“We’ll be young,” said Panther head coach Scott Smith, admitting that the Panthers have just a handful of seniors among the 76 students out for the sport this spring. “We’ve got some good talent among those younger kids, though.”
Talent, indeed. The Panther boys, 40 members strong this season, bring back the second-highest tally of returning points from last year’s state track championships. Many of those points will likely be found in the throwing rings, where the Panthers have plenty of muscle in their stable.
That list is co-headlined by defending 3A discus champ Garrett Lynch, a junior, and shot put school record holder Vince Sleep, a senior. The pair are the top returning discus throwers in the state and, along with junior Garrett Michael, are the top returning shot put throwers from last year’s state tournament.
“Garrett (Lynch) had an outstanding winter winning the state indoor title,” said Smith. “Vince will be right there with him when things get going. It’ll be fun to watch those two push each other all spring.”
The weight ring won’t be just a male-dominated arena this spring, either. The Panther girls feature their own pair of standouts in juniors Tori Sleep and Shawnea Harrington, the fifth and sixth place finishers at last year’s state track and field championships and two of only four throwers in the class to surpass 36 feet in the shot put last season. Sleep is also one of four medal winners back from the 3A discus finals last season.
The tandem are two among 36 girls out for track at Powell High School this spring.
Elsewhere, the Panthers will look to junior KaDee Harrison in the sprints as they look to recover the points that graduated with do-it-all track star Desiree Murray last May.
Sophomore Blaise Gann will be back for the Panther boys in the longer sprint races after garnering some attention as a freshman last season. In the longer distances, the Panther girls have the likes of Tally Wells, Bailey Sanders and Gretchen Moretti back from last year’s state roster. For the Panther boys, Zander Andreasen scored in both the 1600 and the 3200 as a sophomore.
In the hurdles, the baton has been passed from graduated leaders Murray and Josh Cragoe to their heirs apparent in returning state qualifier Mikaila Moore on the girls’ side and Kalei Smith on the boys’ side. Both are sophomores.
Juniors Hayden Cragoe and Brendon Phister should also contend for hurdle points for the Panthers this season. The pair also looks to vie for points in the pole vault most meets as Cragoe is the returning state runner-up in the event.
Cragoe was also a high jump and triple jump contender for the Panther boys.
The Panther girls did suffer a loss at the end of basketball season as senior Kadi Cooley, a multi-year state track qualifier for the Panther girls, injured a knee and will be forced to miss out on her final spring with the Panthers’ track program.
The Panthers are scheduled to begin track season this Saturday in Cody, although preliminary weather forecasts have Smith skeptical that his season will actually get started according to the sports calendar.
“It (Saturday’s forecast) is getting worse and worse every time I look at it,” said Smith. “We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”