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Track and field gets big numbers
By Matt Phelps' email='Matt.Phelps@mi-reporter.com
The Mercer Island High School track and field team had 80 students turnout last year. This year it got 150.
Building on the success of the past couple of years, hosting the 3A KingCo meet last year and first-time seniors and juniors this season, has put the team in a position to challenge for the league title.
"I use a bit of caution because anything can happen," said Mercer Island track and field head coach Chris Twombley, who is in his fourth year as head coach. "We have to stay healthy, but this is a part of our five-year goal to win KingCo. This year we think we can be in the top three. We are just really deep."
The 3A KingCo league title will be chosen differently this year -- the champion will be crowned based on record, not by one post-season meet.
"In the past, your record meant nothing," said Twombley. "This year, you have to maintain your success through the season."
The backbone of the track and field team has been the distance runners. With early meets meaning even more to the team, the distance runners will be an even bigger weapon during that time.
"It is true, our biggest strength is the distance runners," said Twombley.
"Erica (Hill, the distance coach,) has done some great things with them."
Back for their senior years will be Brian Govier and Brandon Fellows, both of whom competed at state last year.
But unlike in past years, other events for the team may be catching up.
"Girls sprints are good this year," said Twombley. "Up until this year our track events were a lot stronger than the field events. But this year that could change."
Twombley admitted that the girls' field events may not be as strong as he would like. But one athlete, senior Madeleine O'Meara, could make up for that with a strong year.
"She could take KingCo in the javelin this year," said Twombley. "She is just a great athlete."
O'Meara has had some record-setting meets for the Islanders over the past two seasons, but injuries have slowed her progress.
Jenn Doane is another female athlete that could earn some big wins for the team. The senior soccer standout could strengthen the girls' side with a healthy season. Sophomore Laura Vogel, who made a big impact last year as a freshman, will have an opportunity to grow even more on track events. Naoya Suzuki, who has impressed in jumping events, could have a big senior year for the boys side.
One athlete that the girls will miss greatly is high jumper Kelly McLeod, who has decided to concentrate on soccer.
But the loss of McLeod could have been harder to take in past years. The influx of first year track and field seniors and juniors, along with other cross-over athletes, from a multitude of sports, will give the Islanders a big boost. "I don't think that there is one specific reason for all the new people on the team," said Mika Rothman, who played softball last year during spring season. "Everyone can do it and no one gets cut. I wanted to do something fun to help with basketball."
Other crossover athletes, such as Yannik Mathews, who played varsity basketball, Govier, who traded soccer for running track last year, and Michelle Lam, a four-year swimmer and first-time track and field athlete, has pushed the Islander numbers to record levels.
Mathews is hoping to get the 4X400 relay team back to the state meet.
"We need to work on our hand-offs and mesh as a team," said Mathews, who will also look to compete in the 400, 800 and long jump. "I think I enjoy the jumping events the most. I just like the feeling of flying through the air."
Although there are more first-year seniors this season, it is not a new thing.
"That kind of kid just warms my heart," said Twombley. "Wes Sinclair's only year running for us was his senior year. Now he is running at Central Washington University."
Another reason for the big turnout is the number of freshman and sophomores on the team. "Right now we are just trying to assess all the talent we have out here,"
said Twombley as he watched the entire team warm up, which took up the entire straight away on the track. "We have to do all these tests just to see where kids should go. We are actively encouraging crossover kids. They saw the KingCo meet last year and the success we are having. It sets a positive vibe for the program. For a lot of kids track is not their primary sport. It is a way to stay in shape."
Twombley said that track and field is not a club sport and that kids don't, and shouldn't, do it year-round because it can hurt their body.
"We are trying to coach more than just the sport," said Twombley. "It is about body awareness and teaching kids how to stay in shape."
Because it is not a sport that the athletes should do year-round, the team has added hurdles to overcome.
"We have to start over from scratch every year," said Twombley. "But kids are coming up to us motivating us this year."
It seems, that the team has a jump on the past this year. The seniors on the team have an added sense of urgency.
"All of our captains are seniors," said Twombley. "They lead all the stretches and they are my communication piece."
Twombley noted that with all the new talent the team has just three weeks to prepare for what he considers a shot at the Islanders' best season so far in his six years as coach.
Info box Coaches: Chris Twombley (fourth year as boys head coach, two years as an assistant), Lezley Smith (10th year as girls head coach).
Assistant coaches: Erica Hill (distance running), J.J. Shephard (pole vault), Andrew Forster (throwing coach), Amy Wolff (hurdles) and Jamie Duckett (high jump) and Tami Lasky (sprints).
Last year's record: Boys 5-2, Girls 5-2.
Key athletes: Sr. Madeleine O'Meara, Sr. Brandon Fellows, Sr. Jennifer Doane, Sr. Lynne Tempest, Jr. Mckay Duer and Jr. Anna Larsen, Sr. Brian Govier, Sr. Naoya Suzuki, So. Laura Vogel, .
Key losses: Sr. Kelly Mcleod, Marielle Goyette, Tiffany Lee, Wes Sinclair, Sarah McFadden, Erica Steinitz and James Campbell.
Key newcomers: Jr. Yannik Mathews, Sr. Michelle Lam, So. Alex Holland, Jr.
Morgan Anthony and freshman class.
Key Meets: all six against 3A KingCo teams.
First league meet: 4 p.m. Thursday, March 31 vs. Mount Si.
Key to a good season: Utilizing and assessing the number of kids on the team and continue to move forward.