Preview: HHS girls track team growing, with talent coming upHastings' girls track team isn't huge, but it's growing. There are more than 60 girls on the team this year, up from about 30 to 40 just a few years ago.
By: Chad Richardson, The Hastings Star-Gazette
Last season, Mounds View High School needed a fleet of buses to transport all the members of its girls team – which had more than 120 athletes on it. Opposing track coaches all but salivated at the sight of all those athletes competing for one team.
Track coaches, more than any other, love big teams.
While Hastings doesn’t have quite that many athletes on its team this year, coach Greg Sandkamp is finding some good news with his team’s numbers. It was just a few years ago that Hastings had fallen down to about 30 to 40 girls on the team. At about that time, Sandkamp moved from his longtime spot at Kennedy Elementary School up to the high school and since that point, Hastings’ numbers have grown. This year, more than 60 girls are on the team.
“It’s a nice opportunity for me to recruit, and to talk to kids and suggest they’d be good at track,” Sandkamp said of his move to the high school a few years ago. “They come out and try it, and a lot of them have stuck with it. We’ve been able to build our numbers back up.”
Of those 60 athletes on the team this year, a third of them are returning letterwinners.
“We have some talent coming up,” Sandkamp said.
Hastings has a small group of seniors, but that is always the case. A dozen juniors are out and a big group of sophomores, numbering about 20, are out. Half of them are returning letterwinners.
“That shows how much athleticism they have,” Sandkamp said.
Nearly 20 freshmen are on the team, and six eighth-graders round out the roster.
“We’re seeing some good talent in those two classes,” Sandkamp said. “That’s a pretty gifted group.”
Sandkamp has coached track at Hastings for about 30 years. He’s seen some amazing teams and some amazing individuals and he wants to get back to those glory days here.
“We’d like to get our program back to a place where it used to be,” he said. “We used to be competitive in our conference and in our section, and we had a lot of kids going to the state meet. That hasn’t happened for a long time. I can see us getting back to that level, and that’s encouraging for us.”
The wonderful weather this spring has given the team plenty of opportunities to get outside to show Sandkamp and the coaching staff what they can do. This time of year, the coaches are simply trying to figure out who to put where. From that point, they can get to work on technique and training.
“I don’t want to miss having a kid in an event where they can be successful,” Sandkamp said. “I want to research it and have them try different things and find out what their best events are, and then put that puzzle together.”
Hastings had a meet in River Falls on March 31, then had a home meet April 5. Those two competitions gave the coaches a good look at the team’s progress thus far.
Hastings will be led by four junior captains. They are Johannah Kneen, Nicole Hollar, Bri Strandberg and Hanah Martin.
“That’s a nice group of girls with some experience,” Sandkamp said. “Most of them have been out since ninth-grade, and letterwinners the whole time.”
Kneen is primarily a sprinter.
Hollar is a jumper, Strandberg is a distance runner and Martin is a thrower.
That Hastings has captains in all the disciplines is something Sandkamp is happy about.
“We have some leadership just about everywhere,” he said.
Hastings competes in the Suburban East Conference, one of the state’s best in about every sport, including track.
“The first year we were in it, we were in the middle of the pack, but we have not been competitive in it in a long time,” he said. “One of the goals would be to keep moving up. We want to move up a couple places. We aren’t there with the Stillwaters and the Mounds Views. We just want to constantly show improvement and move up. We want to compete.”
Hastings will be in a new section this year, Section 3AA. That will pair the Raiders with teams from Apple Valley, Bloomington, Burnsville, Eagan, Eastview, Sibley, Park, Prior Lake and Rosemount, to name a few.
Here’s a look at the roster, at least through the first week of the season.
Seniors on the team are: Abby Boetcher, Nicole Froehling, Savannah Fultz, Meghan Hamilton, Cassie Rother, Clare Utecht and Melanie Waibel.
Juniors on the team are: Ashley Bayne, Taylor Burr, Becky Church, Ashley Hedlund, Hollar, Kneen, Martin, Allie Nolan, Marissa Nolan, Kate Reilly and Strandberg.
Sophomores on the team are: Bailey Clothier, Anna Connell, Kate Curtis, Tiffany Duong, Makaila England, Taylor Engstrom, Courtney Fasbender, Jessica John, Emma Kampa, Bobbie Koonce, Kaylee Kopp, Katelin Koudelka, Addyson Moore, Jessica Risch, Maria Rother, Kit Ruedy, Jenny Schutt, Morgan Shepherd, Gabriella Sorg and Ekaette Umana.
Freshmen on the team are: Maddie Carlson, Sierra Dokken, Anna Foster, Ashley Getting, Nicole Girgen, Kailee Harrington, Cassandra Hodgson, Morgan Johnson, Nicole Klimek, Christa Morse, Anaid Plascenia, Maddie Sandrin, Libby Schiller, Gretta Utecht and Taylor Wilhelm.
Eighth-graders on the team are: Jenna Conzemius, Ellie Cooper, Kiki Radke, Sam Schorzman, Allissa Smith and Maria Zappa.