Track and field is a difficult sport in which to make preseason predictions, and if you’re Peninsula High coach Curtiss Hall, it might be fruitless to try.
Peninsula’s program is in the unique position of having no state-medal winners return to its lineup. The boys team, which won the Class 3A fourth-place trophy last spring, graduated four stars in Luke Plummer (jumps), Curtis King (long distances), Jacob Gilman (sprints, javelin) and Isaac Morse (javelin).
The girls team sent three athletes to state, and while none of them placed, all return for a second chance in 2013.
What makes this year’s Seahawks teams most unpredictable is the 130-plus athletes who chose to compete, many of them for the first time, Hall said.
“Our first goal is to get a lot of kids involved in athletics,” he said. “This is a non-cut sport, and everyone participates. So we don’t cut, and you don’t ride the bench.”
Peninsula’s boys aren’t without potential in most events, and that starts in the hurdles with Blake Dukowitz, who likely would’ve reached state as a junior if he hadn’t fallen in last season’s West Central/Southwest bi-district 110-meter final.
“That was kind of a bummer, so I’m hopefully going to make it to state this year,” he said.
Dukowitz has the long, lean frame of the prototypical hurdler, and he’s cleaning up his techniques as the Seahawks prepare for Friday’s season-opening jamboree in Lakewood.
“I’ve got to work on getting strides cleaner and bringing my trail leg through,” he said. “It’s all about form when it comes to the hurdles, so it’s a pretty tough event.”
The boys lost two state qualifiers in the javelin, but junior Ben Smith is poised to become the next standout. His personal-record mark of 161 feet, 2 inches is second-best among returning athletes in the bi-district.
Kyle Self, a senior who will play football this fall at Central Washington University, has the strength and athleticism to make a big impact as a thrower.
Two other boys — senior Jakub Morton in the 800 meters and junior John Corey in the 400 — are entering the season within shouting distance of state-qualifying marks.
Like past seasons, Peninsula’s girls feature several quality distance runners. Coming off a third-place finish at November’s state cross-country championships, senior Katie Lynch, junior McKenzi Bravo, sophomore Sarah Manning and freshman Emma Jones could continue to thrive on the track.
Lynch reached state last season in the 800 but finished 13th in 2 minutes, 22.14 seconds. That was more than three seconds shy of her best time, and she’s hungry for redemption this season.
“Coming into the shorter distances, I learned that you really don’t have time to let your mind wander,” she said. “You really have to stay focused and stay determined, and just focus on what’s ahead of you and the people around you, and just work off of them.”
Bravo was ninth in the 3,200 last season, so she’s within reach of the podium in 2013. The distance runners are a tight-knit group, Lynch said, and they’ll push each other throughout the season.
“We’re really trying to stick together and kind of close the gap between everyone, work as a team, and just kind of build off of each other’s workouts,” Lynch said.
Megan Eberhardt was a state qualifier in the 400, and the sophomore was diligent about improving during the offseason, Hall said.
Other key contributors for the girls figure to be Ginelle Peterson (sprints, hurdles), Kash Serock (jumps) and Michala Zilkey (throws).
The Seahawks have shaken things up a bit with their coaching staff. Dylan Hall, the school’s former strength and conditioning coach, took a job at the University of Nevada-Reno, and throwing coach Shane Colglazier is moving to a part-time role, so football coaches Steve Levenseller and Ross Filkins will be helping out.
“(Filkins) used to be our throws coach way back, and he’s now back in the fold,” Curtiss Hall said.Sports Editor Neil Pierson can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_neil.