A year ago, North Idaho high school track coaches were bemoaning the cold, snowy weather.
Collectively, they wondered how their athletes would be able to work into shape and compete with southern Idaho athletes who usually get a head start on the rest of the state.
By late May, though, North Idaho athletes and teams more than held their own at the state meets.
The gloom-and-doom mantra returned this week. One coach pointed out that the state meet returned to its usual slot – a week earlier this year.
So that means even less time for athletes to round into form.
Don’t despair. The outlook is good for North Idaho athletes and teams.
Here’s a look at area teams.
The Timberwolves boys surprised last year, finishing second and just two points out of a state championship.
Had it not been for a slip-up here and there, LC very well could have hung a state title banner in its gym.
A handful of athletes return, but LC could be without a potential big contributor. Junior standout long-distance runner C.J. Helbling, who finished second last fall in the 5A state cross country meet, had hip surgery earlier this month and is doubtful for the season.
Helbling, who placed third in the 3,200 meters and seventh in the 1,600 last spring, would have challenged for state titles.
“It’s a big loss considering how well he ran last fall,” LC coach Kelly Reed said.
LC returns a state champ in senior Tanner Schalk, who zipped to gold in the 300 intermediate hurdles. He also took third in the 110 high hurdles. Reed expects Schalk to contend for titles in both.
Other returning state placers are seniors Jared Heston (shot put, fifth at state), Nate Hayden (discus, eighth), Logan Frederickson (800, sixth), Matt Olson (800 relay, fifth; 1,600 relay, fifth) and Gabe Bruner (800 and 1,600 relays) and junior Anthony Durant (high jump, sixth).
Other potential contributers are sophomores Mark Smyly (sprints/relays) and Robbie Quinn (sprints/relays/jumps) and freshman Kaleb Mitchell (hurdles/relays).
LC should challenge defending regional champ Lewiston.
•The girls have the least amount of experience that Reed can recall.
Junior Tiffany Kuehn placed second in the high jump at state and was sixth in the 100 hurdles. Senior Allison Carpenter took seventh in the 800.
Other returning state qualifiers are senior Molly Mitchell (1,600/3,200) and juniors Rhianna Grossman (pole vault/hurdles/distances) and Hayley Miller-Washington (sprints/relays).
Others who could make an impact are sophomores Sydney Butler (middle distances/relays), Jenny Kerr (throws), Gina Mitchell (jumps), Lyndee Elmer (sprints/relays) and Taylor Chavez (sprints/relays), senior Aubree Dinning (throws) and freshman Jaida Bowen (sprints/relays).
The Vikings’ girls had a breakthrough season last year, capturing the regional title.
They return some proven point scorers. Senior Hanna Johnson placed second in the 300 hurdles and will continue to do the 100 and relays.
Sophomore Kinsey Gomez took second in the 1,600 and 3,200 last year and will be in the mix for state titles.
Other returning state placers are juniors Faith Hazard (relays/high jump) and Dayna Drager (800/relays) and senior Marissa Armour (shot put, sixth; discus, seventh).
Other returning state qualifiers are senior Kelsey Wheeler (hurdles/relays), juniors Shae Carson (throws) and Amanda Buttrey (relays) and sophomore Meghan Ward (sprints/relays).
Other girls who could contribute are junior Rachel Crawford (middle to long distances) and sophomore Sydney Kohles (sprints/relays).
“We should be right up there again,” CdA coach Tim Burnside said of the girls.
•In the boys, CdA returns no state placers and just two state qualifiers. They are senior Nick Pierson (distances) and junior Steven Casley (400/relays).
Others who should step up are freshman Cody Curtis (distances) and juniors Cade Mendoza (sprints/relays) and Carson Green (jumps).
Despite the fact his boys scored just three points at state last year, Burnside has high hopes.
“We have enough depth to be contending for a (league) title,” Burnside said. “A lot of people had (personal bests) at Lewiston last Saturday. I was impressed with how well they performed after running the halls for two weeks. We have a lot of unproven talent. The corral is promising. We just need to get them out on the prairie and let them run.”
