The tale of two teams
The Glenwood Springs boys and girls track and field teams have different strengths, but head coach Blake Risner is expecting both to be able to build enough points to compete for regional and state titles.
The girls team only has 16 athletes out for the squad this season, but it is a unit full of proven ability and state meet experience.
The boys team has better numbers, with 24 athletes, but it’s an unproven bunch. Only one returner qualified for state last season.
“I’m excited about the season and impressed by how the kids have worked so far,” said Risner, who is the head coach for both girls and boys this season. “The 40 athletes have really committed and will fare well against competition on the Western Slope.”
On the girls side, senior Megan McKinnie has the best shot at a state title. McKinnie finished third in the 300-meter hurdles at last year’s Class 4A state meet. Both runners who finished ahead of her -including teammate Jennifer Kishimoto – graduated. McKinnie will also likely be part of the 4×100 relay team.
Junior Amber Sutherland notched a second and third in the discus and shot put, respectively, last year at the state meet, but she will need to unseat a champion as the winners of both events return to the field for 2003.
Renewed dedication could get Sutherland to the next level.
“She’s just a naturally strong young lady,” Risner said. “I’m excited about the fact she made a commitment to school sports this year.”
Last year’s freshman phenom Abbey Walters comes off a sixth-place finish at state in the 800, and also set a Demon freshman record in the 1,600. She will also anchor the 4×400 relay team.
The other two returning letter-winners are senior Jeri Polowchena, a two-time state qualifier in the triple jump, and junior Nikita Daniely who qualified for state in 2001 in the 400.
“We have strengths in many different areas and we can score points in many different areas,” Risner said. “That would be the strength of the girls side. They can score in different areas and they can score high.”
On the boys side, inexperience will be a factor, but Risner sees plenty of potential for points by the end of the season.
“There are quite a few unknowns,” Risner said.
One runner who is not an unknown is senior Marco Salmen. Salmen was sixth in the 1,600 at state last year and was third in the 3,200 his sophomore year.
There is, however, an unknown factor to Salmen – how will he run without his older brother, Chas, pushing him?
“He has a new set of challenges this year,” Risner said. “Many people have said, `Will Marco be able to run without his brother pacing him?’ Personally, I think he’s up to the challenge.”
Aside from Salmen, Risner has been impressed with the hurdling crew of Brandon Park, Andrew Katers and Justin Church.
The throwers may end up being the deepest group on the team, with Chase Warner posting the highest marks last season in both the discus and shot put.
Sophomore Dustin Braeger notched the second fastest freshman time in school history in the 800 last year and could be a force this season.
In the sprints, senior Brian Walker has shown some speed, but this is his first season running high school track, so he may take time to develop.
The Demons open their season Saturday at a relay meet at Harrison High School.
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