WALLA WALLA - There are high expectations for the Wa-Hi track teams this season after the Blue Devil boys won their fifth straight Big Nine title and girls were second last year.
Wa-Hi opens the season Saturday at the Sweeney Invite in Lewiston, and early practices haven't dimmed Blue Devil coach Eric Hisaw's outlook on the upcoming season.
"I had an assistant (coach) say it was the best week of practice he's had in his 19 years here," Hisaw said. "I'm really excited for this weekend. I think it'll be a really exciting spring for us."
The Blue Devils have almost 90 girls and 80 boys turned out the year, up from about 150 last season, which provides depth and a competitive atmosphere, Hisaw said.
"It's a heck of a mix," he said. "We have five senior girls, and maybe 10 senior boys, but they're phenomenal leaders, great kids and better citizens. They're competitive athletes and they hate to lose."
The Blue Devils got to see success first hand at the state tournament last year, when sophomore Jamie Weisner won the Class 4A championship and Garrett Gerling was third in the 110-meter hurdles and sixth in the 300 hurdles.
Weisner is now at Clarkston High, and Gerling is running at Washington State, but Hisaw said Wa-Hi's depth will help make up for their absence.
"We can go seven deep in some events," he said. "We've got some kids that can be really special for us. A dozen or more are already surpassing last year's marks. We've had more kids doing things in the offseason (training) than ever."
The Blue Devils took almost 30 athletes to the regional meet last year, and "those kids are coming back and their expectations are the state this year," Hisaw said. "They're not going to be satisfied staying home."
Wa-Hi has two home meets this season, one more than usual. Pendleton comes to Martin Field on March 25 and the Blue Devils host a Big Nine meet with Richland, Eisenhower and Moses Lake in town on May 5.
"It's kind of nice, we get to stay home and have people come and see us," Hisaw said.
"I'm really excited," he said of the upcoming season. "I think this weekend is going to tell us a lot, and figure some things out.
"We have the chance to have a really magical year this spring."