The Trojans’ girls are poised to have their best year in 5A since leaving the 4A classification in 2007.
The optimism is based on a mixture of returning experience and youth.
Post Falls’ returning state placers are juniors Rebecca Bauman (shot put, fourth; discus) and Kacie Shields (100 hurdles, fifth; 300 hurdles) and sophomore Hailey Smith (high jump, fourth).
Other returning state qualifiers are senior Aynslee Stuart (400/relays), juniors Sarah Beck (pole vault) and Jalana White (jumps) and sophomore Josie Tennison (400/relays).
Others who coach Wade Quesnell expects contributions from are seniors Angie Whalen (distances) and Nikki Tonasket (jumps), juniors Dani Meehan (throws) and Kadie Booth (sprints/relays/jumps) and sophomore Tareyn White (sprints/relays). Quesnell is especially high on the untapped potential of four freshmen: Allison Meehan (sprints/jumps/relays), Tori Bertsch (high jump), Shaundra Scott (sprints/jumps/relays) and Kilie Ellison (distances).
“Our depth in our sprints is as good as we’ve been in years,” Quesnell said. “There’s a lot of room for improvement, too, especially with the freshmen.”
The girls should challenge CdA for the regional title.
•Quesnell sees much improvement in his boys, who managed to score just four points at state last year.
Post Falls doesn’t return any state placers, but does bring back a handful of qualifiers. They are seniors Sean Rollins (sprints/relays), Chad Mehalechko (hurdles/relays), Chris Wilson (hurdles/relays), Adam Lippert (sprints/relays), Thomas Nick (sprints/relays) and Mikey Jenicek (sprints/relays) and junior Kaine Mundel (throws).
Others who could contribute are seniors Austin Tate (throws), Chris Hotine (throws), Thomas Kirby (pole vault) and Jordan Powers (distances) and sophomores Matt Wardell (throws) and Sean Salmon (distances).
Bulldogs coach Dave DeMers reports the lowest turnout in recent years.
“We’re down significantly overall among the boys and girls,” he said.
Sandpoint doesn’t have many state returners either.
In the girls, senior Kathleen Vardell (distances) and sophomore Melinda Van Dyk (sprints/relays) are the lone state placers back. Other state qualifiers are senior Kelly Adams (jumps/sprints) and juniors Susan Kovalchuk (pole vault/sprints) and Christina Johnson (throws).
Sandpoint hasn’t had enough outdoor practices for DeMers to identify any new athletes who might step up.
•Among the boys, senior Joshua Kopsa (sprints/relays) is the only state placer back. The other returning state qualifiers are senior Zach Kuhl (high jump/sprints) and Corey Hoffman (jumps/relays) and sophomore Freedom Watson (throws).
Others DeMers figures will contribute are juniors Ray Lee (hurdles/relays), Cody Hecker (sprints/jumps) and David Marienau (distances), sophomore Brandon Hawkins (400/800) and freshman Anthony Gold (sprints/relays).
“We’ve got some potential. The problem is we haven’t been on our track yet,” DeMers said.
Coach Lee Libera doesn’t have a lot of proven girls, but the ones he does have are worth their weight in gold.
They proved as much last year when they led Lakeland to fourth and a state trophy by a half point.
Seniors Camille Reynolds and Kari Rucker each brought home four state medals. Reynolds captured individual titles in the 100 and 300 hurdles and ran a leg on the winning 1,600 relay while Rucker was third in the 400 and was on three relays including the 1,600 relay.
Sophomores Blythe Jones (hurdles/relays) and Latecia Howell (relays/jumps) also were on the 1,600 relay. Like Reynolds and Rucker, Jones and Howell will be counted on to score points in four events.
Another returning state medalist is junior Alissa McCullough (relays). Senior Ali Whitted (hurdles/relays) also qualified for state.
Libera has big shoes to fill with the graduation of standout thrower Kristine Leonard, who won the shot put and took third in the discus.
“Right now our depth is a little suspect,” Libera said.
He has high hopes for senior April Brockstruck (distances), junior Megan Ranberg (throws) and freshmen Kaitlyn Whitesitt (jumps) and Darby Murray (distances).
