By VINCE PELUSO
It should be another interesting season of girls track in 2013.
The Pymatuning Valley Lakers will look to finally knock off Maplewood for the Northeastern Athletic Conference crown for the first time in four years, while the Grand Valley Mustangs have similar ideas.
Independents Conneaut and Edgewood look to have extremely talented and deep rosters, albeit young ones.
Geneva looks to kick the injury bug that plagued it last year and move to the head of the Premier Athletic Conference.
Meanwhile, Madison and it’s expanding program and Riverside both look to challenge for the top of the Premier Athletic Conference.
Lakeside hopes to figure in that mix as well as it has a nice blend of youth and veterans.
Jefferson returns much of its talent and will look to improve in its second year in the All-American Conference
The following is a breakdown of each team in the Star Beacon’s coverage area and how each coach feels about the 2013 season:
Spartans coach Mike Trinko returns for his 16th year as coach of Conneaut and will lead a young, but talented group of Spartans this season.
Trinko knows he has plenty of youth, but likes what he sees.
“We have a strong group of sophomores and a few talented freshmen this year to build on along with some very good returning upperclassmen letterwinners,” he said. “We still need to stay healthy because of small overall numbers but look forward to seeing how this group develops.”
While he has a strong group of underclassmen, Conneaut returns plenty of upperclassmen led by five seniors — Sierra Ford (sprints), Kayla Ingram (jumps), Mikahla Passmore (sprints), Rebecca Tisdale (distance) — and juniors Brooke Bennett (middle distance-jumps) and Jessica Lynch (distance).
Like all spring sports at the moment, Trinko said his team is looking forward to getting outside.
“Been a hard spring so far and can’t wait to get outside,” he said. “We are looking forward to a great year!”
Supplementing the upperclassmen are six sophomores who lettered last year — Angela Cole (throws), Keeley Cole (middle distance-distance), Casey Gurto (hurdles), Kira Hall (middle distance-distance), Alexi Millard (distance), McKenzie Powell (sprints) — as well as a trio of freshmen Trinko believes can contribute in Taqylor Gritzer (jumps-sprints), Kaity Poff (sprints-hurdles) and Jessica Thompson (distance).
The Spartans still have no conference to contend in, but Trinko said they’ll work to be running their best times at the end of the season.
“No conference so we are aiming toward peaking at the all-county meet and district meet and hopefully, beyond!” he said.
Much like Conneaut, the Warriors, under first-year coach Beth Simpson, will have a roster full of youth.
“Out of the 42 girls on the outdoor team this year, I have three seniors and three juniors!” Simpson said. “I am extremely excited that I have a strong freshmen class with a ton of talent and potential joining my hard working, dedicated sophomores and led by my outstanding juniors and seniors.”
Returning upperclassmen for Edgewood are seniors Allison Hazy (long jump-sprints), Dravyn Tacket (long jump-sprints), Keegan McTrusty (distance) and juniors Autumn Hull (hurdles), Cortney Humphrey (throws) and Jasmine Schiedel (middle distance).
Joining them will be five returning sophomores — Emily Amsdell (middle distance), Michelle Gaggiano (sprints), Kirstyn Ecklund (sprints), Cortney Styzej (sprints) and Jillian Dick (throws).
After a strong indoor season throughout the winter, Simpson likes the start her team is off to in the spring.
“In the first two weeks of outdoor season already I have come to rely on my seniors and juniors to help guide and inspire this young team,” she said. “Through shared trust and clear communication I hope to take this dedicated and diligent group of true warriors toward our common goals of breaking records and becoming champions.”
Back for his ninth season at the helm, coach Bobby McQuoid will look to guide his Eagles to the top of the PAC.
After a second-place finish in the conference last year, McQuoid knows what the key will be for Geneva.
“A key will be to stay healthy!” he said. “If we stay healthy, I believe we have a great group of upper classmen that have some serious goals this season. Add some very talented freshmen and sophomores and I believe that this season could be very fun and very successful!”
Back for the Eagles are seniors Lyndsey Armstrong (hurdles), Sarah Cooper (throws), Cami Dodge (distance), Emily O’Dell (middle distance), Natalie Thomas and juniors Hailey VanHoy (middle distance) and Abby Williams (middle distance-high jump).
Also back is a talented group of juniors in Catherine Beisel (distance), Rachel Crites (distance), Emily Deering (middle distance), Riley Doherty (middle distance-jumps), Julia Hanchosky (distance) and Rachel Harrington (sprints-pole vault).
McQuoid acknowledges that the PAC is a difficult conference to contend with and believes there are plenty of teams who will battle for a title.
“The PAC is usually a tough conference,” he said. “Chardon has a very strong program with some very talented young ladies. They always seem to be at the top. Riverside has been tough the past few years and Madison always has large numbers, with some talented ladies as well.
“The PAC competition should be good and the PAC meet should be another exciting one as well.”
The Mustangs and coach Kurtis Fisher will have a young, inexperienced squad for the 2013 season.
But, that doesn’t mean it won’t be successful.
Back are seniors Brady Nye (throws), Kelly Preske (sprints) and Melissa Slusher.
Fisher considers the sprints the strength of his team featuring juniors Callie Forrest, Chelsea Stehlik and sophomore Kayla Novello. Also returning are junior distance runners Holly Nye and Tylor Whitely.
“Again, we are very young and success will depend on how well the young kids develop,” Fisher said. “We have core leadership back and that will help. I look forward to a great season.
“Our strength will be in the sprints again this year.”
As far as the Northeastern Athletic Conference is concerned, Fisher just wants to contend with the top teams.
“I see Maplewood, PV, Mathews and Bristol to be strong again,” he said. “I hope to be competitive with them and see where we end up.”
