LONG CREEK - Last year's 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams at Long Creek High School were tough to beat. They won the TriCo League and boasted such talent as Miranda Bennett, Christy Brown, Jennifer Lynall and Joey Vaughan for the girls and Ben and Max Corley for the boys.
All of these veterans of the relays are expected to return this year. Meanwhile, the other events promise to draw a host of talented track athletes, said fourth-year head coach Marianne Smith.
"All of these kids are just amazing," Smith said, excited by returners and fresh recruits.
Seniors include Bennett, a sprinter last year who also specializes in the middle distance and long jump events; Brown, a distance runner with state-title ambitions; Max Corley, 400-meter runner; and Vaughan, a relay runner who hopes to return after a basketball-season knee injury. Others in the senior class include Tony Cheung, Michael Dreher, Ilirjan Miftari, Jorge Sanchez and manager Teecherot (Best) Chirasrirungson.
Juniors include Valentine Bonnanfant, Travis Brown, Jackson Bull, Karolien Dorsman and Cassi Ross, who threw the javelin, shotput and discus last year. The sophomore class includes Ben Corley and Lynall, who also is a state contender in the 400-meter event. Freshmen are Craig Hunt, a long jumper, and Casey Witt, a hurdler and runner.
The boys look tough, Smith said.
"If they do what I think they're capable of doing, they're going to have a great year," she said.
Ben and Max Corley should excel, especially as they anchor the relay teams.
"Jorge (Sanchez) is going to be one to watch, also," Smith said. "I think he's going to round off our relay team very well."
For the girls, Bonnanfant and Dorsman bring strength to the throwing events, and Bennett, Brown, Lynall and Vaughan offer stamina on the track.
First outing for the Long Creek track athletes is Saturday, April 12, at Umatilla for the Umatilla/Heppner Invitational. The teams will not compete at Umatilla on Friday, March 21.