s end — bodes well for the program’s future, both immediate and long-term.

“The biggest thing is the growth of the school,” Warriors track and field coach Larry Chavez said. “With numbers comes success.”

Chavez’s program is an ideal case sample.

In 2012, his first year as Warriors head coach, the Wiesbaden boys finished fifth and the girls finished sixth at the European championships. The Warriors boys and girls combined to collect 57 points at the two-day event.

Things have changed in 2013.

Since a convoluted season-opening make-up meet April 3 and a long intermission for spring break, Wiesbaden has enjoyed two confidence-boosting meets. The Warriors edged Ramstein in boys and girls team competition April 20, and beat out area rivals Patch and Heidelberg on April 27.

Chavez credits the success to a larger contingent of athletes – he has 80 this year as compared to last year’s group of 45.

“We feel very privileged to have these types of numbers,” Chavez said. “You have more options when it comes to track meets.”

Even more encouraging, he added, the program’s ascent has become self-perpetuating.

“With the success we’re starting to see on the track,” Chavez said, “more and more athletes want to be part of the program.”

That’s just fine with the established leaders of the track team, stalwart athletes who have headlined the program through lean years and now welcome the reinforcements.

Junior Phylecia Faublas holds the current top marks in Europe for her chosen events, the 100-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles and long jump, and anchors Wiesbaden’s Europe-best 4x100 relay team. She is the reigning DODDS-Europe 100-meter hurdles champ.

But Faublas has noticed the escalating talent around her, and her competitive focus has evolved with it. She’s grown into a leader at practice, ensuring each day that “everybody’s putting in their hardest.” Her goal is no longer just to see how many gold medals she and a handful of elite teammates can swipe from Division I’s top teams — she wants the whole team to experience championship glory.

“People usually look at Wiesbaden as underdogs,” said Faublas, also a member of the Warriors girls basketball team that reached the Division I European championship game in February. “They don’t see much of us or hear a lot about us. We all want our name to be put on the map, pretty much.”

Reed, now in his third year as a centerpiece of the boys program, shares that team-first approach — even when the incoming talent veers into his lane.

Fellow sprinter Anthony Little transferred in after the holiday break. On April 27, Little’s time of 11.48 edged Reed’s 11.66 for first place in the 100-meter dash.

“Back when I was a freshman, we didn’t have a lot to choose from. This year I feel our team is really strong,” Reed said. “We push each other, and that gets us ready for the meets when we need to push other teams.

“It’s just the fact that I love competition. We love competition.”

Hopefully, the rest of DODDS-Europe is up for it.

Chavez is quick to manage expectations for this season — he considers the defending champions — the Vilseck boys and Patch girls — the teams to beat, and cites Ramstein and Kaiserslautern as contenders Wiesbaden still needs to hurdle.

But one can witness hundreds of reasons for optimism filling the Wiesbaden hallways every school day.

“If we continue to grow,” Chavez said, “all our programs at Wiesbaden High School should improve.”

broome.gregory@stripes.com Twitter: @broomestripes


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