All four of their all-county selections from last spring are back — senior Allison Gulnac (hurdles), juniors Casey Arnone (middle distance) and Renee Barnes (middle distance) and sophomore Julia Price (distance). They also have sophomore sprinter Lauren Johnson, who won a 1A indoor state title in the 300 this year, and senior Kaelii Stout, who was the indoor county champ in the 800.
But they’re going to need some help in the field to get back to their state-championship form of 2008-09.
“We’re going to be strong in spots, but we know we have weaknesses we have to fill,” coach John Bailey said. “We’re putting a lot of effort into finding some field-event people. That’s where we’ve lost some points at the bigger meets, and that’s something we have to correct if we want to do well at the end of the season. We’ve got to find field-event points.”
The Leopards have a large team with about 50 girls, including five of their nine all-county selections from last year’s state-championship squad — seniors Jonelle Jerwick (vertical jumps), Sara Rishell (jumps) and Sarah Wren (sprints), junior Lauren Johnson (distance) and sophomore Mia Cardone (sprints).
“We have a lot of new faces, but that’s definitely a nice foundation to build around,” Hood said. “We have to replace a few people so it will be interesting. That’s always the issue when trying to defend the title.”
Senior Jaid Sandeen and sophomores Elizsha Streeter, Hayley Freeman and Kiona Mency teamed up to place second in the 4x200 relay at the 3A indoor state championships last month. Sandeen, who also scored at states in the high jump and pole vault, will also run hurdles this spring.
“I’m really looking for those four to score for us,” coach Dwayne Freeman said. “In indoor, they were 60-70 percent of our points.”
Senior standout Kayla Freeman (sprints, hurdles), who played basketball this winter, also returns to give the Rebels a Big Five.
“The girls will be pretty strong. We’ll be very competitive in the sprints, relays and field events,” Dwayne Freeman said. “Distance is my only concern, but we have some girls who are coming along and developing.”
The Panthers have 46 athletes (23 girls, 23 boys) on their roster — their most in about 30 years.
“We’ve got about 30 to 35 percent of the kids in the school out for track,” coach Jeff Spielman said. “But we really don’t know what to expect until we start the season. It all depends on how much the kids coming back improve and how the new kids step up. Right now, they’re all working.”
Junior Emily Johnson has scored in the 1A 55 hurdles at each of the last two indoor state meets. Senior co-captains Jenna Hull (jumps) and Cortney Golden (relays) have each been on the team for four years.
The young Blazers have less than 20 girls on their roster.
“It’s going to be a struggle. We don’t have any seniors and only a couple of juniors,” coach Doug McBurney said. “Hopefully these younger kids will continue to run track and improve throughout the years.”
While the Blazers lost state-champion thrower Paige Shirk to graduation, they do have junior Tessa Wiles, who was the 1A indoor state runner-up in the shot put last month. Junior Valerie Carey placed fourth in the indoor state high jump.
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