Tracking the Islanders’ progress

When Mercer Island track and field head coach Chris Twombley took over as head coach in 2001, he had a five-year plan to put the Islanders among the elite in 3A KingCo.

When Mercer Island track and field head coach Chris Twombley took over as head coach in 2001, he had a five-year plan to put the Islanders among the elite in 3A KingCo.

Twombley, along with several assistant coaches, have built a healthy program during the past five seasons. The team had over 140 kids turn out for the team this season. But the ultimate goal has yet to be reached — a league title.

“Our program is very healthy,” said Twombley. “We are still putting the pieces in place.”

The Islanders lost a very talented group of seniors from 2006 and will have to rely more on younger and inexperienced track and field athletes this year.

“About a third of our team are newcomers,” said Twombley. “But I don’t think what happened last year at (the 3A) KingCo (championship meet) was an aberration.”

The Islander boys shocked the league last year by taking second at the championship meet after finishing in the middle of the pack with a 3-5 record. And while the turnout of 140 is good for MIHS, which fields nine spring sports teams, the Islanders still struggle to keep pace in dual meets with the depth of the two time defending champion Newport Knights at nearly 200 kids per season.

This season the Islanders will not have to go head-to-head with Newport thanks to Skyline dropping back to 3A KingCo after two years at the 4A level. But Skyline will bring the same depth as Newport as it is the biggest school in the league.

The Islanders will also face Bellevue. The two schools, which have a natural rivalry, have gained a competitive history during the past decade in track and field.

“Bellevue is a big meet for us and we want to see Newport,” said Twombley, “they have some of the top athletes in the league.”

Mercer Island touts some of the best athletes, not only in the league but also in the state.

Islander Laura Vogel won the state title in the 400 meters as a sophomore. Despite being slowed by injuries during the regular season last year, she still took third at the state meet in Pasco, Wash.

“She places enough pressure on herself,” said Twombley. “She will do great if she stays healthy.”

During her senior season Vogel, who is a team co-captain for the second consecutive year, will look to diversify her event selection and stay on course.

“I feel confident speaking out and trying to get people to work harder,” said Vogel. “For myself want to stay healthy and get back to state. I would also like to put together a good relay and do better in the long jump.”

The teams other captains for the 2007 campaign are Brook Bourguignon, Tracey Vojik, Cathy Caputo, Daniel Maylor, Peter Lamb, will Reece and senior standout Alex Holland.

“It is different being looked up to,” said Holland, who was a captain on the football team. “I want to become even better as a leader.”

Holland performed when it counted most last year as he made it all the way to the state meet. This year he is setting his sites even higher.

“My main goal is to get under 11 seconds in the 100 meters,” said Holland. “I think it is within reach. I have been in the program now for four years. I know what it takes to get to state.”

Mercer Island had traditionally been strongest in distance running events, but Twombley expects his team to be well rounded this season.

“We are making great strides in all of the events,” said Twombley.

The coach believes that the throwing events could bring the greatest improvement with returning KingCo participants Greg Lee and Kevin Graber leading the way.

Other key athletes competing in multiple events this season include Lauren Govier, Ali Caditz, Olivia Harvey, Will Reece, Bryce Borer Robyn Momii and Monica Lee.

Most of these athletes are back for a second third or event fourth year with the team, which can be rare with the nature of track and field. Most high school athletes join the team to keep in shape, not as their main sport.

The improvement of the program as a whole has a lot to do with the stability that Twombley and his coaching staff has brought to the team. Girls head coach and assistant team head coach Lezley Smith has been with the program for 12 years, and assistant coaches Erica Hill (distance), Amy Wolff (hurdles) and Tami Lasky (sprints) have coached the Islanders for multiple years.

“We have had a consistent staff and a consistent philosophy,” said Twombley. “The kids know what to expect from year to year.”