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Titans track has strong showing at opening meet

Girls team takes second place

by Than Acuff

Head coach Laura Daniels and her staff got their first real glimpse into the talent pool on their Titans track team as they headed to Monte Vista for the Center Invitational, the first official meet of the season on Friday, March 17. What they found is that while they may be short on numbers, they’re looking pretty long on talent.

The plan for the meet was simple: Find out where the athletes stand in a variety of areas, focusing mostly on individual times.

“We were really looking to get our feet underneath us and get some times from the start of the season and find out what we have to work with,” says Daniels. “It was pretty cool to see what we have.”

Case in point, the girls team. While having just nine athletes at the meet, the girls racked up enough scoring results to finish in second place overall as a team.

“It’s quality over quantity,” says Daniels.

Junior Sydney Petersen led the charge for the Titans team, running away from the field to win the 3,200 meters and placing second in the 800 meters. Distance teammate junior Maria O’Neal was right there with Petersen in both events. O’Neal finished third in the 800 meters and jumped into the 3,200 meter fray to finish in fourth place.

“I wanted to see what she could do in that distance and she did well,” says Daniels.

Junior sprinter Malia Olson is back in the mix this year after struggling with injuries her freshman and sophomore seasons. Olson is a legitimate contender at the state level in her events, with nagging injuries the one thing holding her back. As a result, Olson is on a new rehab program and Daniels is working her into the season slowly but surely. Olson opened her season with a seventh-place finish in the 100 meters and a fifth-place result in the 110 meter hurdles.

“She seems really strong and we’re just trying not to push her too hard,” says Daniels.

Freshman Keely Olson had an impressive debut in her first high school meet, taking fourth in the 300 meter hurdles and second place in the long jump—lofty results for a young track athlete.

“That was really cool,” says Daniels. “Freshmen never score like that in the long jump.”

Daniels also had a chance to put together some relay teams with the girls’ 4×400 meters pulling together to post a fourth-place finish with little to no training on hand-offs and strategy so far this season.

On the boys’ side of things, sophomore Josh Merck established himself as one of the points leaders for the team across a couple of events.

Merck placed third and posted a personal record in the 100 meters, took fourth and set a personal record in the 400 meters and finished in second place in the long jump, setting a new school record by more than five inches.

“Josh had a super-good day,” says Daniels. “To have a sophomore performing that well is very exciting.”

Sophomore teammates Joe Coburn and Tate Young were all over the place and scoring points. Coburn finished fifth in the two-mile while Young posted a fourth-place result in the high jump and a sixth-place finish in the triple jump and joined the 4×800-meter relay to help push them to a third-place finish.

With pre-season and their first meet out of the way, Daniels has the team on recovery mode for this week as they prepare for the Bulldog Invitational on Saturday, March 25 in Delta.

“The kids are hurting a bit, starting to get aches and pains, so we’ll back off a little bit this week and hit it hard next week,” says Daniels. “We’ll focus on relays and getting individual times and focus on open events to get times down and then create our relay teams from that.”

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