Sports

Raider girls hope to repeat SPSL South championship

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

The Thomas Jefferson girls track and field team is coming off an impressive run to the South Puget Sound League South Division co-championship last season, finishing 8-0-1.

The Raiders should be even better this year. Head coach Paul Ruston brings back a bulk of the lineup and TJ has looked ultra-impressive in its first two meets of the season — wins over Auburn Riverside and Federal Way.

“This is the first time in my seven years at TJ that the girls program is not weak in any events,” Ruston said. “We have a versatile team with depth in all 18 event areas. A great turnout of athletes along with strong returners will make this team a contender to repeat as league champion.”

The Raiders return a total of 26 letter winners from the 2005 team and 15 who competed at the West Central District Meet. But TJ only returns one athlete, sophomore high jumper Jen Wamsley, that qualified for state.

Other strong returners are seniors Ronda Nicholson (sprints, relays), Alison Horne (throws), Hilorie Hildebrandt (distance) and Natalie Jarvey (distance), juniors Michelle Borth (jumps), Kenna Patrick (distance), Brittany McKay (jumps) and Mel Hicks (400). Ruston will also be counting on numerous freshmen to provide some depth.

The Raiders, along with the other Federal Way schools, are dealing with a new set of league foes this season. The 21-team SPSL has divided its track league into three, seven-team divisions and the four Federal Way schools are being paired with Auburn, Auburn-Mountainview and Auburn-Riverside in Division 3.

Jefferson has rolled out to an impressive 2-0 start this year, which included a 131-17 blowout victory over Auburn Riverside on opening day. Auburn Riverside won the SPSL North championship last year with a perfect 8-0 record. The Raiders won every event except for the pole vault. But Auburn Riverside was missing several point scorers because of their participation in the state basketball tournament.

Beamer

The Titans return plenty from a team that finished 7-3 during the SPSL season last year. And things have started out pretty solid for Beamer during the early part of this year.

The Titans have started the 2006 season with a pair of wins over Auburn and Auburn Mountainview.

“We have some outstanding young athletes that care about the team as well as their individual performances,” head coach Jay Cardwell said. “Our team leaders set that tone with our younger athletes. It’s fun to be a part of that.”

The Titans are led by seniors McKinley Williams (distance) and Sarah Boggs (long jump), junior Gina Rounds (sprints) and sophomores Brittany Orr (400, 800) and Irene Devera (sprints). Newcomers Christina Williams, Shonda Baker, Camille Miller and Samantha Mulroy will also be counted on to score points.

Federal Way

Traditionally, the Federal Way Eagle girls track and field team has been one of the best in the SPSL. Things shouldn’t change too much this year. Although still relatively young, the Eagles return several athletes from last year’s 7-2 team.

“The lady Eagles are working on developing an up and coming team,” said head coach Jean Licari.

Seniors Gillian Griffin (hurdles) and Jenna Warren (400, jumps) lead the list of returners. Also back are juniors Samantha Willis (shot put, 100), Rita Helmbrecht (discus) and Carmen Acuna (distance) and sophomores Crystal Grandberry (high jump) and Nicole Atkinson (sprints). Newcomers Cayla Dixon (hurdles), Rachel Oliverez (throws) and Paulina McKenna (high jump, pole vault) should also provide some depth for Federal Way.

“We have lots of depth in events,” Licari said. “But we are very young.”

Federal Way has started the season 0-2 after losses to league powers Jefferson and Decatur.

Decatur

The Gators feature some of the best individual talent in the state.

Topping that list is senior sprinter Princess Joy Griffey. Griffey returnds for her last season as the reigning 100- and 200-meter Class 4A state champion after clocking in times of 11.79 seconds and 24.15 at the meet last spring. As a sophomore Griffey won the state 4A 100 title in a time of 12.04 and took second in the 200.

Griffey will be taking her talent to Washington State University next year and is the 12th fastest recruitable sprinter in the nation this year.

“The times Princess Joy Griffey ran as a junior will make her the fastest woman sprint recruit ever at Washington State,” Washington State head coach Rick Sloan said. “We’ve had good success developing our sprinters at WSU. Bringing in somebody of her caliber, we are looking forward to her continued improvement and being very competitive in the Pac-10 and nationally.”

But Griffey isn’t the only state-caliber athlete Decatur will be rolling out this season. The Gators also return state meet veterans Becky Williams (distance), Jordyn Woodke (all around) and Gena Woodke (throws). Other solid returners include Kim Barney (distance) and Ericka Hughes (jumps).

The Gators have started the season with a 2-0 record with wins over Auburn Mountainview and Federal Way.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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