The pleasant weather so far this spring has the Lebanon County girls track & field teams ready to get started for the 2016 season.
Palmyra was certainly one of those teams that experienced some good fortune last season, but faces the challenge of sustaining the momentum left by a solid senior class that has since graduated.
Elco is primed for a big run this season after hanging around .500 for most of 2015, confident with how it's positioned to begin a new year.
Then there's Cedar Crest, which is beginning a new era, but with someone it knows quite well - boys coach Rob Bare takes over for Anne Boyer.
And Lebanon and Northern Lebanon look to rebound after enduring tough 2015 campaigns.
Here's a complete breakdown of what to expect from each team this season.
Coach: Nick Watt
Last year’s record: 0-7
Key returners: Madison Hartman, distance/jumps; Ary’Anna Ortolaza, throws; Megan Deck, throws/pole vault; Greyson Long, middle distance; Jan Suarez Torres, sprints.
Promising newcomers: Maddy Jiminez-Espina, throws; Destiny Infante, middle distance.
Outlook: There’s no question the 2015 season was a difficult one for the Cedars, who didn't win a single meet. Another issue facing Lebanon is low numbers for the team, in addition to losing Erin Winters and Jeanie Showers, who were perhaps two of the best pole vaulters in the state. But that doesn’t stop coach Nick Watt from raising the bar for this season.
"We still have good expectations for this season,” Watt said. “Maddie Hartman and Greyson Long are very talented runners and are returning, and we’re excited about our promising newcomers.”
Those newcomers will be tested early and often this season for the Cedars, who hope to start turning their misfortunes around.
“We need to maximize our opportunities. It just takes the young kids really working hard and improving,” Watt said. “We need to pick up points when we can pick them up. We can’t let points go to waste. There’s no second or third places we can’t fight for, so we have to fight for every point we can get if we want to win those meets.”
Coach: Rob Bare
Last year’s record: 5-5
Key returners: Taylor Menser, hurdles; Brianna Laliberte, hurdles; Miranda Spangler, throws; Hannah Weddle, throws; Destinee Holloman, sprints; Emily Peters, middle distance; Alex Burrows, middle distance; Brenna Wolf, pole vault.
Promising newcomers: Bridgett Finn, sprints; Ariel Jones, sprints, jumps; DeAsia Holloman, sprints; Hannah Woefling, throws; Pam Wuori, distance; Amber Levengood, high jump; Faith Wenrich, jumps.
Outlook: After an up-and-down season in 2015, the Falcons begin a new era, but with a very familiar face. Rob Bare is taking over both the Cedar Crest girls and boys teams, after two decades as coach of just the boys.
“Having coach (Anne) Boyer all these years has been a blessing for them. I’m not going to change a whole lot,” Bare said. “The only thing I’m going to bring is to try to inspire the kids and motivate them. Hopefully they see a lot is going to be the same. Everything’s going smoothly.”
After a big season in 2015, Destinee Holloman leads the way as a returning state qualifier in the 100 dash. She did so last season in heroic fashion, qualifying with an injured hip. She also medaled in the long jump.
“For her to qualify for states like that was fantastic. I honestly don’t know how she did it,” Bare said. “I’ve coached some tough guys and girls over the years, and she certainly ranks up there. She’s looking great so far this year.”
Taylor Menser and Brianna Laliberte also are primed for a big season in the hurdles, along with Miranda Spangler and Hannah Weddle in the throws. Emily Peters and Alex Burrows also return in the middle distance races, along with Brenna Wolf in the pole vault.
Bare is also excited for what newcomers can bring to the team this year.
“All these girls are going to the success of the program," he said. "We’re looking to add a little bit of depth with them this year, and the coaching staff is working really hard with them.”
Head coach: Jerome Simon Last year’s record: 4-2 (Section Three)
Key returners: Reagan Hess, 100m/ 200m/Long Jump/4x100 m relay; Tori Malloy, Long Jump/Triple Jump/High Jump/4x100 m relay; Veronica Merone, Triple Jump/Long Jump/4x100 m relay/4x400 m relay; Alicia Hitz, 300m hurdles/100 m hurdles/4x400 m relay; Courtney Conners, 800m/400m/4x800m relay/4x800m relay; Maddie Deitz, pole vault/4x800m relay/1600m. Angie Fair, utility; Timeshah Clark, sprints; Morgan Zimmerman, sprints; Emily Fiebig, throws/jumps; Maia Gingrich, throws/jumps.
Promising newcomers: Marissa Marone, Mary Tshudy, Malloy Riech, Kayla Long.
