One year ago, there was no stopping the Arrowhead girls track team in the always-tough Classic 8 Conference. The Warhawks won the league's "triple crown," sweeping the league indoor, relays and outdoor championships.
With a total of 117 girls in the program again this season and a big group of returning letterwinners that have some special talents, Arrowhead might be the favorite to repeat as the conference champion for 2017.
"The Classic 8 Conference each year is by far one of the toughest conferences in the state," said AHS coach Ron Johnson. "The competition is intense and the team lucky enough to come out on top has to be clicking on all cylinders, so to speak. Our goal is success in all the conference meets that we compete in, regardless of the time of the season."
Arrowhead is led by four girls who grabbed a pair of seconds in relay races last year at the WIAA state meet in La Crosse. AHS ran second in the 4x800-meter relay, and returning members from that team are Megan Olshanski and Kayla Vogt. The 4x400 relay also took second, and returning runners from that team are Lizzy Bejna, Grace Gilmore and Vogt.
Individually, the top returning runner is Olshanski, who took 10th place in the 1,600 at last year's state meet. The Warhawks placed fifth in the team scoring at the showcase.
"We have a nice group of kids back this year but it's going to be hard to replace Mary Bartelson," Johnson said. "She is now competing for the University of Wisconsin. She left here last year holding on to three school records. It's difficult to replace her with just one athlete, so we are going to try and develop three different athletes to replace her the best we can."
Gilmore will return in the sprints and relays, and Bejna will compete in the sprints, relays and the long jump. Vogt should have a big season in the middle distances and relays.
Sarah Edwards will compete in the hurdles and jumps, and Tatum Radtke, Rachel Brockish and Ally Prendergast should be some of the top pole vaulters in this past of the state.
Molly Dieball was a sectional qualifier last year in the triple jump and has shown dramatic improvement in early-season testing this year.
Brynn Bartlett, who ran on last year's 4x800, is not with the track team this year.
"I don't worry about team championships," Johnson said. "It's just simply that if everyone does their job those championships will take care of themselves. All in all, we have a special team this year, and the girls are fun to work with. That is what makes coaching worth it, seeing them grow and achieve based on our instruction."