The Creston girls track team enters the 2013 season losing roughly 70 to 95 points per meet from last year’s team, but head coach Clay Arnold isn’t that worried about it.
And the biggest reason is he thinks with 29 girls out for the team this year, the team’s depth will make up for those points.
Gone from last year’s team are state champion hurdler Audrey Bolinger, the versatile Katlin Briley and Allison Wood. Senior Katie Pudenz, who contributed points in the throwing events last year, will be out for the season after undergoing surgery next week.
“There’s not going to be one person to take those (points),” Arnold said. “The good news is we have new girls and we’ve got 29 girls. We can score points in different ways. We lost a couple of superstars, but I’m pretty sure we’re gaining several more.”
Adding a boost to this year’s team will be the return of sophomore Natalie Mostek, who missed much of last year with illness.
“Last year as the season got started, Natalie was being scheduled to be part of the mix and all the big plans we had involved her,” Arnold said. “Having her back this year, hopefully she’s healthy. That’s like having a new member of the team.”
Last year, six freshmen lettered, and played big roles for the Panthers throughout the course of the year, with several gaining state meet experience.
Arnold said he expects big things from that sophomore group, which also includes Natalie Mostek and several newcomers.
Also giving Arnold hope heading into the season is a group of 11 freshmen. Of those 11 freshmen, four lettered during cross country in the fall, while another — Camryn Somers — was a state meet participant in swimming during the fall.
“We’ve got a phenomenal freshman class. It’s very deep,” Arnold said. “We finally have short sprinters. The past couple of years, we’ve just had to cannibalize people to put them in events.”
Giving the Panthers depth in the short sprints will be Jami and Josie Sickels and Sydney Suiter.
Arnold said freshman Taylor Briley can do just about any event, while Amber Castillo and Somers are also versatile athletes. Emma Saylor and Becca Ross look to give the Panthers more options in the throws.
“Our depth is going to mean everything for us,” Arnold said. “We’re going to be able to score points in ways we haven’t been able to in the past. Losing four girls ... we’re not going to replace them with four girls, we’re going to replace them with 10 girls.”
Arnold said he expects this year’s success to come from about a 50/50 mix of newcomers and returning talent.
And the Panthers return a strong group of athletes from last year’s team that finished second at the Hawkeye 10 Conference Meet.
Fourteen of 17 letterwinners from last season return for this season, including nine athletes with state meet experience.
Taylor Hudson, Brianna Maitlen, Pudenz, Emily Wignall, Chelcee Downing, Zaidy Frank, Brittney Minson, Maria Mostek and Raegen Smith all competed at the state meet last year.
According to Arnold, Atlantic, who has been strong in the conference the past several seasons, looks to be down this year after graduating much of its talent. Glenwood brings in a strong freshman class with a good group of returners.
But, the favorite in the conference is still Harlan. And that’s who Creston will be chasing this year, Arnold said.
“Last year, about halfway through the conference meet we had Harlan sweating a little bit. We just didn’t have the depth to compete throughout the whole meet with them,” Arnold said. “We’ve got a lot better depth this year, so we’ll see.”
The work the team has put in during the preseason has Arnold excited to see what the team can accomplish during the season.
“This is the best preseason we’ve had yet,” he said. “We’ve got twice as many girls, which is good for competition. Our level of competitiveness has been exceptional. Our attitudes are much better. I think everybody realizes the potential.”
The Panther girls team competes at the Graceland Indoor Meet in Lamoni this weekend, and opens the outdoor season Tuesday at Red Oak in the Hawkeye 10 Conference Southern Division Meet.
(* — returning letterwinner)
Seniors — Taylor Hudson*, Brianna Maitlen*, Katie Pudenz*, Katie Stevens*, Lauren Tucker, Emily Wignall*.
Juniors — Chelcee Downing*, Zaidy Frank*, Olivia Nielsen*.
Sophomores — Hannah Hagle, Nicole Haley*, Brittney Minson*, Maria Mostek*, Natalie Mostek, Monica Powers*, Maddie Skarda*, Tanna Smallwood, Raegen Smith*, Brooke Thelen.
Freshmen — Jessica Beatty, Taylor Briley, Amber Castillo, Kelsey Donner, Madison Hance, Becca Ross, Jami Sickels, Josie Sickels, Emma Saylor, Camryn Somers, Sydney Suiter.
Coaches — Clay Arnold, head coach; Maggie Arnold, assistant coach.
March 23 — at Graceland Indoor Meet
March 26 — at Hawkeye 10 Conference Southern Division Meet (Red Oak)
March 28 — at Clarke
April 2 — at Clarinda
April 4 — at Red Oak
April 8 — Panther Relays
April 11 — at Glenwood
April 16 — at Dallas Center-Grimes
April 23 — at Chariton
April 25 — at Carlisle
April 25-27 — at Drake Relays
April 29 — at Atlantic
May 2 — at Mount Ayr
May 5 — at Hawkeye 10 Conference Meet (Shenandoah)
May 9 — State Qualifying Meet (TBD)
May 16-18 — State Coed Track & Field Meet