Veteran core heads up small Eagles squad
PUTNAMVILLE -- Coach Cathy Herrin will be fielding quite a few young athletes this season. The Eagles have only 17 girls, including a number of freshmen as well as older girls without varsity track experience.
"We're so young. We have some sophomores who weren't on the team last year as well as six freshmen. It's a lot of inexperience," said Herrin.
With this factor in mind, the Eagles will look to their few veterans for leadership. The three seniors -- C.J. Searles, Caitlyn Croan and Meredith Wallace -- will need to play key roles.
Searles will be competing in the 400, high jump and throwing events, although the coaches have not yet decided what she is throwing. Croan missed all of her junior season recovering from surgery, but she is back for her senior campaign. The coach expects her to be strong in middle- to long-distances.
"She's very versatile in the 400 and up," said Herrin.
Wallace has been out of early practices with an injury.
Additionally, Herrin looks for the strong competitors in the lower grades to perform well. Juniors Shelby Johnston and Shannon Egold look to improve on their strong sophomore seasons.
Johnston, a hurdler, has reached regionals in each of her first two years. She looks for this and more in 2007.
"I know she wants to beat the school record, but we have to work on her form in the hurdles," said Herrin. In addition to hurdles, Johnston will compete in the long jump, high jump and possibly distance events.
Egold will be gunning for the school record in the two mile this season. Herrin believes it is within her reach. She will also be looking to perform well in the postseason, as she missed going to regional by only one spot last year.
"I know regional is a goal for her," said Herrin.
Herrin also expects good things from Egold's younger sister, Rachel. Although Rachel is only a freshman, she ran a 2:48 in the 800 as an eighth grader. The coach looks for further improvement and a good contribution from the youngster.
For the team as a whole, though, the lack of participants will hurt. As the season approaches, Herrin has much uncertainty about who she will be placing in many of the events.
"I told the girls they're going to have to do a variety of events since we're so small," she said.
"We're strong in the distance. We don't know who our sprinters will be."
Herrin will be counting on sophomore Lauren Haynes as a sprinter, though.
"She was our sprinter last year, and she needs to step up this year and be the lead sprinter for us," said Herrin.
On the field events side, the Eagles have few participants. Once again, some underclassmen will be asked to fill the void. Sophomore Brittany Cox threw nearly 88 feet in the discus last year. Herrin looks for her to reach 100 this season. Freshman Shelby Hacker will lead South Putnam in the shot put.
One advantage the Eagles have over recent seasons is continuity at the top, with both the same head coach and assistant coach as last year.
"This is the first year in five we've had the same coach and assistant in consecutive years. No one's getting used to coaching styles except the freshmen," said Herrin.
The Eagles open the season April 5 at 4:30 p.m. against Northview and Owen Valley.