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Cougars Track PREVIEW
Lakewood set to run circles around the competition
Beneath the Lakewood High School football bleachers during a raucous pre-practice gathering, head track coach Jeff Sowards calms his group of young tracksters down and details the expectations for the upcoming year.
Sowards decrees that family will be the first priority of everybody present and, secondly, that they need to pay close attention to their grades if they expect to compete for him.
His relaxed enthusiasm rubs off on the team as they prepare for a day of training outside in the incessant, nagging drizzle of recent days. In fact, inclement weather has caused a number of practices to be cancelled early this season. But the bright faces surrounding Sowards look ready to compete no matter what Mother Nature might bring.
Since 1985 Sowards has led the Lakewood High School track team in their quest for statewide recognition. However, he deems the sport secondary to his goal of developing young men and women into exceptional adults.
Hell have his hands full this year with a near record turn-out of 97 students, the second largest track team in school history. Fortunately for Sowards, six alumni of the school and seven total assistant coaches have agreed to help including co-head coach Monica Rooney who will guide the sprinters and jumpers specifically.
Optimism abounds for the teams chances this season. On the boys side a number of State meet competitors return. Senior James Ervin placed third in the 800m last season. His time of 1:58.03 was a school record. He was joined in that State heat by junior teammate Terrence Ordonez who placed seventh.
Those two will lead the team along with powerhouse sprinters seniors Kyle Hayton and D.J. Griffin. Griffin returns from a knee injury but has the past credentials of a champion. As a sophomore he claimed the league championship in the 400m. Hayton participated on last years 4x100m group that earned a trip to State.
One up-and-comer on the team should be freshman Taylor Guske. Guske does dual duty as a star on the Lakewood cross country team. He finished as the second fastest overall distance runner for Lakewood during the fall season and looks to expand on his accomplishments this spring. Another young standout, sophomore Devon Smith will compete in the 200m and the 4x100m relay.
On the girls side a number of impressive long distance runners return. Junior Sarah Dunn qualified for State in the 1,600m as a sophomore, along with senior Corrine Gogert in the 3,200m. Brandi LaFave returns as a senior and has two State tournaments to her credit in the discus. Only senior Michelle Howe has more experience, with three State meets in the 300m hurdles to her credit.
Senior Danielle Osti, the fastest 800m runner in school history also returns, as does junior Jeneca Hoidal, a State competitor in the pole vault as a sophomore last season.
This years team is rife with talent, all that remains is to prove it to the rest of the league. Sowards holds high expectations for his athletes this season both on and off the track.
The first meet will be at South Whidbey, March 15.
Head Coaches: Jeff Sowards, Monica Rooney (sprints and jumps)
Asst. Coaches: Jon Murray (distance), Nathan Zahn (distance), Allison Preisinger (distance), Tasha Kryger (throws), Amber Nash (hurdles), and Brandon McKeehan (pole vault)