Eschewing the customary ten-practice requirement prior to competition, hundreds of athletes will converge on The Dome Friday and Saturday for track and field events.
Matt Turner, Eagle River High’s returning coach, said the team’s early roster included at many as 35 during opening week over spring break last week.
“But we have 47 on the roster,” he said, noting that a dozen were absent, many out of state, last week. “But we could easily picked up another 20-30 athletes.”
The coach said the team’s numbers have been augmented by incoming freshmen, most out of the Gruening Middle School track program.
“We average about 15-20 freshmen each year,” he said.
The Wolves are loaded with talent, particularly on the girls’ side, with relay teams that placed second in region and fifth at state last year.
“Basically, we lost Scout Warners – that’s about it,” Turner said, proud of the team’s core of middle- and long-distance runners.
Top returners include senior Kate Maker, strong in the 1,600 and 3,200 and a mainstay in the 4X800 relay team; Jordyn Bruce (400, 800, relays) and Nikki Boggs (200, 400, relays).
The boys’ team should also put a good foot forward, looking to match the team’s academic prowess, which included the top grade-point average, to win the ASAA Academic Award last year.
Top athletes include seniors Ed Hall and Pete Kott. Hall is a specialist in field events, namely the shot put and discus, with Kott a burner on the track in both the 100 and 200 meters.
Both are strong components of the team’s relay teams, said Turner.
“We’re looking forward to another great season. We’re looking to continue building the program,” he said, glad to field a coaching staff of teachers in the building, including himself, Valerie Spencer, Kirby Senden and Kelly Heppner.
Distance coach Chris Morhain, a 2004 Chugiak graduate, is the only coach not “in house.”
The Chugiak Mustang track team is under new management, with Melissa Hall taking the reins after two seasons as assistant under Jon Schroeder.
Hall has ample help with four paid staff, including herself; shot and discus coach Roger Spackman, previously a longtime coach at East High; Doug Wall, coaching triple, long and high jump; and Luke Steele, in sprints. Both Wall and Steele are CHS grads, with Steele holding the school’s 100-meter mark. Hall will be coaching the 800m, 1600m and 3200m events.
Hall said she was mindful of stepping into the head position.
“We tried to talk him (Schroeder) into staying at least one more year, but he was eager to enjoy retirement and travel. He’s a tough act to follow,” she said.
Hall said the team currently has 45 on the roster but she hopes for another 20-25 athletes.
“I’m guessing we will balance out at about 70 for the final rosters,” she asserted.
The Mustangs are looking for standout performances from sophomore Ty Jordan, who won the Region IV cross-country title last fall before placing second at state. Hall looks to see Jordan specialize in the 1,600 but also be available for relays events.
Jake Brownlee, a senior, is poised for great results in throwing events this year and performed well in discus at state action last May.
On the girls’ side, Hall highlighted Hannah Babin, Brandy Bookout and Paige Nelson. Nelson, a senior, is strong in the long jump, with juniors Babin and Bookout impressive in hurdles and the 400.
“Overall, we’ve got a great group of returning kids, but we’re very heavy with the younger ones – the majority of our athletes are freshmen and sophomores so I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can develop over the next couple of years,” Hall said.
The first look at both Eagle River and Chugiak programs come early with the district-wide Scramble held at The Dome from 3-7 p.m. Friday and 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday.