Pirates take to the track Saturday

The 2009 high school track season begins Saturday as the Pirates travel to Farmington, N.M., for the Piedra Vista Invitational.

Who will be making the trip, and who will compete in which event this weekend was, as of the start of the week, somewhat of a mystery.

According to Coach Connie O’Donnell, the Pirate roster for this season is far from being established, due to a number of factors.

First, as always, is the fact a number of athletes do not return to the team for their senior season. Spring and the last few months of high school do not lend themselves to participation if the athletes are not committed to the sport — and this spring is no different, with the disappearance of several key members of last year’s team.

Second is the question of which players from the boys’ basketball team, with the basketball season just ended, will transition into the outdoor sport.

Third, is the task of determining who among the many young athletes out for track will stick with the program, and show the ability and improvement needed to compete at the varsity level.

It’s not like there aren’t options for O’Donnell when she begins to assemble her team. Golden Peaks Stadium is swarming with prospects.

“We have seventy-eight kids out,” said the coach. “That’s a huge number. We had thirty-five out last year. This is the largest number of kids I have ever had come out. Not all of them will stay, of course, but the turnout is fantastic.”

And the bulk of the participants are underclassmen. “I’m not sure what to think,” said O’Donnell, when asked about how the team will develop. “We lost some seniors and we have all these young kids — many whom have no track experience.”

There are some veterans back, however, and they should form a solid core around which the youngsters can orbit.

Back for a final season are several tested distance runners — among them seniors Jacie Harms and Jackson Walsh — two standouts from this season’s cross country team.

Walsh, in particular, has a lot to tech the newcomers. He returns as the Colorado Class 3A state champion in the 3,200 meter run. Walsh also took fifth in the 1,600.

Senior John Jewell is back, competing primarily in field events, but he could also be available for relay duty.

Junior Kala Matzdorf returns after qualifying for the state meet last season in the 100 and 300 hurdles.

Relay veterans Victoria Espinoza and Casey Meekins are back for another season as well.

“And we have a number of basketball players who will join us this week,” said O’Donnell. “But, it’s really hard to tell at this point who will do what. A lot of our freshmen are enthusiastic and they are enjoying themselves. And that’s important.”

As far as a lineup for the Farmington meet, the plan was to hold runoffs early in the week, prior to making decisions concerning entries and relay team members.

Next week, the Pirates travel again to New Mexico, this time for a two-day meet at Aztec on Friday and Saturday, March 20-21.

The only home meet this year is the Terry Alley Invitational, on April 25.