Despite youth and inexperience, head coach Tom Stralser believes the Blackhawks have the talent to be competitive
Despite being the smallest of the top four schools, with seven competitors, the Cheney High girls' track and field team missed a second-place finish at last year's 2A state meet by half a point.
Five of those seven have moved on, four due to graduation, so it would be understandable for Blackhawks' head coach Tom Stralser to view the coming 2014 campaign as a rebuilding year. If one thought that way, one would be wrong.
"I'm pleasantly surprised," Stralser said Monday after the season's first two meets. "I think we may have reloaded in one way or another."
The Blackhawks return two placers from last year's state competition: senior Kinsey Pease who was sixth in her first state appearance in the javelin at 117 feet, 5 inches, and senior Johanna Sherman who ran the second leg of the second-place 4x200 relay team that posted a season best time of 1 minute, 42.82 seconds. Stralser believes Pease could throw 140 feet this year while Sherman will again play key roles in several relay teams and in the sprints.
In fact, Stralser believes his young team - two-thirds of the 55 girls out are freshmen or sophomores - will do well in the sprints, relays, throws and horizontal jumps. It's all a matter of figuring out the best events for athletes that will help the team overall, especially in larger meets.
Ali Jones, Kendyl Cone, Savannah Hyde, Katie and Kristie McGourin and Kelsey Schwendiman along with Sherman will all have scoring opportunities in any combination of the 100-, 200- and 400-meter sprints. Schwendiman and Shannen Gladden will compete in the 800 and 1,600 along with Karli Eaker, with Eaker and the Brooks sisters - freshmen Alexis and Alecia - handling duties in the 3,200.
From this group, along with others, Stralser believes they can put together two really good, competitive relay teams and possibly a third. That possibility showed last Saturday at the West Valley Invitational where Cheney's 4x200 finished second behind Lewis and Clark and the 4x400 third behind LC and Mt. Spokane.
Schwendiman and Hyde will compete in the triple jump along with freshmen Katie Skillingstad and possibly Cone, Amanda Denny and freshman Harley Moore. Hyde might also add the long jump.
In the pole vault, Stralser believes junior Jamie Bradley is capable of going 10-06, and with be joined by Brittany Meyer and Brooklyn Spencer. Pease and her sister Rylie will compete in the javelin, with Kinsey Pease will also compete in the high jump along with junior Kayla Lemlin.
Marrisa Hunley, Sasha Johnson and Hailey Ottosen have been consistent performers in the shot and discus, and Stralser thinks they are on the cusp of moving into the upper echelons of their events.
"It's only a matter of time before they put it all together," he said.
Despite outside activities limiting some of the performances, the Blackhawk girls' scored 42 points to finish seventh overall last Saturday at West Valley. In the field, Kinsey and Rylie Pease placed second and third in the javelin, Bradley and Meyer fifth and eighth in the pole vault and Lemlin in a three-way tie for sixth in the high jump.
On the track, Sherman was fourth in the 100-meter hurdles and Schwendiman was sixth in the 800. The 4x100 relay team finished 10th.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.