Last year, Greater Spokane League track and field belonged to suburbia.
Perennial champion Mead was followed by Central Valley and University.
This year, the two Valley schools have their work cut out for them.
CV, last year’s runner-up, must make up for losses in the sprints and graduation of state placing shot putter and distance runner.
“We will be up there,” said CV Coach Chuck Bowden. “The question is do we have the leadership to pull through?”
University also has graduated some key athletes and will be extremely young. Coach Keven Frandsen said, however, that his sophomore class could eventually be a world beater.
“We’ve got to get some distance people,” he said. “If we do that we’ll be there.”
Central Valley builds on lettermen
The Bears return a state qualifying athlete, a district champion and a district runner-up among the 18 letter winners who will lead this year’s team.
Joel Gehrett, who cleared 13-foot-9 in the pole vault, finished second in regional to earn a state berth.
Hurdler Mark Hann is defending league 300 intermediate champion and Rick Giampietri was second in the district triple jump, missing a state berth by one place during regional.
Central Valley dominated the pole vault last year and is deep in the event again. Joining Gehrett are letter winners Ryon Triplett, Scott Bond, and sophomores Ty Dempsey, Chris Folsom and Josh Kruse.
“It will be another loaded year,” said Bowden.
Other hurdlers are sophomores Hoa Duong and Keith Carpenter.
In the three jumping events CV also has Jeff Jensen, Zach Moore, Carson May, Jared Mott and Giorgio Usai.
Sprints will have a new look.
“It changes the way you have to focus when you take away a kid who ran 10.9,” said Bowden. “We have kids quick enough to hold their own.”
Included are lettermen Andy Whipple, Ryan Millar and Ryan Strickland plus sophomore transfer Nick Bemis.
The graduation of state shot put placer Jeff Holmes also changes the weight events picture.
“This year we have more kids close to each other,” said Bowden.
Among the returnees are Matt Ahrens, Phil Hudlow, Robert Grizzle and Chris Noll. Newcomers include Mike Caruso, Craig Gunning, transfer John Hemmert, and freshmen Will Beck and Brandon Bouge.
The distance events will remain solid even with the graduation of state qualifier Jon Wilson.
Sophomore Robby Warnock was a regional 800 qualifier last year and is joined by John Foster and cross country find Brandon Larson.
“We’ll be all right,” said Bowdwen. “Warnock, time-wise, has a shot at state.”
With only six seniors on the team compared to 20 last year, Bowden is counting on a strong junior class to spark a repeat of last year.
University relies on youth
There is no substitute for speed in track and field and the Titans have plenty of it in their sophomore class.
How fast the youngsters mature will determine the extent of U-Hi’s success.
“We’re not necessarily an improved team,” said Frandsen of last year’s 6-2 effort, “but we have a brighter outlook.”
The sprint crew includes sophomores Jason Berger, Tim Buchanan, Mike Pugh and Mike Turner plus junior Brian McMurtry and freshman Nick Mattioda.
“We could have a short and long relay team of all sophomores,” Frandsen said.
Replacing state qualifying hurdler-horizontal jumper Elondrus Lee and jumper Jesse Wilson is a tall order.
Terry Coy, still recovering from two surgeries following a broken wrist in football, gives University a solid hurdler.
Backing him are Paul Salcido, Pugh and Buchanan.
In the jumps are the sprinters, plus senior Todd Lust and sophomore pole vaulter Cody Hirschi.
Other vaulters include sophomore Jesse Larson and junior Eric Davis.
The high jump is led by state qualifier Craig Allen, who cleared 6-7 last year.
He’s joined by sophomore Marc Heimbigner and Adam Nebecker.
The distances and throws will be critical to U-Hi’s success.
Frandsen’s brother, Shaun Frandsen, heads the longer runs. Joining him are Billy Criddle, Brett Miller, Kyle Hentze, T.J. Sulzle, Paul Knighton, Mike Johnson and James Berry.
In the shot put and discus are Jason Westcott, Mike Hanson, Mike Clark, Jason Wilson, Jason Moore, Adam Drew and Brian Jamison.
Javelin throwers include Zaq Flanary, Mickey Lyson, Ryan McWilliams and Tom Haberman.
The sophomores total more than half of U-Hi’s 75-athlete turnout. From the numbers, Frandsen is hoping to develop a contender.