•Lakeland returns just two state placers in the boys – senior Austin Black, who took fourth in the high jump, and senior Ryan Wixon (relays).
Others who should contribute are seniors Riley Youngdell (hurdles/relays), Nick Jackson (throws), Brian Ramus (throws) and Jason McKinney (pole vault/sprints/relays), junior Peder Sortehaug (sprints/relays), sophomores Kyle English (relays/middle distances), Ian MacArthur (distances) and Brendon Kedish (sprints/relays) and freshman Blake Engle (distances).
Moscow’s boys, who captured the 4A state title, are favored to defend as regional champ while Lakeland’s girls are tabbed to win a regional title.
The Tigers’ boys should capture a state trophy for a sixth-straight year while the Tigers’ girls could land their first state trophy.
Coach Brian Kluss is blessed with quality and quantity.
In the boys, junior Travis Porter will be out to repeat as a state champ in the triple jump. He also took second in the high jump.
He’s joined by a long list of returning state placers. They are seniors Patrick Lagrimanta (sprints/relays) and Brian Maldonado (sprints/relays), juniors Derek Puckett (hurdles/relays), Gaelen Guzman (relays/middle distances), Ryan Sacksteder (distances), Brian Tucker (distances) and John Shaffer (sprints/relays) and sophomores Cooper Simpson (relays/hurdles) and Dalton Chamberlin (relays/sprints).
Others who could contribute are juniors Colton Fulwiler (pole vault), Cody Aery (pole vault/relays), Josh Mitchell (distances) and Matt Kriz (throws) and senior Alex Siembieda (jumps).
And that’s not all.
“We have a good class of freshmen and some of them may find spots in the sprints and relays,” Kluss said.
•Kluss doesn’t have as many proven athletes among the girls, but the cupboard is far from bare.
Returning state placers include seniors Whitney Giera (relays) and Kayla Kuchenski (jumps/sprints), juniors Lexey Sanders (sprints/relays), Natalie Lambert (sprints/relays) and Alex Turbin (distances) and sophomore Emily Cazier (sprints/relays).
Other returning state qualifiers are junior Nikki Johnson (jumps) and sophomores Kelsey McCaslin (distances) and Cassie Thompson (jumps).
Others who could contribute are freshmen Sam Simmons (pole vault/relays) and Brooke Nowlan (distances).
Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy
If there’s a sport that this school excels at the best, it’s track.
The Panthers’ girls and boys each captured state titles in their last year in 1A. The challenge now will be to see if Charter has the strength to contend in 2A.
The girls certainly are loaded with thoroughbredlike talent. They return intact a sprint corps that carried them to the state title.
Junior Elizabeth Stadley won individual titles in the 200 and 400 and anchored the winning medley. She also anchored the 1,600 relay, which took third.
Junior Dominique Billingslea also was on the medley and took second in the 100 and 200.
Another junior, Sabrina Ewing, won the high jump, took second in the triple jump and long jump and was on the 800 relay that took second.
Other returning state placers are senior Danika Hjeltness (relays/sprints), juniors Alyssa Kim (distances), Beth Gleixner (relays), Kaya Garringer (sprints/relays) and Cara Verhaeghe (relays) and sophomore Sadie Iott (distances/relays). Garringer and Iott were on the 1,600 relay.
“I think the relays are going to be stronger than last year,” Charter coach Lewis Watkins said.
New faces to watch are freshmen Emily Verhaeghe (sprints/relays/jumps) and Asia Bloodgood (middle distances).
•Sophomore Jacob Bowman captured four state medals a year ago in the 200 and 400, the winning 400 relay and the 800 relay.
Other returning state placers among the boys are seniors Luke Iott (distances) and Crosby Cross (sprints/relays) and juniors Wes Billingslea (sprints/relays) and Charlie Redline (sprints/relays).
Others to watch are senior Justin Arts (throws), juniors Leo Francovich (distances), Rory Ruskovich (distances), Brendan Foster (middle distances) and Ben Leifheit (middle distances) and freshman Jacob Shapiro (middle distances).