Warrior tracksters reload after solid 2008 season

King’s West senior Irene Moore practices the pole vault during practice Tuesday. - Wesley Remmer/staff photo
King’s West senior Irene Moore practices the pole vault during practice Tuesday.
— image credit: Wesley Remmer/staff photo

Soggy grass and sloppy conditions aren’t slowing down the King’s West track and field team as it gears for the 2009 season.

Forty-four members strong, including a slew of returnees who qualified for state in 2008, the Warriors are hoping for — and working toward — yet another successful season under longtime coach and athletic director Dan Dittmer.

Among others, the Warriors are without former standouts Megan Morris, Michelle Webster, Jeff Mitchell and Lakiesha Nilles, who recently broke Northwest Nazarene University’s record in the javelin, set in 1990, with a 137-foot-6-inch throw in the school’s first outdoor meet of the 2009 season.

But for every departure, there also was an arrival or a return, giving Dittmer what figures to be a strong nucleus of athletes for the 2009 season.

“We have a bunch of kids who graduated, but we have some pretty good kids coming back,” Dittmer said following practice Tuesday. “We’ve got some state people back.”

In fact, the list of 2008 state qualifiers returning this season is rather long.

Seniors Drew McCullough and Colin Mange and junior Chase Estes lead the charge for the boys.

McCullough, coming off a partially torn meniscus that sidelined him for part of the basketball season, placed fifth in the javelin at the 2008 Class 2B state championships and could make noise in the triple jump as well as the high jump this season.

“He’s been looking pretty good in preseason,” Dittmer said. “We’ve been very careful. He wants to triple jump, he wants to high jump, but we’ve been laying off on those things a little bit.”

Mange was a state medalist in the pole vault in 2008, finishing eighth at the state championships. Estes, meanwhile, placed eighth at state in the long jump, also earning a medal.

Dittmer said junior Nick Olson, who last year qualified for state in the 100-meter dash but didn’t medal, is showing marked improvement as well.

“We have a lot of numbers,” Dittmer said, referring to Olson plus a handful of others, 30 boys and 14 girls. “They are really good kids.”

Senior Irene Moore and junior Carlie Rouse lead the girls side, both coming off strong 2008 seasons.

Moore, the most decorated athlete on the team, earned a team-high four medals last year at state — in the high hurdles, 300 hurdles, 100 relay and pole vault — and figures to make a return trip.

“Hopefully she’ll have a great senior year,” Dittmer said. “She’s going to be missed.”

Rouse, too, figures to carry a heavy load. The long-distance runner medaled in both the 1,600 (sixth place) and 3,200 (fourth) at the 2008 state championships.

After Moore and Rouse, Dittmer said he “expects big things” from juniors Samantha Kappert (triple jump) and Jill Morris, the lead runner off last year’s 100 relay team, as well as up-and-coming distance runner Leandra Shado.

Dittmer also pointed to Jordan Cooper, Eric Jeong, the SeaTac league champion in the 300 hurdles, and Andy Lee as additional impact athletes, adding he’s more concerned with self-improvement rather than medals and first-place finishes.

“Shoot for personal records, always,” Dittmer said. “No matter where you’re at, no matter what level you are, the next time you go out, you do a little bit better.”

“I don’t care what place you get as long as you keep improving your performance. You can only control what you do, you can’t control anybody else.”

Dittmer also said he will shuffle the lineup based on performance, choosing to mix and match and experiment rather than ink permanent events or races to each individual.

“One thing I try to do as a coach is try them (the athletes) at everything, we try them here and there and everywhere,” Dittmer said. “My whole thing is to try and find where the kids can be most successful.”

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