Xavier Prep’s track and field team is looking to improve on its ninth-place finish in last year’s Division I state meet, and head coach Dave Van Sickle thinks he has plenty of athletes to do it.
The Gators will have a better idea of how they are progressing when they compete in their first meet of the season on Wednesday (March 2) at the Brophy Sports Campus against Phoenix North Canyon and Phoenix Pinnacle. Xavier features about 60 athletes on the team.
As with last season, Xavier will be strong in distance and middle-distance events (Van Sickle has coached most of these girls in cross country).
“The reason is that we are so competitive in that area is because the distance kids run all year,’’ Van Sickle said.
Among the top distance runners are Sarah Carter, who won the state cross-country individual title, Tessa Weiss and Shannan Higgins.
He also expects the sprinters to be improved, particularly with the addition of new sprint coach Ryan Regula.
Regula has implemented some updated approaches, including an increase in weight training, “and you can already see the difference,’’ Van Sickle said.
Regula is a former college athlete at Notre Dame and works as an attorney, Van Sickle said. Regula inquired about helping out the team, and things fell into place.
Van Sickle’s other assistant coaches are Vito Perrone (distance), Eden Higgins (distance), Chris Pfaff (hurdles, horizontal jumps), Kelly Fitzgerald (throws) and Shea Kearney (pole vault).
Xavier has some young athletes in the shot put and discus.
The difference between now and two weeks ago, when the team first started practicing, is quite noticeable, the coach said.
“They are young. They have potential, and we are confident they will figure it out,’’ he said.
Top athletes to watch for the Gators are long jumper Teresa Roessler, hurdler Annie Grant and sprinters Cydeni Carter and Kinsey Ehmann. (Profiles on them coming soon).
Van Sickle likes the enthusiasm and the girls’ work ethic.
“It is better than ever,’’ he said. “If they keep it up, they should be able to do pretty well. It’s hard to tell sometimes in practice how it will play out until you start competing in the meets.’’