Both boys, girls teams reload with top talent | Falcon spring preview

Tanner Lobdell strides down the 100-meter stretch during a recent practice.

Filling the shoes of a host of seniors, some of whom set school records, will be a tough task for South Whidbey track and field athletes.

Several return as state meet qualifiers, four in all from 2014, and many more hope to vie for a spot at the 1A championship. Even among the team itself, the Falcons will have to do their best to rise to the top of a program with more than 80 students.

For the first time in three years, South Whidbey will host track and field meets. Thanks to voter-approved levy funds, the school district redid the track surface and relocated the jump pits off the grass field and near the grandstand. Already, coaches said they’re seeing the impact with fewer injuries. At least one athlete, junior distance runner Mallorie Mitchem, agreed.

“It’s nice to not have the bubbles and holes,” she said while walking for 200 meters during a recent practice.

As primarily a cross country runner, Mitchem will focus on the two-mile race this season. She declined to give a target time other than to improve upon her personal best, but said she wants to qualify for the state meet.

“That’s always a goal,” she said.

In addition to Mitchem, other distance runners to watch this season include 2014 state meet qualifier Cole Zink, junior Evan Mellish, and freshman Elizabeth Donnelly.

Leading the way for the throwers is senior shot put and discus thrower Angus Jones, who took the past season off to participate in a foreign exchange in Brazil. He’s back, bigger and stronger despite taking the winter season off from conditioning to focus on his studies.

“I love the sport … It’s a way to measure how you’ve grown,” he said.

He’s joined by a host of contenders. Senior Maverick Christensen and junior Chandler Hagglund will try to fill the shoes of graduated javelin thrower Nick French, and multi-event throwers Morgan Davis and Hailey Simchuck hope to qualify in discus, javelin and shot put. Newcomer Makeda Browne, a freshman, has the coaches’ attention for all three throwing events as well.

“I’m excited about this group of kids,” Jones said.

“I think that there’s some serious potential,” he added.

Sprinting will see major turnover from the senior-laden state qualifiers from 2014. Returning sprint stars include Tanner Lobdell, a junior who ran for both boys relays, and junior hurdler Allie Vanbenschoten, and fleet-footed sophomores Anna Leski and Bailey Forsyth.

“South Whidbey track and field is an up-and-coming thing on the island, especially in the 1A division,” Jones said.