Outlook: Though they were able to do it relatively successfully last season, the Little Dutchmen may not have ideal numbers, but they're certainly bringing back plenty of experience for 2016.
Leading the way is Reagan Hess, who won the district championship as only a freshman in the 100m and the long jump - but she'll be returning from injury that occurred during the Lancaster-Lebanon League meet last season. Besides Hess, the Little Dutchmen brings in a strong senior class, including Tori Malloy, Veronica Merone, Alicia Hitz, Courtney Conners, Maddie Deitz, and Angie Fair. A-C coach Jerome Simon is excited about what this group can bring this season.
"They are already in mid-season form," Simon said. "But I've been extremely happy with our team's effort thus far."
And to keep the developing preseason momentum going into the meets that count, Simon knows two things have to happen.
"Our success will depend on staying healthy and peaking at Districts, he said. "We are few in numbers, but very talented."
Coach: Bob Miller
Last year’s record: 5-3
Key returners: Chandelle Keller, jumps and hurdles; Alexis Rogers, jumps; Emily Bidelspach, jumps; Alexis Thomas, throws; Alyssa Keath, throws; Katie Fields, middle distance; Hannah Williams, sprints.
Promising newcomers: Jordan Rosengrant, middle distance; Abbie Keath, middle distance; Lily Brubaker, middle distance.
Outlook: Don’t let last year’s up-and-down season fool you when judging this Raiders team for 2016. Bob Miller likes how his team is positioned to begin a new season.
“We have a lot of really good athletes back. It’s going to be a solid team,” he said. “I don’t see us weak in any area. They’ll certainly be very competitive this year. They will also have to overcome those early season shin splints, little strains and things like that. Once they do that, they’ll put themselves in a position to be successful just like the boys.”
Chandelle Keller will lead the way for Elco as a returning four-year point-producer, along with Alexis Rogers in the jumps, Alexis Thomas and Alyssa Keath in the throws, Katie Fields in the middle distance, and Hannah Williams in the sprints.
Emily Bidelspach returns after a solid freshman season in the jumps, along with Jordan Rosengrant, Abbie Keath, and Lily Brubaker, who look to contribute for the Raiders in a big way in the middle distance.
“Practices have been going really well in terms of work ethic, just like the boys team,” Miller said. “The kids are showing a lot of heart to push through things and expand their comfort zone.”
Coach: Mark Opreska
Last year’s record: 2-6
Key returners: Kaitlin Dolan, distance; Kaley Donmoyer, sprints; Taylor Berger, sprints, pole vault; Charley Darkes, hurdles; Madison Goodwin, high jump.
Promising newcomers: Brianna Seip, distance/long jump; Sydney Mengel, sprints; RaeAnn Lessing, high jump; Kirsten Myers, high jump; Katie Rathmell, shot put, javelin.
Outlook: Although the Northern Lebanon didn’t have the season it was looking for in 2015, this year’s squad brings back notable returners and more promising athletes.
“We have some ladies who are now kind of coming out of the woodwork, where they have an adjustment to make since they’re now in the spotlight,” Opreska said. “They’re featured now and they’ll have to step up.”
One of the girls who will lead the way is Charley Darkes in the hurdles - she will look to carry the momentum of a solid cross country season into the spring. Kaitlin Dolan also returns for the Vikings in the distance, but is recovering from an injury. Madison Goodwin returns in the high jump after qualifying for districts last season.
One newcomer to keep an eye out for is Brianna Seip, who could be seen in different events, after showing versatility during this preseason.
Seeing who can take that next step will be also a big key for Northern Lebanon.
Coach: Danny Byrd
Last year’s record: 6-2
Key returners: Jess Dombrowski, 800; Hayaley Shultz, high jump; Camryn Simpson, triple jump.
Outlook: Coming off a successful season, Palmyra will need to recover from losing a solid senior class who led the way. As the first season without that senior class approaches, Cougars coach Danny Byrd says he has the athletes to do it, but the transition won’t be easy.
“We’ve got a young team. We have some good athletes, but we have a lot to figure out,” Byrd said. “Our team’s going to have a different dynamic. We were really strong in the distances, and we’ll have more in the jumps and the sprints.”
One of those athletes is Jess Dombrowski, who was a part of the 4x800 team that set a school record. Hayley Shultz also returns in the high jump, along with Camryn Simpson, who medaled at districts last year as a freshman in the triple jump.
As a new era begins for the Cougars, Bryd wants his team to carry the momentum from last year’s senior class.
“Hopefully they learned how to work hard, set those goals and achieve those goals by working the right way,” he said. “They have been doing that. They’re a tight-knit and a fine group.”