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High school track and field: East not expecting a drop-off

Leopards building a strong program in track and field

SHARE High school track and field: East not expecting a drop-off

In recent seasons, East has set a standard by which other girls track and field teams are measured in Region 6. After all, the Leopards cruised to back-to-back region titles in 2006 and 2007.

Defending the first title wasn't all that hard either. East bested second-place finisher Murray by a comfortable margin on the strength of top-three finishes in nearly every event.

It might be reasonable to expect the Leopards to suffer a drop-off this spring. Between the graduation of several seniors and the departures of some talented juniors for other pursuits, East has much more inexperience to deal with than in the past.

Still, the Leopards are convinced they won't miss a step.

"We have enough talent (to) repeat for sure," said senior Olivia Etringer. "The new people we have right now are really dedicated to stepping up — which is good to see."

Talented athletes like Sierra King, Lauren Spence and Ali Stephens are gone. In their place, East will count on big contributions from seniors like Etringer and Lyndsay Miles in short-distance events. Miles will anchor the Leopards in the 200 meters, 400 relay and long jump, while Etringer will go in the 100 meters, high jump, and 400 relay.

Madeline Gockner and Victoria Gockner are expected to be solid contributors in longer distance races like the 400, 800 and 1600.

Youth will be served in many events and, if history serves as a guide, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Last year, Madison Stephens, a freshman, finished sixth overall in the 400 meters. East is hoping for similar good fortune with its newer athletes.

"Our young ones that have come out have actually shown a lot of talent," Miles said.

Leopards coach Roland Tolbert doesn't think his girls team will have the wealth of third- and fourth-place finishers that helped it capture region titles over the past couple of years. But that doesn't mean the cupboard is bare by a long shot.

"I'm concerned about our depth," Tolbert said. "But I think this team is as talented as any team we've had in the past."

Where East might make its mark this season, according to Tolbert, is with its boys team. Mael Glon returns to anchor the team in the 100 and 300 hurdles. Glon, a junior, won region titles in both events last season and carved out top 10 finishes at state.

Injuries have slowed him a little bit, but East is counting on Glon being able to defend his titles once he is back to 100 percent.

The Leopards are also expecting big things out of another junior, Stevie Tukilovatu. Tukilovatu placed second in the shot put in last season's region championships in his first year of throwing a shot. This year, he will throw in the shot, discus and javelin.

With a year of experience to draw from, he feels confident about his chances to place even higher.

"I know what's going on — how to throw, new techniques and everything," Tukilovatu said. "I understand it better."

E-mail: jcoon@desnews.com