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Track and field | Bainbridge middle-distance runners lead the pack
Bainbridge track and field begins the season with a star-studded home meet next week.
The Spartans will host Rainier Beach, the defending 3A girls champions, and Lakeside at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Stadium.
Rainier Beach took first in the girls 4x100 and 4x200 meter relays last year, and returns senior Ariele Reeves, who also won the 300-meter hurdles and placed fourth in the 100-meter dash.
The Vikings’ Michael Berry finished first in the 400-meter run and second at 200 meters last year as a junior.
Bainbridge sent six girls to the state meet, and returns its 4x400 meter relay team, which placed third. Pearl Terry, Isabel Ferguson, Courtney Odell and Sylvia Stellmacher set a school record with a time of three minutes, 57 seconds in the final.
Lakeside’s 4x400 relay squad, which placed fourth last year, also returns this season.
“I would like our 400 (relay) team to win state,” said Odell, a junior. “I think we can do that. In terms of personal goals, I’d like to try for (Bainbridge’s) 400 high school record.”
Lakeside also boasts the 2009 800-meter champion, Madeline Rathbun.
Senior Annie Taylor, who serves as team captain with distance runner John Murphy, is also shooting for improvement in her individual events.
“I definitely want to get a PR on my 800 time,” Taylor said. “Last year I ran it in 2:22 and I want to run under 2:20.”
The Spartans have traditionally found success in the middle distances.
“Metro is so tough in the sprints,” head coach Andy Grimm said. “I mean, speed is speed. For us, it’s easier to teach a kid to run 400 and an 800.”
After only advancing six athletes to the state meet last year, the Spartans are focused on increasing their post-season numbers.
“This year we’re trying to get as many people as we can into Metros, so we can have a bigger varsity,” Odell said.
Returning thrower Cameron Brink should have a strong sophomore season, Grimm said.
“We’re trying to find some places where we can get some success,” Grimm said. “We hit and miss in some places. Last year we had second in state in discus, so we’re starting over on the girls side. We’re young, but every once in a while we’ll pop through.”
The team also returns varsity distance runner Sean LaBelle, a junior, and middle distance runners Josh Peters and Will Wenzlau. Juniors Drew Wickens and Brad Wilmot anchor the jumpers.
All eyes on Metros
Strategy and planning will play a big role this season, Taylor said.
“I think we’ll race smarter at our league meets because last year a lot of people doubled up or tripled up doing field events,” she said. “Focusing more on different races for different meets, and getting really finely tuned for the Metro meet, and moving as far as we can in our events, and also moving as far as we can in our individual events – not just the relays.”
Team bonding outside practice will keep team morale high, Taylor said.
“As a team last year I think people worked really hard and didn’t have quite as much fun,” she said. “I think I want to change that a little. We still work really hard, but have a little more fun. Our team has problems getting stressed out before races so we want to try and make it a little less stressful and focusing more throughout the season and peaking at the right time.”
The stress often stems from the tight race to advance to the Metro League and district meets.
“The way track works is different than any other sport,” Grimm said. “In order to move on at the end of the season you have to be in the top 16 in your event. Besides personal besting, that’s the ultimate goal for everyone every week. The kids who are into it, they’re trying to make the top 16.”
The top eight performers at the Metro meet will advance to the SeaKing District meet, where the top four in each event move onto the state meet.
“There’s no question where you’re at any time during the season because it’s all done on computers,” Grimm said. “We want them to have fun. But that’s a big thing – that competitive side of it – you’ve got to work.”
The Spartans will take advantage of having five of its six league meets at Memorial Stadium.
“We do a good job of fielding workers,” Grimm said. “Our parents support us, and our administration. We get a lot of teachers who come out and work. A lot of times in Seattle they struggle to get help.”
The Spartans are in their second season using the new track at Memorial Stadium.
“Ever since last year when we got this track everyone has been wanting to come here,” Taylor said. “I used to not like home meets at all, but since last year I like them. A lot more people come, and our track is also really good – it’s a lot faster than it used to be. It’s a lot cushier so it’s easier on people’s shins.”
Bainbridge will travel to its only away meet at Nathan Hale on April 8, and will host four straight Metro meets to close out the season.
“You can see state champion kids here every week if you come to watch,” Grimm said. “That’s the fun part as a spectator.”
The middle-distance runners
Key returners: Sylvia Stellmacher, sr.; Annie Taylor, sr.; Josh Peters, sr.; Will Wenzlau, sr.; Courtney Odell, jr; Isabel Ferguson, soph.; Pearl Terry, soph.
Key newcomers: Maddie Ginder, sr.; Veronica Saez, jr.
“In terms of being competitive, our strength in the last 10 to 12 years has been middle distance.” – Head coach Andy Grimm