Girls track season previews
Last year: Did not place at state
State returners: Adly Wiley, sr., 3,200 relay; Nicole Hartman, sr., 3,200 relay
Key athletes: Samantha Klakulak, soph., hurdles; Kaylana Bustillos, fresh.
Coach Tom Spanton's comments: “I think we can do something in the 4x400 and the 4x800. It's going to be with the relays.”
The lowdown: The Kings' 3,200-meter relay team nearly beat Cibola in the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division I State Meet last season — ending up less than a tenth of a second behind the Raiders with a 10 minutes, 2.25 second finish. Cibola finished with a 10:02.17. However, the good news for the Kings is they return Wiley and Hartman to that group, and at this point it's a coin toss on who will be the anchor leg for Kofa. Klakulak suffered a knee injury at the end of last season but has good technique and should be a factor in the region for hurdles.
Gila Ridge Hawks
Last year: Seventh at Division II meet
State returners: Paeden Jackson, jr., sprints; Haylee Dahl, jr., sprints; Camille Ochoa, soph., sprints/distance; Madison Haynes, jr., distance; Jasil Younger, sr., discus
Key athletes: Erika Navarrette, senior, 400; Desiree Dilworth, senior, sprints; Quiana Tatum, senior, sprints; Angela Jumbeck, soph., discus/shot put
Coach Lucas Wolthuis' comments: “Our goal is to qualify more for state meet this year. As far as our strengths, our girls team is pretty rounded off. ”
The lowdown: The Gila Ridge girls return several key members from last year's team that finished seventh in state and with many of them still juniors or younger, it looks like the Hawks' ceiling could be even higher. Jackson took third place at the Division II state meet in the 400-meter dash with a time of 58.26 seconds and the Hawks' 1,600 relay took third and their 400 relay finished fourth. Haynes, who was the Hawks' top cross country runner, finished 11th in both the 1,600 and the 3,200 as a sophomore. In his first year at Gila Ridge, Wolthuis inherits a girls team with a talented group coming back.
Yuma Catholic Shamrocks
Last year: Sixth at Division IV
State returners: Sydney Compton, jr., sprints; Krysta Aitken, sr., relays
Key athletes: Madison Brazeel, jr., hurdles/relays/pole vault; Chelsey Mendenhall, jr.; Adriana Solorzano, jr., distance; Rylie Vance, fresh.,; Amanda Barczynski, soph., throws
Coach Ralph Farr's comments: “We finished top 10 in the state last year, and I think we can do that again.”
The lowdown: The big question mark for the Shamrocks will be replacing Jackie Hill, who won the 400-meter race last year at the state meet. Farr said that he has a lot of distance runners, including Solorzano, who finished 45th at the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division I Cross Country State Meet this past fall. Compton comes back after finishing eighth in the 100 and qualifying for the 200 — not to mention being a part of the 400 relay that took third with a time of 51.97 seconds. Farr could get a boost from Mendenhall, who ran track in junior high and has been a key player for the Shamrocks' volleyball and basketball teams in the past.
Yuma High Criminals
Last year: Did not place at state
State returners: Michelle Watson, sr., hurdles/jumps
Key athletes: Tammy Larson, soph., sprints; Emmalee Nitelet, sr., sprints
Coach Curt Weber's comments: “(Watson) is going to have a better season. She played basketball this year so she's in much better shape this year. I think she can place in triple jump and hurdles.”
The lowdown: Watson will definitely be the star for the Criminal girls team this year and is the only returning state participant. During the 100-meter hurdles in last year's Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II State Meet, Watson was disqualified after hitting a hurdle midway through the race. Weber also said he expects good things out of his sprinters Nitelet, who played basketball for the Criminals, and Larson. It's another year of fighting against numbers for Weber, who admits it can be hard to build up the girls program. However, he has girls soccer coach Tom Coxson on as an assistant coach and he's brought a handful of girls to the team.
— Jesse Severson