West Grand girls track team starts strong
Sky-Hi News sports correspondent
The West Grand High School track and field program began the season around the theme, “Establishing an identity for a new decade.”
The first – and arguably the most important – step, according to Coach Joe Shields, is to get student athletes to make a commitment to the program and stay involved.
“We have a total of 50 participants,” Coach Shields said, “including our team manager Alyse Billington, who has been most efficient.”
That number represents nearly 50 percent of the total high school enrollment. “As coaches, we are very encouraged and it makes the practices challenging and fun for the athletes,” Shields said.
The second step, Shields said, is to get individual athletes to set high, but achievable goals. “We have witnessed considerable progress at almost every level in the first two weeks of competition,” Shields said. “Every week, the expectation level can be adjusted with a sense of accomplishment and a better understanding of what it will take to realize a goal.”
The girls team, 23 members strong, has shown that they can compete with larger schools. The team has finished in the top third in team scoring for the first two meets where a majority of the teams represented schools from Class 4A.
The high jump is one of the better events for the team. Melissa Kraker and Brook Cecil have finished in the top three at both meets and Kraker has met the Class 2A pre-qualification mark of 5′ 1″.
Jessica Raecke and Taylor Pesch join Cecil and Kraker on the 4 x 800-meter and 4 x 400-meter teams. The 4 x 800-meter team has finished first and second in the first two meets of the year.
The season kicked off with the Joe Shield Invitational track meet in Kremmling on April 3 and was followed by a varsity meet held on April 10 at Eagle Valley High School.
The throwing events for the girls are an area of improvement for the Mustangs this season. Destry Heide and Hannah Howell have been consistent placers in both the shot put and discus. Both girls are new to the West Grand track program this season.
The hurdling core is young and improving according to Shields. Laura Billington, Chyenne Sims and Shawna Rule are competing very well in the 100 and 300-meter hurdling events.
Cecil, Sims, Rule and Abrah Masterson, Shields said, are providing quality and depth in the pole vault event.
The boys’ team has 26 participants of whom 17 are freshman or sophomores. This young group, Shields said, has borne much of the responsibility for the team in the first two weeks of the season and has performed admirably.
Senior Chris Zagone is back this season after a year in Italy on a Rotary exchange student program. Zagone is the current leader in both hurdle events and runs on the 4 x 400-meter and 4 x 800-meter relay teams.
Senior Ben Edmondson is the top shot put competitor and, along with freshman Miquel Dominguez and Derrin Weaver and sophomore Luke Roderick, runs on the 4 x 100-meter relay team.
Tim Ritschard leads a deep, but young, pole vault crew. Brady Boeffleur and Roderick both vaulted well in their first outing last Saturday in Gypsum.
Zach Ahrens is the leading scorer for the Mustangs through the first two weeks. He has placed high in the discus event in three events and (including the Glenwood Springs freshman/sophomore event held last week). He has improved on his distance each week. The sophomore is also a key member of the 4 x 200-meter and 4 x 400-meter teams.
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