Track teams have numbers and experience

"Throwing coach Jeff Greene gives a discus demonstration to the biggest crowd of field event hopefuls to turn out of the South Whidbey High School track and field team in years.Matt Johnson / staff photoIt's always good to have numbers on your side.South Whidbey High School's boys and girls track and field teams have the numbers and more working for them in the team's first season of the millennium. By the middle of this week, almost 70 runners, jumpers, and throwers were on the track and its grass infield. Almost untouched by graduation losses, both the boys and girls teams are back for 2001 with more than a dozen state meet veterans. At the same time the teams' head coach, Doug Fulton, has welcomed several freshman to the team who could make a state splash in their first year of high school track.Hoping to defend their 2000 North Cascades Conference titles and to make a run at last year's bi-district champion, Steilacoom, the two teams need to literally bring as many of their athletes up to speed as they can.Set to lead the girls in the scoring department this season is senior Andrea McGillen, who placed second in the triple jump and fifth in the pole vault at last year's state meet. Also looking to put up some record numbers are sophomore Kellie Horn -- who placed third in the state high jump -- sprinters Dail Bates, Melissa Poolman, and Lindsay Binford, and distance runners Sarah DeGraff and Julie Gabelein.The team may also get some big help from freshman Katie McGillen, who set the girls high jump record at Langley Middle School last year, and Kelsey Robinson, the team's sophomore hurdling star.With this lineup, coach Fulton believes his girls team has a chance to crack the top four at state, a move that would be a big improvement over the team's 11th-place finish last year.We're solid, he said.Runners pace Falcon boysOn the boys side, the success of the team lies primarily with its middle and long-distance runners. Coming off a second place finish at the state cross country meet in November and third place finishes in the 800 and the 1,600-meter runs at last year's state track meet, senior Braden Giswold is as much a marquis athlete as the team has ever seen. Joining him at the front of the pack in the 800, 1,600, 3,200, and 4x400 relay will be state veterans Brett Perkins, Bruce Hymas, Joe Candelario, Brandon Bilyeu, and Andy Wills. Together with a revitalized throwing program guided by assistant coach Jeff Greene and a building sprinting corps under the tutelage of Dean Hatt, the runners could put their team into trophy contention at the season's end. The big question mark for the team is in the hurdles and jumping events. With high and long jump ace Colin Murphy out of the country on a Rotary International exchange, the Falcons will look to younger athletes, such as freshman Nick Plastino, to keep pace over and in the pits.The Falcons open their season with a jamboree at home Thursday. Their first North Cascades meet will be held on March 22 at Lakewood. "

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