WALLA WALLA - Wa-Hi coach Eric Hisaw bubbles with enthusiasm when discussing the 2010 boys and girls track and field teams as the season gets underway. The Blue Devils travel to Hanford Thursday for their first real meet.
Hisaw's comments on the teams:
"On the boys' side of things we continue to expect to be the team to beat in the league. We've won seven of the last 10 league titles, gone 104-3 in the win-loss columns and won the last four-straight league titles, which has never happened in the Big Nine before. It's been a heck of a run and we don't intend to stop any time soon," Hisaw said. "We definitely have the ability to continue this streak, but we have to really improve in some areas to do so.
"On the girls' side. it's been a great ride as well, 12-straight winning seasons, eight years for third or above in league and second in five of those eight years," Hisaw said. "We've lost the league title twice by fewer than five points in a meet. We're so close to knocking the door down, and we're working to doing that this year."
With the retirement of boys' track coach Harvey Wellington last year, Scott Magnaghi will coach the boys team for the 2010 season, while Hisaw will manage the track and field program.
Hisaw expects the boys team to be "extremely balanced" this season.
Members of the distance crew include Aaron Nelson, J.P. Wolpert, Austin Morgan, Kyle Jameson, Ty Hafen, and Greg Heller.
Either Nelson, Wolpert, and Jameson qualifed for the regional last spring at 1,600 or the 3,200. They will run those distances again this season.
"This may be our strongest contingent," Hisaw said. "They are extremely hard-working and I don't think we've had a group of distance kids work so hard in the off-season to prepare for track. Aaron, JP and Austin have put in hundreds of miles since cross country and it truly has paid off as they are starting the year where they left off last season."
While Wa-Hi's group of throwers has less depth, it may still dominate the competition.
Senior Brandon Porter returns as the defending league champion in the shot and javelin, and Dylan Shenefield was a regional qualifier in the discus last spring. Others in the group included Dallas Jimenez and Gerald Maib in the shot put and Jimenez and Nick Bushman in the discus. Jake Robertson, John Nibler, and Jake Thompson will throw the javelin.
"This group could be awesome, as good as we've ever had from top to bottom. They are all so competitive that it'll just make them all that much better," Hisaw said. "Brandon will have the opportunity to get to state in the shot and javelin and place. He's got quite a few people watching him in the javelin at the next level, and it won't surprise me if he shatters our school records this season."
Wa-Hi jumpers have great potential, but they have holes to fill, Hisaw said. They're led by Tim McEuen, a two-time regional qualifier in the high jump, and Jake Robertson.
Hisaw predicts both will soon reach the 6-foot-2 to 6-4 level.
"They are both tall and explosive and love this event," Hisaw said. "Behind them are Nat Brown, Nick Bushman and newcomer senior Jake Crawford. Nat, Nick and Jake are all great athletes and give us great depth in this event."
Long jumpers and triple jumpers will include junior Alex Ceron, Jake Robertson and freshman Jonah Hoe.
Hisaw classifies the pole vault as a weak event, but one with talented and competitive athletes.
"We're just extremely young and inexperienced (in the event)," he said. Ryan Evans leads the pole vaulters.
"He's our best kid that truly wants to be great," Hisaw said. Newcomers to the event will be Ryan Harmon, Nason Babbitt, Peter Sirmon and Ryan Yonts.
Austin Schilling will lead the sprinter and hurdler group. Hisaw expects him to be at the top of the league in the 100 and 200, and perhaps in the 400.
Other Wa-Hi speedsters will include Jonah Hoe, Garrett Gerling, Blake Gerling, Sawyer Neiffer, Crawford and Ceron.
"Our depth isn't great, but our top-end kids are very talented," Hisaw said. "If we can develop some depth, which I think we will in the sprints, we might be able to win it all again, because our hurdlers are the best in the league, led by the Gerling brothers."
Blue Devil Girls
Hisaw also expects a variety of athletes to lead the girls' team, with the discus throwers being a strong group.
Upper-classmen Alyssa Barnett, Sydney Christiansen and Nylah Holt have thrown over 100 feet and rank among the top eight returners in the league and will be strong as a group.
