The season looks bright for the Grant Union Prospector track and field team.
There are 51 athletes out for this year’s team, including 31 girls and 20 boys.
It’s not quite as many as were out in 2007, when the boys won the state championship, said Prospector head coach Sonna Smith, but talent is showing among the 51.
“Our strengths are across the board,” she said. “For girls we have runners, hurdlers, throwers and jumpers who should make it to post-season.”
She said the numbers on the girls team will allow for three athletes in each event at district.
“Our boys’ strengths are also across the board, but we do not have as much depth as we do in girls,” she said.
Last year, the girls team placed second at state, after winning the state championship in 2017.
Prospector Kaylee Wright, now a senior, earned the state title in javelin last May, shattering the state record she set as a freshman. She also placed first in the 100-meter dash and high jump.
Four boys and four girls qualified for state and placed well last year, and Smith hopes to see more runners and throwers competing in the post-season.
Trinity Hutchison placed second in the triple jump last season, and Sydney Brockway placed second in the 100-meter hurdles. Both hope to return.
Brockway and Hutchison also joined Sierra Cates and Wright to place second as a team in the 4x100-meter relay last year.
“We have a lot of potential — possibly taking our girls team to state and doing well,” Brockway said.
Wright said she’s looking forward to a fun track season.
“We have a bunch of kids this year with tons of talent,” she said. “I hope to win javelin again this year, and hopefully we can take a bunch more to state this year.”
Tanner Elliott, a senior, said he also has a goal to return to state. Last season, he placed 12th at state in the 800-meter run.
He said he likes the competitive nature of the sport and enjoys the mental skill that goes into the running events.
“And I find it fun,” he said.
Braden Spencer, a senior pole vaulter and sprinter, has been competing in track and field since fifth grade.
“I think the coaches are great, and they’ve taught me a lot,” he said.
Assistant coach Buzz Gilmore teaches the pole vaulters, and Smith and Ken Boethin are over the sprinters. Boethin also leads the hurdlers.
Kelsy Wright coaches javelin and high jump.
“Javelin has one of the hardest techniques to learn,” he said.
Still he’s coached many successful javelin throwers, including his daughter Kaylee who’s been throwing since seventh grade.
He said she’s back at it and poised to repeat for the district and state championship this year.
Two others are returning to javelin, including sophomore Quinten Hallgarth and junior Mason Gerry, who placed eighth at state last May.
Two more are on board with the sport, and coach Wright hopes a few more athletes will add the event.
John Houk, who coaches the jumpers, said his athletes are seasoned and know the drills.
“Our goal is to get as many to state as we can and do the damage,” he said.
New on the high school team is freshman Mason Morris.
Although he only started the jumping events last year as a middle schooler, he qualified for the National Junior Olympics last summer. Hutchison and Hall also competed at the regional Junior Olympics in Bend and were just short of qualifying for nationals.
Angie Lusco, over shot put and discus, said she has some talented throwers returning, including defending district champion discus thrower Drew Lusco, who placed ninth at state, and Abby Lusco, who was district champion for discus and also qualified for state in shot put, placing sixth and 10th, respectively.
“I have a great group, and they’re strong and hard workers,” she said.
Last year, Grant Union was in the Wapiti League, and this year they are competing in Special District 5, which includes: Culver, Enterprise, Heppner, Pilot Rock, Stanfield-Echo, Union and Weston-McEwen.
“It is hard for me to judge our competition at the district level,” Smith said. “We are in a new league, and due to bad weather, Union is the only team in our league that has posted marks.”
She added, “Out of the top 10 women’s teams in state last year, five came from our new special district, Grant Union second, Weston-McEwen fifth, Enterprise sixth, Culver eighth and Union 10th.”
Union is the only team in Special District 5 that also was in the Wapiti League last year.
“The boys side had three teams in the top 10 (last year),” Smith said.
“We will have our work cut out for us at our league meet, which we will be hosting at Grant Union on May 10,” she said. “Our team goal is to have girls win their fourth consecutive district title, and our boys to become district champions.”
Grant Union track and field schedule
April 5:@ Prairie City Annual Invite, 11 a.m.
April 9: GU Small Schools Meet, 4 p.m.
April 12: @ Burns Lions/Oster Track Meet in Burns, 1 p.m.
April 20: @ Pepsi Invitational in Union, 11 a.m.
April 23: @ Weston-McEwen Small Schools Invite in Athena, 3:30 p.m.
April 26: @ Don Walker Invitational in Nyssa, 1 p.m. (MT)
May 3: Grant Union Invitational, 10 a.m.
May 10: District 5 Track Meet at Grant Union, 11 a.m.
May 17: OSAA 2A State Championship Day 1 at Western Oregon University in Monmouth
May 18: OSAA 2A State Championship Day 2 at Western Oregon University in Monmouth