Stella, Brand back to lead girls track and field team
When the Whitehall girls hit the track this season, they'll have a couple of record breakers who will anchor a strong team that has talent across the field.
Angela Stella, who broke the school record in the 800 meters last year, and Emily Brand who accomplished that feat in the 1,600, are back and poised to make another run at those marks. Head coach Jim Sebesta said that both runners are capable of shattering their records and looks forward to this season of possibilities.
"Hopefully, they can break their own records this year," said Sebesta.
Last year the girls finished 5-4 and had a number of strong athletes in a number of areas. While they return a solid contingent from that group, they will also feature a slew of newcomers out of the 66 girls competing for track this season.
That youth is clearly evident in the sprints. Sebesta said that of the 19 sprinters listed so far, 17 are freshman.
"The sprinting coach has a big job to do," said Sebesta as he looked over the roster.
Still, they do have some experience as sophomore Decontee Krayee returns. She's had a strong indoor season, and is expected to be a central figure in the 100 and 200. Sebesta said she'll be a valuable asset as they incorporate a lot of new faces into the sprints. Joining Krayee will be senior Cassandra Schmidt, junior Arianie Pizarro, and freshman Ivanna Jones, all of whom will help the Zephs grab some points in the sprints and relays.
The middle distances will be led by Stella who is a top flight 800 performer. The junior has made steady progress every year, and Sebesta hopes she will continue that upward trend.
Sebesta said that another runner to watch is sophomore LeAnna Cruz. He said she has the right make up to be a major contributor this season.
"She is really strong mentally and will help us a lot," said Sebesta.
The middle distances will also feature sophomore Iman Azim who is back in the 400, as well as seniors Jessica Kroboth and Christine Metrick. Sebesta expects that both seniors will help in the 4x800 relay.
Sebesta also said that newcomer Natalee Rackus, a senior, and former spring soccer player has emerged as someone who "is pushing Angela Stella in the 800."
Another newcomer is senior Kayla Cunningham, whose speed should also be a valuable commodity in the middle distances.
Some other athletes who should contribute in the middle distances are senior Melanie Murphy and freshman Korin Koehler.
Leading the pack in the long distances will be Brand. The sophomore is coming off a strong debut season and should be ready to continue her rise. Sebesta said that she'll be aided by "her partner in crime," Kelsey Antonchak, a sophomore, who is another talented distance runner for the Zephs.
"Those two really push each other," he said.
The Zephs will also feature sophomore Heather Busch and junior Rhiannon Harwi in the long distances, each one expected to add depth and contribute.
The hurdling events will see the return of senior Emily Graveno, as well as senior Kelsey Magilton. Both should provide strong leadership in the hurdles to a young group that includes sophomores Sophia O'Donnell, Sierra Dreisbach and Briana Gensey.
Sebesta said that senior Brianna Walker will be another athlete to watch in the hurdles, while newcomers Megan Doncescz, a junior, and sophomore Susie Smith will provide depth in both the high and intermediate hurdles.
The jumps will feature a broad spectrum of athletes who perform in other areas as well. That includes freshman Jillian Kreglow who will also perform in the hurdles, as well as senior Nicole Umbenhauer who is primarily a thrower. Additionally, Krayee will also long jump, and sophomore Taylor Hamscher, a pole vaulter, is back to compete in some events.
The jumps will also feature returning junior Kelsey Millets, along with sophomore Cora Peters and freshman Ivanna Jones.
The throwing events may prove to be the strongest area for the girls as it was for the boys. They have sound returning performers in Umbenhauer (discus, javelin and shot), as well as senior Mikaela Fedor who consistently tallied points in the shot last year. They'll also feature junior Tabitha Pitten (shot and discus) and junior Emily Wehr (shot and discus) who should help the Zephs capture points as well.
Additionally, Hamscher will also be tossing the javelin this year in an effort to bolster their fortunes.
"We really have a solid group of throwers this year," said Sebesta.
Sebesta said that their group of pole vaulters has a mixture of youth and experience led by Hamscher. Sailing over the bar will also be freshman Amber Myers, junior Jaclyn Haiem, and senior Kaytlyn Suranofsky.
Other athletes expected to contribute are seniors Lindsey Bulcavage, Kathryn DeLeo, Shay Gimbel, along with juniors Siba Chekeif, Kristen Kramer, Angela Landry, Victoria Rosario and Madison Scarfaro.
Sophomores who should make a splash include, Raquel Hadeed, Abigail Hall, Chyna Lewis, Kassandra Rajha, Natalie Saraceni, Myrissa Sitko, Madison Walker and Abbigail Woodring. The freshman who will contribute include, Hayley Arner, Carmen Collins, Jenise Cooper, Maggie Due, Anna Gallina, Vanessa Hadeed, Rachel Hibshman, Alyssa Holland, Melissa Honohan, Tiffanie Hopkins, Victoria Marks, Camarya Tillman, Morgan Tirpak and Madison Weber.
Sebesta said that this year's team has talent at almost every event and that should bode well as they prepare to do battle in the Lehigh Valley Conference.
"There's a little bit of everything at every spot," said Sebesta. "We're pretty spaced out across the board."