The West Hancock girls track and field team is no stranger to sending many events to the state meet at Drake Stadium every year.
But the challenge this year is figuring out who is going to step in after so many of the girls who qualified in 2019 are no longer on the team.
Head coach Mark Sanger is still confident that with plenty of hard work, and the leadership of his seniors, the Eagles can get their goals accomplished this season.
“We had a big senior class from last year that was a very talented track team that we graduated,” Sanger said. “So now it’s kind of up for grabs, some spots in there girls to fill in and compete on the varsity squad. I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised on what our girls are able to do.”
The Eagles will be led by senior returners Carlee Bruns, Ann Horstman, Rachel Leerar and Shae Smith this season. The challenge for those four will be showing the underclassmen the ropes after missing last season due to COVID-19.
Many of the girls on the team haven’t ran since middle school, so these first few weeks will be critical in setting up future success.
“There’s a lot of leaders on the team, so that helps with everyone staying on task and working hard,” Smith said. “I think that’s why we always have good athletes coming out of West Hancock. We have just enough leaders and just enough followers to lead to success.”
To Smith’s point, the Eagles are almost always successful in the spring. This year’s team returns junior Kennedy Kelly, who qualified for state in the 400 hurdles as a freshman. She is expected to qualify again and potentially medal, according to Sanger.
There’s also members of the shuttle hurdle relay team that qualified in 2019 on the team, including Leerar. Her goal is to qualify for the state meet and head south in May.
“You want to win. If you’re playing the sport not to win, you’re doing it wrong,” Leerar said. “Coach Sanger, I have so much respect for him. He’s a winner too in every sport that he touches. The goal is definitely to have a lot of success and just keep improving every meet.”
Sanger, in his 11th year as head coach of the program, has been working the 25 girls on the team hard to get them into shape during the first few weeks of practice.
“He’s really working us in the range of events that he wants us to be more active in,” Horstman said. “I feel like we’re all doing really well in that. It’s the best way of conditioning.”
Despite the new faces and many challenges that the start of this year has brought, expect the Eagles to make some noise come May.
For many of the seniors, the importance of success comes secondary.
“Have fun, because it’s our last year,” Bruns added.
The Eagles open up their season on April 5 at home.
COLLECTION: Globe Gazette's spring track and field previews
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Gunnar Davis covers education and sports. Reach him via email at Gunnar.Davis@GlobeGazette.com or by phone 641-421-0598.