GREEN The Green girls track team has the numbers, now the Bulldogs have to find out what they mean.
With 85 athletes on the roster, veteran head coach Jacob Saylor and his staff can call on one of the largest teams they’ve had in recent memory when it comes to filling out events, but with many of the more than seven dozen competitors coming from a large freshman class, the Bulldogs are still trying to get an idea of who fits where and how to acclimate to varsity competition.
A second-place finish at the season-opening Fairless Invitational suggests that there is talent and promise on the roster and reasons for optimism in the weeks ahead.
“We did pretty good and finished second out of 14 teams, even though we had some people missing because they were on spring break as well,” Saylor said. “We had a lot of people in new places, some of them freshmen, and they competed well.”
While the freshmen may have been one of the questions to be answered coming in, a strong junior class that has contributed to the program since arriving on the roster two years ago led the way at Fairless. A trio of returning regional qualifiers showed that they may have another regional run in them as Kendall Anenson won the 1,600 in a time 5:33. The returning junior qualified for regionals 800 last year and was also part of the 3,200 relay team that reached the regional level.
Along with pole vault, the distance races have been one of the more consistent areas of strength for the Bulldogs over the past decade and Anenson’s effort as one of the distance group’s veterans sets a pace upon which they’ll try to build in the weeks ahead.
Add in fellow junior Zoe Dellaserra, who was second in the 100 meters and fourth in the long jump at Fairless, and was the Federal League champion in the 100 and second in the league in the 200 one year ago, and Green’s strength beyond the distance events begins to take shape.
In the field events, junior Faith Estes had a solid outing at Fairless in the discus, showing the team’s balance and portending well for its chances to be a factor not just at invitationals, but potentially in the league meet at the end of the regular season.
Beyond that trio, Saylor also likes the Bulldogs’ group of high jumpers and believes they have as many as three jumpers who can consistently clear 4’10” and score points in meets.
The 400 is another event the veteran coach sees as a solid one for his squad and by association, the 1,600 relay - assuming that some of the talented, inexperienced younger runners vying for spots in the 400 at meets can cash in on their potential and adjust to varsity competition well.
“Our juniors and seniors have done a good job providing leadership in workouts and taking on those leadership roles,” Saylor said. “They’ve taken those younger girls under their wings and with 85 girls on team and a big freshman class, setting tone for practice is important.”
One change in the schedule that has taken Green in a slightly different direction than in recent years is scheduling the Fairless meet and the Kenston Relays as the first two meets of the season. In the past, the Hoover Relays have been the first meet of the season for many Federal League teams, but with Hoover scheduling the meet on a different weekend this year, Green elected to try different meets.
Either way, going to a relay meet is part of what Saylor wants his team to experience in the early going and he says that the Bulldogs enjoy that setting as much or more than a typical meet.
“I always want us to run one invitational before we start dual meets so we can get used to racing before we hit ground running (in dual meets),” Saylor said. “The girls prefer relay meets because they tend to have a team atmosphere more than an invitational. In track, it is largely an individual sport so sometimes you can lose that team feeling, but girls like that it (a relay meet) does bring back that team atmosphere.”
With a league meet against Canton McKinley mixed in amongst relays and invitationals to begin the year, Green also has a dual meet against a talented GlenOak team and a trip to St. Thomas Aquinas for the Big Ox Invitational in the days ahead and each meet should be valuable in learning more about their young roster and seeing who fits in which events and whether or not the Bulldogs are ready for prime time.
Turning their large roster numbers into wins isn’t as simple as putting a full group of competitors in every event, so the learning process - and progress - will be focal points as the season gets on track.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB