If South Whidbey’s new track and field head coach were playing poker, he’d have quite a hand.
Mark Eager, in his first year as the head coach of the Falcons, holds a couple of aces on the team. Two throwers — senior Angelina Berger and junior Nick French — returned from the 2A state meet last year and are poised to be two of the top throwers in the state this season as South Whidbey competes in the 1A class.
“Nick’s a talented kid anyway,” Eager said. “Angelina passes the eye test. She has the same build as Aretha Hill at the UW who competed in the Olympics.”
A couple of distance runners could make big strides this season toward qualifying for the state meet, too. Lillianna Stelling, a senior, has qualified twice for the state cross country meet, and will try for her first track and field state berth in the mile and two-mile races.
Cole Zink, though only a sophomore, is the boys’ top distance runner. Last season, he ran his second-best time of 2:08.20 in the 800 at the district championship. Even if he misses out on the 800, he has a chance at one of the other three events he plans to take part in this season: the 1,600 meter, 3,200 meter and 1,600-meter relay. Winning any of those will require a quicker, more powerful stride.
“I’ve got a long, kind of slow stride,” Zink said. “I need to get the turnover.”
Joining these aces are a host of new faces. This season, 75 students registered to run, throw, jump and vault for South Whidbey. The buzz of the team has its first-year coach excited to see what the athletes can do at the first test, a jamboree at Oak Harbor High School on March 14.
“A sport like track, kids haven’t been doing it from a young age,” Eager said. “The more kids that come out, you start to discover some diamonds in the rough.”
One senior hopes offseason dedication will help her become a polished sprinter. Anna Hood, who ran cross country in fall, switched gears during winter for her main event, the 100-meter dash.
She attended a weekly camp at the University of Washington. Changes to her stride and technique, she hopes, will shave tenths of a second off her time so she can challenge for a spot at the state meet.
“It’s an intense program, but I really like it,” Hood said.