"They are not going to be the best as individuals, but as a group, they could be the most dominant by the time the season is over," Hisaw said. "Younger throwers in the group include Maddy Nelson and Megan Thompson.
Hisaw sees the shot put and javelin throwers as similar to the discuss group.
"We have a dominant thrower, and then have others that are really close but need to make a jump," Hisaw said.
He expects Christiansen, a junior, to threaten the school record next year, if not this year Barnett and Holt will help the depth in this event.
Hisaw said sophomore Jamie Weisner may be among the divisions top javelin throwers.
"Jamie's our go-to kid," Hisaw said. "She's going to be unreal in this event, she just needs time, but it's going to happen."
Other javelin throwers include Gabby Anderson, Megan Thompson and Maddy Nelson.
The Blue Devils should be competitive in the jumps and vault, Hisaw said. Janice Barlow returns as one of the top four vaulters in the league. Jennifer Goodwin also returns in the event.
Leading long jumpers include Jamie Weisner, who qualified for the regional last year, and seniors Rachel Adkins and Haley Hedine. Talented sophomores and freshman in the event include Ashley Cornia, Madeline Jacobsen, Rebekah Heath, Madeline Elmenhurst and Brittany Gibbar.
Triple jumpers will be led by two seniors, Rachel Adkins and Haley Hedine.
"They're proven winners and competitors and are excited about being our leaders," Hisaw said. Other triple jumpers include "young talented" Torri Crawford, Sierra Crawford, Maddie Elemhurst and Liz Wood, Hisaw said.
Wa-Hi's high jumpers will be led by three-time regional qualifier Peyton Baxter and Liz Wood, who qualified in 2009.
"Our high jump crew is going to be very strong," Hisaw said, with newcomers "Torri Crawford and Sierra Carmen rounding out a group that is tall, deep and talented from senior to freshman."
Hisaw expects to be much improved on the track from last year.
"We have everyone back from a young team, and they look very strong right now." Hisaw said. "We don't have an absolute blazer, but we're solid."
The senior speedsters include Janice Barlow and McKhayla Morris, who may big surprise to the rest of the league Hisaw said.
"They along with Kailee Davisson will help us stay competitive," he said. Freshman and sophomores in the event will include Sarai Seekamp, Ashley Cornia, Brittany Gibbar and Maggie Callan."
"Our hurdlers could be very, very good by the end of the year as well," Hisaw said.
They include McKhayla Morris, Jamie Weisner, Peyton Baxter and Gabby Anderson, who were regional qualifiers last year. Morris and Weisner were regional finalist in the 300 hurdles.
"These four are already light-years ahead of where they were at this point last year," Hisaw said. Newcomers to the events are Maddy Jacobsen, Rebekah Heath, Michael Nordheim, and Anna Pettyjohn.
Emma Burgess paces the distance runners, and Hisaw calls her "a warrior."
She's the only senior in the group.
"She typifies what sacrifice is all about," Hisaw said. "She's a great leader, an inspiration and a competitor."
Rachel Nelson, a state qualifier in cross-country, will run the 1600 and 3200. The 800 runners include Ana Andrade (a regional qualifier), and Kailee Davisson.
"These two are as good as any 1-2 punch in the league in the 800 and we'll need them to be that way," Hisaw. He has his largest group of talented distance runners in a long time, he said, including Jocelyn Vargas, Christina Felicie, Maya Rapp, Ashley Taylor and Mckelle Wilwand.
Much like the boys team, the girls' program is loaded with talented freshmen and sophomores. There are a huge group of kids turning out, and they are athletic and strong. These young kids are doing a great job for us and will push those ahead of them to greater heights.
Hisaw is equally enthusiastic about his fellow coaches.
"The event coaches are the backbone of our program," Hisaw said. "Carolyn Pemberton, Keith Michels, Jerry Records, Monica Nelson, Bob Maib, Mike Locati, Ryan Lackey, Steve Gerling and Scott Magnaghi all demand excellence, effort and competitiveness and do not settle for anything less.
"Our kids are so fortunate to have coaches like they have," Hisaw said. "Everyone gets along. We have fun with each other and with the kids. It truly is an extended family on this team, from Coach to athlete. It is so much fun to be a part of this group."