This time around, both schools will once again have competitive teams.
The Lady Grizzlies will have a new coach in Blake Bearden, who is taking over for the husband-and-wife coaching duo of Tom and Connie Armstrong. For Creekview, that’s not the only thing changing, as the Lady Grizzlies will have to get past plenty of change in the team’s roster as well.
“It’s great. I can’t wait to see how we do,” said Bearden, who was on the Armstrongs’ staff as a distance coach. “We have a lot of new kids. The program is changing a good bit. It’s just going to be exciting to see what happens. I’m fairly confident we will make an appearance at the state meet this year.
“In track, you don’t go as a team, but we have several individuals that have the talent to get there.”
Creekview does have several key returners who will lead the team.
Junior Anna Dunn leads the Lady Grizzlies in the pole vault, and will also contribute in the 400-meter dash and 1,600 relay. This year, Dunn has already put in a mark of 10 feet, 6 inches in the pole vault and, according to Bearden, that mark was the winning height in last year’s Class AAAA state championship.
Along with Dunn, the Creekview girls have a number of talented distance runners held over from the Lady Grizzlies’ cross country team. Those include juniors Nicole Smith and Rachel Dorris, both of whom will focus on the 1,600 and 3,200 runs.
Smith was able to finish the 3,200 in 11:48 at both the county and state championship last year. In a season-opening tri-meet against River Ridge and Sequoyah, she ran 11:50.
“It’s exciting that she is already within 2 seconds of her (personal record),” Bearden said.
For Woodstock, youth will also be an issue, though the strength of its team also comes from its distance runners.
“We’re a young team, still learning what we’re best at,” coach Kirk Scharich said. “We’re trying to find out what they can be best at, but they are willing to learn and work hard. By county, we should be ready to go. And three weeks after that, we should be ready for region. I think we will be a little bit better than last year.”
Senior Meagan Anstett broke the school record in the 800-meter in the Lady Wolverines’ first meet of the season. Sophomore Morgan O’Toole, freshman Alexander Melahan and junior Keaton Wallace will all focus on the 1,600 and 3,200 runs.
“We have a good cross country team,” Scharich said, “and my team is big scorers. We’ve gotten pretty strong, too, in (distance), which is where most of our points will come from.”
The Lady Wolverines also have one of the best hurdlers in the county in Maya Ramsey. Last year, Ramsey was a state-qualifier in the 100 hurdles, and she won that event, as well as the 200 dash, at the county meet.
In the 300 hurdles, Amanda Buckles, the school record-holder, is another potential state-qualifier.
Additionally, Woodstock will get help from its basketball team, as junior Makensie Block will run the 800, while Bri Lakes will attempt to qualify for state in both the discus and shot put.
River Ridge didn’t have any state-qualifiers last season, but the Lady Knights are still expecting to contend in Region 7AA this year with their added growth and maturity.
“This is our year,” coach Barry Lakes said. “I think we can compete for the region — if not the title, then second or third. It’s not about winning first or second, but I think we have quite a few kids that will get points for me. I’m looking forward to it.”
River Ridge will be led by its standout sprinters, including Emma Burke and Raquel Edwards. Burke nearly reached state in the 100 hurdles, while Edwards narrowly missed in the 100 and 200 dash.
In field events, sophomore Michelle Friesz leads the team at triple jump, while Jordan Livesay, back from her duties with the basketball team, missed out on reaching state in discus last year after qualifying as a freshman.