By NEIL PIERSON
Medical Lake track and field coach Phil Tennison has a lot to be excited about this season.
Four athletes with state meet experience return to guide the boys team. The girls team has doubled in size, with 25 athletes figuring to see varsity action. And while there's a host of new faces on both squads, Tennison sees plenty of athleticism and resilience that could pay off for the Cardinals.
Junior Ty Souders returns in the 400 meters, where he finished fourth in the state last season. Perhaps the boys' best all-around athlete, Souders will also be a big part of the 400-meter and 1,600-meter relay teams and figures to run both hurdling events as well.
Senior David Jacob, a two-time state participant, highlights the long-distance events. In 2006, he was fourth in the mile run and sixth in the 800 meters at state. He'll also be part of the 4x400 squad and run the two-mile race on occasion, Tennison said.
Injuries cost Daryl Stolworthy spots at state in the last two seasons, but the senior is healthy this spring and looking to end his high school career in style. Along with running the 100 and 400 sprint events, both hurdling events and both relays, he's the team's top long jumper.
Josh Thompson had a breakout effort last year, qualifying for the state high jump event as a freshman. He also figures into the middle-distance lineup and led the team with a 133-foot, 5-inch toss in the javelin at last Thursday's season-opening jamboree.
The boys have depth in the sprints, though everyone besides Souders and Stolworthy are unproven. Freshmen Matthew Friddle, Conrad Quinn and Zachary Wilson, sophomores Ladarrious Costict and Kevin Ramson, junior Steve Chartz and seniors Luke Garza and Nathan Jones all figure into the mix.
Tennison also likes what he sees from freshman Jarrod Swanson, who recorded a team-best time in the 100 meters (12.0 seconds) last Thursday.
Other long-distance runners are freshmen Jordan Jacob, Sean Lane and Zach Empkey, sophomores Brett Buntin and Sam Daly, and senior Jordan Hogan.
Junior Jordan Mueller is coming along quickly in the hurdles and should have the team's top times in the 110- and 300-meter events. Costict, Souders, Stolworthy and junior Josh Yoder will also be in the picture.
Senior Joe Hinson has shown improvement in the shot put and javelin, and could be the team's best thrower in 2007. Juniors Joe Davison and Phillip Provoncha, along with Quinn and Lane, fill out the throwers lineup.
While Thompson is ML's only serious competitor in the high jump, Stolworthy, Swanson and Ramson should all get chances in the long and triple jumps.
Junior Shane Forrester came on strong in the pole vault last year, with Chartz and Hinson also trying the event for the first time.
No one on the girls team has previous state experience, though that figures to change in 2007. Senior Ally Ganyo might have the best chance to break ML's drought, having run solid early times in the mile and 300-meter hurdles.
The sprint events figure to be wide open. Freshmen Lauren Allgood, Michelle Chartz, Ashlee Davis and Kaitlin McNeill, sophomores Cassie Litzinger, Mary Millyard, Marissa Propeck and Angela Storme, and junior Randi Ruggles are battling for spots at the moment.
Tennison hasn't set lineups for the relays yet.
“In the relays, we're just trying to see who's compatible with each other,” he said.
Ganyo has set a blistering pace for the other girls to follow in the mile. Other middle- and long-distance runners are freshman Madelynn Tapken, sophomore Kolette Lowe, juniors Whitney Barth, Jessica Klesh, Paige Mahoney and Amber Mulhern, and senior Heather Mulhern.
Senior Sierra Kent returns in the 100-meter high hurdles, backed up by Allgood, Davis and freshman Danielle Pruchnic.
“Allgood's just a freshman so she needs to work on her power, but she has excellent technique,” Tennison noted.
Kent also had a good start to the year in the triple jump, with sophomore Kelly Alderman backing her up and leading the way in the long jump.
Propeck has already cleared 4-10 in the high jump, with McNeill trying to work her way into better position.
Throwing events are where the girls team is most raw.
Freshman Emily Pake has “excellent power and determination,” Tennison said, but needs to work on technique. Sophomores Kristen Kottwitz and Melissa Vincent, as well as Lowe and Ruggles, will also try to find a niche.
The team has four athletes trying the pole vault.
Kottwitz is the most experienced, with Heather Mulhern, junior Marleen Vonderheiden and senior Melinda Viol also plugging away.
Perhaps the thing that impresses Tennison the most about this year's squads is the level of discipline and willingness to learn.
“All the kids that are out there are great kids,” he said.
Neil Pierson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org