Ashley Miller has graduated, but a large chunk of last season’s team that placed ninth at the state meet is back. This year’s Mustang team could find itself in the mix for a Class 2A state trophy.
The top three teams in each class at the state meet get trophies. New head coach Eric Karr has done the research.
“I started researching this once cross country was over,” Karr said. “I went back 10 years to figure out what it took to qualify, what it took to finish eighth and what it took to win. I then looked at the team points. I decided to average it out over the past five years and it takes 43 points to finish third, 48 points to get second and 53 points to win it all.
“The girls know that I have done my research, and I have shared it with them, but it isn’t the focus right now. Right now, it’s about attitude, effort and improvement.”
The Mustangs scored 25 points last season. The 4x200 relay team finished second in 2A, while the 4x400 relay placed third and the shuttle hurdle relay was fourth.
Sophomore Margo Chipps also took third in the 400 hurdles as a freshman.
Chipps is back. So are seniors Paytan Schut and Morgan Uhlenhopp and juniors Sierra Foster, Kate McCarthy and Lexi Kuecker, who were all part of those medal-winning relays last season.
“Lots of girls are working hard, and the attitudes have been awesome,” Karr said. “I think our returning state qualifiers and place winners are looking strong.”
Karr was part of the coaching staff last season, serving as an assistant to coach Bridget Martin. Martin put a heavy emphasis on relays, and Karr plans to do the same as long as it gives the Mustangs the best chance to score at the state level.
“I think Margo, Sierra and Paytan could all qualify as individuals, but where do we score the most points as a team is the question,” Karr said. “This isn’t a guessing game to me. No workout or race is random. Everything is researched and based on science. The data is out there, so as the coach, I need to do the math.”
Two other runners who competed at the state level last year are juniors Klaire Jungling and Hannah McCarthy. They both were part of a 4x800 state qualifying relay team which lost Baylee Smith to graduation and Sayde White to relocation.
Karr says sisters sophomore Lilli Baird and freshman Delaney Baird will fill in to complete the foursome this season.
Kuecker, junior Regan Freland and sophomore Emma Houser will compete in long jump. Sophomore Celeste Wagaman and Delaney Baird are among those who will take on high jump and sophomore Bess Telfer is the lone returner in the shot put and discus.
The second-place 4x200 relay team returns Chipps, Foster and Schut, the third-place 4x400 relay brings back Foster, Schut and Kate McCarthy and the fourth-place shuttle relay squad welcomes back Kuecker, Chipps and Uhlenhopp.
The sprint medley team placed ninth last year at state, and it returns all four runners in Foster, Schut, Kuecker and Uhlenhopp.
Finding the one or two replacements for each relay this season will be up to Karr and new assistant coach Greg Bonnett.
“It’s a nice way to start a season,” Karr said about having several returners back. “None of those spots are safe though. I don’t anticipate major changes, but they will be earned.”
Karr expects some of his freshmen to make impacts, but it’s still too early in the season to know in what way.
“The freshmen class has loads of talent, and it’s spaced out nicely,” Karr said. “There are sprinters, mid-distance, hurdlers, jumpers and throwers. I don’t ever put pressure on the freshmen to score points. I will let them develop and see what they can do. We’ll try them in a lot of events because you never know. They will score points for us though.”
PCM opens its outdoor season at Davis County at 4:30 p.m. on March 26 in Bloomfield.