Photo: Girls track coach Doug Ecker gives pointers on the triple jump at Fridayâ€™s practice. Photo by Mike Slodki
by Mike Slodki
MAPLE PARKâ€”After a ninth-place finish in State a year ago, how do you repeat such a fine performance?
Wait and see.
A large part of the stellar finish at 2A State for the Kaneland Lady Knights girls track squad was due in part to Lindsay Gierke, gone off to the University of Northern Iowa. One of the most celebrated girls track athletes in KHS history, Gierke managed a second place in the 100m hurdles, fourth in the 100m dash, third in the 300m hurdles and was a four-year State qualifier.
“We’ve had some great athletes in the past and we’ll miss her points, but a lot of great athletes from last year are gone now, and it’s part of high school,â€ said KHS coach Doug Ecker.
Also gone from the group is pole vaulter Jordan Pinkston, who finished fifth at State and is competing at Southern Illinois University.
The good news is that 2009-10 allows new faces to step up and take the mantle of postseason success, and not all State qualifiers have left for the college ranks just yet.
One new face is right at the top, as girls cross-country coach Ecker moves up to take the head position, switching places with Pat Sheetz, who moves aside after four decades as head coach.
“There’s really no change,” Ecker said. “Sheetz and I have worked for 23 years; everything’s pretty much the same.”
Ecker has had head track experience in the college ranks and high-school boys track.
Junior Andie Strang looks to go back to Charleston, Ill. for a third go-around after finishing 10th in the 800m run and was part of the 4x800m relay, along with returning teammates Kris Bowen, Kelly Evers and Lisa Roberson. Strang is on the road back from a stress fracture suffered during girls basketball season.
“We’ll see how it is when outdoor season comes. If it’s healed it’s healed, and if it’s not its not. Hopefully she’s back at full strength and we’ll have to see what happens.”
Sara Wallace, a senior, also qualified for State in pole vault and looks to shore up that event.
Ecker stressed a lot of new faces, with accompanying talent to go with them on the roster numbering 50-strong.
“We don’t have any superstars, but we have kids with potential,” Ecker said.
Trying to break into the Lady Knight ranks in the jumping categories is junior Brooke Patterson, fresh off being familiar in the gymnastics realm and the younger sister of graduated trackster Kelli Patterson.
The junior has excelled in the indoor triple jump with a 32 feet mark.
Freshman Ashley Castellanos has done well in the triple and long jump in the initial stages of the season.
“Every team lost superstars, so you’ll have above average girls trying to take spots in the area,” Ecker said, who also said sprinters and vaulters could be crowded headed into the outdoor season.
The 4x800m relay looks to improve on their first go-around to state, but could see an influx of challengers. Ecker mentioned Castellanos and junior Jessica Stouffer having run well, joining a pool of seven or eight additional runners.
Hurdles will see freshmen and sophomores jockey one of Gierke’s specialty events.
Sprinters could put up some decent speed, thanks to representatives like sophomore Jordyn Lawrence.
“We have more depth at sprinters than we’ve had in a while; we just have to remain healthy,” Ecker said.
Senior Hillary Luse will have a chance at pole vault. The shot put and discus has younger lady tracksters looking to make a name for themselves before the outdoor season takes off.
Any Lady Knight that could take fellow athletes by surprise? Ecker mentioned junior Ariana Espino, who is looking for a relay spot, and fellow junior Sydney Billotta.
“They’re healthy and doing better leading up to the season, and both ran cross-country,” Ecker said.
In this, the final campaign for the Western Sun Conference, Ecker mentions Geneva and Batavia rising up despite losing personnel, along with Rochelle.
Freshmen joining the Kaneland girls track roster for 2010 are Gabby Aguirre, Jenna Bicos, Maggie Brundige, Angalia Carbonara, Brianne Claypool, Laken Delahanty, Abby Dodis, Brooke Harner, Lisa Jennings, Amanda Lesak, Sydney Luse, Emily Maki, Kelly McCarthy, Emma Moon, Grace Mozdren, Alyssa Nolte, Katie Ogboukiri and Jessica Woodward.
Sophomores are Tesa Alderman, Ashley Diddell, Kelsey Gould, Nicole Ketza, Savanah Miles, April Smith, Grace Snyder, Meggen Southern, Carolina Tovar and Shannon Wallace.
Juniors are Athina Ajazi, Elizabeth Hylland, Lordan Krawczyk, Keara Palpant, Alyson Rehr, Nicole Rymarz, Briana Stark and Cara Zagel.
Seniors are Elicia DiBella, Tara Groen, Mel Mazuc, Megan Mendoza and Lexie Pniewski.
For the girls, the outdoor season kicks off on Tuesday, April 6, against Burlington Central and Oregon.
The Kane County Meet is at Batavia on Friday, April 30, followed by the final Western Sun Conference meet on Friday, May 7, at Glenbard South.