The Falcons and coach Steve Locy return a large group of athletes who lettered last year, particularly in the sophomore class.
Jefferson has seven returning sophomores — Shannon Bertone (sprints), Hannah Cole (middle distance), Haley Allen (high jump), Shannon Perkins (middle distance), Delaney Gianantonio (distance), Jessica Stranman (distance) and Morgan Titus (sprints).
Locy knows his team needs to stay healthy to be successful.
“As always staying healthy (is a key),” he said, “and having the girls believe and work up to their potential.
“We have a nice mixture of veterans and new comers which should provide for some excitement.”
Also back for the Falcons are seniors Sara Jeppenson (sprints), Leanne Farr (throws), Telsa Stone (sprints) and juniors Kaydee Divivo (pole vault), Taylor Johnston (middle distance), Colleen O’Connor (distance) and Sara Brook (throws).
After a sixth place finish in the challenging All-American Conference, Locy hopes his team will improve upon that finish this season.
“Girard and Lakeview are always very tough,” he said. “(We’re) looking to move up from sixth place finish from last year. Running great competition in the league will hopefully help us in postseason events.”
Dragons coach Christina Powers returns for her second season at Lakeside with a young roster.
The Dragons have 23 underclassmen with four returning letter winners in sophomores Carli Watt, Alexis Benedict, Abby Licate and Megan Abrams.
Powers feels that based off her first season, the program is headed in the right direction.
“We still have a young team this year with a lot of new talent to pull from and our experience in distance will be beneficial,” she said. “Last year’s foundation will be used to build upon this year and we hope to see great improvement from last year.”
Also returning for Lakeside are seniors Kristen Berus, Jennifer Schwentker and juniors Katie Allan, Aaliyah Allgood and Karen Barrientos.
The Dragons finished third at the county meet last year and Powers would like to see her team improve upon that finish.
She also looks to contend in the PAC, as well.
“We hope to improve our standing in the conference this year,” she said. “We would also like to improve upon our third place finish in the county.
“In order to do this we need to work as a team, train well and remain healthy throughout the year.”
Back for her fourth season with the Blue Streaks, coach Kelly Chandler is excited about the growth of her program.
“Our team has over doubled in size since last year,” she said. “We’re working on building depth and filling quality relays. We’ll have individual standouts in most running events.”
Back for Madison are seniors Annette Brickman (distance), Katarina Funk (distance), Erin Hord (distance) and juniors Julie Gavorski (throws), Sarah Iannini (distance) as well as sophomores Chanel Crawford (sprints), Rachel Baird (middle distance), Sydney Ball (distance), Ashley Duthie (middle distance-long jump).
Field events will be key for Chandler.
“Our weakness lies in our field events,” she said. “We have many talented freshmen working to fill our gaps to make us a more well-rounded team. 40 of our 50 athletes are freshmen and sophomores, so we are a very young team.”
Crawford returns as a regional qualifier and three upper classmen in distance events ran well during cross country season.
“We have our returning regional qualifier (as a freshmen) Chanel Crawford and our distance team is still on a runner’s high from qualifying to regionals in cross country,” she said. “(The) throwers will be a very talented young group as well.”
As far as the PAC is concerned, Chandler hopes for a top finish this season.
“Our team goal is top three (and) I think this is very attainable,” she said. “Chanel Crawford, our throwers, distance team and freshmen surprises will score well at the PAC.
“I’ve certainly never had a more motivated and hardworking group of girls.”
Heading into his third year with the Lakers, coach Rob Palma has a young with no returning, senior letterwinners.
But that doesn’t mean PV is devoid of talent.
Back are juniors Geena Gabriel (long jump-sprints) and Savannah Kirby (sprints-high jump) and sophomores Rebecca Dillon (distance), Abby Hamilton (distance) and Hannah Wonderling (sprints).
Gabriel is a key piece for Palma’s squad.
“Geena Gabriel is the workhorse of the team,” he said. “I can put her in any event and she will place. If everyone hits their peak at the right time we have a chance to win every meet we enter.”
Palma also has three seniors — Ally Workman (distance-jumps), Erin Fetter (distance-jumps) and Morgan Shreves (discus).
Effort and health are key for Palma.
“Every day we are looking for the girls to give great effort, have a positive attitude and show toughness,” he said. “We have 25 girls on the team this year and if we can stay healthy I am expecting great things.”
Competing the NAC, a conference Maplewood has won the past four years, Palma knows what he’s up against.
But, his Lakers finished second last season and he believes they’re ready to take the next step and win.
“The NAC is a very competitive conference in track,” he said. “The pressure is on Maplewood to repeat. They have won the conference the past four years. PV is on the verge of winning a title this year.
“We will be a balanced team that can compete in every event. Badger and Lordstown are two other teams that are very talented and will do well this season.”
In her first year with the Beavers, coach Ellen McKenrick has a veteran group that looks to be very competitive in 2013.
““This is a very hard working group of athletes,” she said. “They are focused on their goals and very determined to reach them.”
Back are seniors Jakie Antauk (throws), Danielle Kokal (middle distance), Margaret Liberatore (sprints-long jump), Taylor Strauss.
Also returning are juniors Julia Krauss (distance), Stephanie Page (distance), Melissa Rodenald (throws), Stefanie Tsengas (sprints), Jasmine Dunningan (sprints) and a pair of sophomores — Jenni Licis (sprints) and Melissa Prileson (sprints-hurdles).
Despite declining numbers, McKenrick believes her team will contend with Chardon for a PAC title.
“I think Chardon is going to be the team to go after,” she said. “We are going to be very competitive with them.
“Our numbers are down, but we have hard working, dedicated, quality kids out on our team.”