With four returning state qualifiers among the 12 athletes on its roster, the Centre track and field team will be small but mighty this season under the direction of ninth-year coach Alan Stahlecker.
Senior Kate Basore earned her second-consecutive medal and became the highest-placing Cougar girl since 1991 with her bronze-medal javelin throw of 128 feet, 3 inches at the Class 1A state meet last year. The reigning Wheat State League champion, Basore won a regional championship as well.
While the girls will compete without graduated throwers Summer Espinoza and Katie Marler, newcomers on the team this year are senior Jayden Hallowell, sophomores Emma David, Kelsey Hett and Gracie Luna, and freshmen Cailey Barney, Alyssa Espinoza and Samantha Espinoza.
Meanwhile, three returning state qualifiers will lead the boys’ team.
Junior Xavier Espinoza is the reigning Wheat State League champion in the 400 and the long jump. He qualified for state in four events, where he placed ninth in the long jump (19-41⁄2) and 15th in the 100 preliminaries (11.79). Espinoza anchored the 4×100 relay that finished 16th in the preliminaries (47.67). He also qualified in the 400 but withdrew from the race.
Additional returning members of the state 4×100 relay are sophomores Aidan Svoboda and Braxton Smith. Svoboda will also run the 1,600, while Smith will compete in the javelin and the shot put.
The boys will compete without graduated thrower Brendon Bina, but look for senior Cody Svoboda to compete in the javelin and the shot put as well.
Stahlecker said the Cougars have a mix of returning experience and incoming talent, although numbers will make team scoring challenging.
“Team scoring will be difficult as we only have four boys and eight girls to compete, and there will be a large number of events in which we will be unable to have entries,” he said. “I do expect most of our athletes to be competitive on the local level and certainly expect Kate Basore and Xavier Espinoza to also compete on a larger scale. I expect that some of the younger athletes will step up and be competitive on the state level, too.”
Centre will open the season at the Burrton Central Kansas Track League meet Tuesday.