With the 2014 track and field season just a few days away, it’s time to preview the upcoming year for the Howe and Van Alstyne teams.
The Lady Panthers, winners of last season’s District 12-2A title, will be looking to replace the talents of Sierra Motley, who garnered 34 points to key the team to a six-point win over Sunnyvale but has since graduated.
Area qualifiers who return for Van Alstyne are Maddy Morris, Raigan Servati and Molly McQuirk. Morris, who won the 100-meter dash at the Area meet in Pottsboro, will be participating in the 200-meters, long jump and relay events for the Lady Panthers.
Coach Kristi Servati is excited about her team’s efforts in practices and anxious to get the season underway.
"We have a strong group of seniors in Jaden England, Shae Carter, Tristan Neshyba and Caitlin Sullivan, and they are setting a good example by working hard in practice," said Servati. "Track is considered an individual sport, but our girls know it will take a team effort to build on last year’s success."
Servati will be looking to juniors Brooke Robertson and Andrea Espitia in the sprints and hurdler Sarah Biscarro.
McQuirk finished second in both the 1600 and 3200-meter runs at the district meet and advanced to the regional meet in Stephenville in both events, as well. Hannah Taylor had an impressive cross-country season and should contribute to the Lady Panthers in the distance events.
For the Howe Lady Bulldogs, replacing Morgan Bailey and Baleigh Hudman will be the big task facing coach Kailey Hayward.
"We have 32 girls in our track program this season and we hope to recoup the points Moby and Hud gave us by entering multiple kids in events to increase our chances," said the coach.
Hayward, after serving as an assistant for three years, takes over the head coaching job this season.
Other Lady Bulldogs who contributed to the team’s second place finish at the District 11-2A meet last year and will be back are Tiffany Lallier, who won the district high jump title in 2013, Bailey Tyler, who ran on three relay teams and Riley Harvey, a big surprise last year with her speed.
Seniors Aurian James and Morgan Carney will also be expected to step up their performances from last season.
Kendall Nelms, who had a strong cross-country season, will be used in the mile relay this year.
The team has a strong group of freshmen who have impressed in practice, but lack "game" experience. Emily Sanders, Kayla Anderson, Kamryn Fulenchek and Madisyn Hargrove will be counted on as part of that depth, although Hargrove is currently slowed with a hamstring problem.
On the boys side for Van Alstyne it’s all about the distance events. Evan McQuirk, coming off of a state title in cross country, wants to improve upon his efforts of last season. McQuirk finished first in both the 1600 and 3200-meter runs at the district meet, won both at the area meet and finished third in both at the regional meet. He finished sixth at the state meet in the 1600-meter run. McQuirk will get some help in the distance events as freshman Jacob Taylor will be counted on to continue his improvements after a strong cross-country season.
The Howe boys will be looking to Randle Nix, Anthony Hawthorne and Tyler Nicholson to provide points and leadership in the upcoming season.
Senior Garrett Fulenchek, who finished second at the district meet in the high jump and also ran on the 4x400 relay team, has not made a final decision about returning to the track this year. He has a promising future as a baseball player and this factor will, and should, play heavily on that decision.
Track season for both schools begins March 6 at the Anna Coyote Invitational.