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"Falcon athletes return to field, gym"

"Stretch! Falcon runners on Friday warm up to keep their feet under them for the whole season.Matt Johnson / staff photoMore than 200 students headed back to South Whidbey High School last week for two weeks of sweating and straining without the aid of books or term paper deadlines.Pre-season workouts for the school's varsity and junior varsity athletic teams began Monday, Aug. 20, bringing students back to playfields and the school's gymnasium for the intense training they will need to run, pass, kick or leap when interscholastic play begins next week.Teams starting workouts last week include the girls soccer team, the girls volleyball team, the football team, the boys and girls cross country teams, the boys tennis team, and the fall cheerleading squad.Some of the squads need the work more than others. Boys tennis coach Tom Kramer said he lost most of his varsity lineup to graduation last spring, so now his team has to find a way to win with one senior, four freshmen, and 10 sophomores and juniors.We are green, he said.On the other end of the summer training spectrum, the boys and girls cross country runners may have done their homework better than most athletes. Team members got together several times each week during their months off to run roads and trails. Senior captain Joe Candelario said his team is ready to race.This is pretty much the best shape we've ever been going into the season, he said.Workouts are generally early in the day during preseason, a schedule that gets the student athletes used to getting out of bed before 10 a.m. and that keeps them out of the midday heat. But not everyone is grateful for the cool of morning. Mark Hodson, the new head coach for the Falcon football team, said his years of coaching football in South Dakota make him wish for the autumn heat of the Midwest. On Friday, he sported shorts to practice, but found himself wishing he'd brought long pants.It's cold out here, Hodson said.Starting their second year in the state's 2A athletic division, the fall sports teams will get to play against the likes of Sultan, Monroe, and Nooksack at least through the end of the season. That could change, said high school athletic director John Patton, if the school's student population increases this year. Between the fall and winter seasons, the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association will order a recount of all state high schools and will reclassify them by size. This will be the last count the WIAA will make for the next two years. If South Whidbey's student numbers are even 30 more than the approximately 650 in the school last year, the Falcons could wind up playing against 3A schools in 2002 and 2003 - schools with student bodies numbering more than 1,000.For the next few months, at least, the Falcon teams will focus on the competition they have now. Season highlights are expected to include the Oct. 26 homecoming football game against Sultan and repeat state appearances by the soccer and cross country teams. "

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