|Bluebird Teams Enter Season with High Expectations Again|
|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands senior Mary Claire Redden prepares to fire the discus in a meet last year.|
Last year, the Highlands girls won the Class 2A, Region 5 meet for their fifth region title in the last six years and the Bluebird boys finished second. The Highlands girls then finished fifth at state with 46 points and the Highlands boys took 11th with 17 points.
The Highlands girls are hoping to win their first state championship since 2011. That marked the last of four straight state championships for them.
"W're piecing things together. We've been fortunate enough to have a team that has a lot of good girls, good athletes that aren't exceptional," said Brian Alessandro, Highlands Girls Head Coach. "We kind of scrape by in points. Some of the teams will score 30 points with two people so you never know."
The Highlands girls produced one relay state champion last year in the four by 1,600-meter relay in 4 minutes, 8.94 seconds. Three of the runners are back in seniors Sophie Steppe, Savannah Brady and sophomore Adriana Muntaner. Brady placed third in the 800 in 2:20.91
The fourth runner in Beth Ann Griffith graduated. Two other sprinters in Sydney Ossege and Addie Parris also graduated.
Senior Mary Claire Redden returns to lead Highlands in the distance events. She placed third at state in the discus with a throw of 109 feet, five inches and sixth in the shot put in 33 feet, seven inches. Senior Natalie Wehrle could also make an impact in the throwing events for Highlands.
Highlands should also be strong in the distance events led by the individuals who helped the Bluebirds to their fifth Class AA title in six years this past fall. That includes senior Karsen Hunter, sophomore Maria Broering and freshman Maggie Schroeder. Broering finished fourth in the mile run in 5:20.83.
Alessandro also said to look out for others to emerge. Junior Hannah Hartman could help out in jumping and sprinting events and sophomore Ali Gessner could also help out in the sprinting events.
The Highlands boys are hoping to do more than improve last year's place at state. The Bluebirds graduated two strong hurdlers in Jake Hoarston and Chuckie Buckler. But senior Nick Veneman returns after not being able to run last year.
"We're just a mixed bag of youth and inexperience right now," said Ryan Leopold, Highlands Boys Head Coach. "Hopefully, it'll all work together in the end. These guys really think they have an opportunity to place in the top three in the state. I'd really like to put them in a place to help them do that."
Senior Michael Dunn will lead the Bluebirds in the Shot Put and Discus Throw. He finished eighth in the Shot Put last year throwing 43 feet, 10.5 inches.
The Bluebirds expect to be strong in the sprinting events. Junior Liam Ehrman, sophomore Noah Whitaker along with nine others give Highlands depth. Leopold said the team could see four different runners in the 4x100 and 4x200 this year.
Highlands returns two nice distance runners in junior Donovan Staab and freshman Will Griffith. But Leopold is hoping some of the younger runners such as seventh-grader Sam Hopper develop to help the Bluebirds there. Leopold said the runners will see heavy workloads then taper back as May approaches hoping to peak at the region and state meets.
The Bluebird boys have three state championships in school history. The last one came in 2014 and the other two came in 1959 and 1920.
The first meet for both teams is this Saturday at 10 a.m. They'll participate in the Villa Relay for Life at Scott.
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