Replacing the irreplaceable.
Not an envious task, of course, but that’s the challenge set before the Upsala-Swanville Area (USA) girls, as it embarks upon life after the graduation of one of the most dominant, and versatile, athletes in program history, Makenna Peterson.
“Makenna Peterson was an athlete that cannot be replaced,” USA girls head coach Jim Drill said. “There was no event she ever entered where she did not bring in points to the team.”
Fortunately, the Patriots do bring back a steady group of point-earners, especially in sprints and the high jump.
“Brooke Westrich, Danica Cheney and Amanda Rieffer have to really push to their peak performances this year if we are to shine in the sprinting events and the high jump,” Drill said.
Juniors Westrich and Cheney’s primary events include sprints, with the senior Rieffer excelling at high jump.
The status of another standout high jumper, junior Steph Koetter, is still in doubt as she recovers from knee surgery.
Those expected to step into a leading role right away are freshmen Kendra Lange and Bethany Boeckermann in middle distance and sprints, as well as eight-grade speedster Crystal Kaun.
“I expect us to do well in short relays, sprints and high jump,” Drill said. “(We’re) looking to recruit more girls to fill all the various events track offers. Right now, we are just praying for some weather that will allow us to get outside.”
Seniors on this year’s roster include Rieffer, Emily Mettler and Savanna Johnson.
Graduating from last year’s roster were Peterson, Marissa Evens, Emma Guthrie and Raina Lojovich.
USA boys preview
The USA boys will be looking for leadership out of its upperclassmen, as always.
But with a limited number of juniors and seniors, the biggest reason for optimism for the Patriots is clear: big numbers coming up in the younger classes.
“I don’t want to take anything away from our upperclassmen who have worked hard and are a big part of what we are doing, but yes, it is nice to see the numbers and talent that we have coming up in our ninth- and 10th-grade athletes,” USA boys head coach Pete Swisher said. “They have the potential to be very good, hopefully both now and in the future.”
Among those youngsters are freshmen Amando Perales and Matt Koetter and sophomores Garrett Karnes and Ethan McCoy, who led USA with a fifth-place finish in the 4×100-meter relay at last year’s Prairie Conference meet.
That group can be expected to continue to develop together this spring … if they remain the best option for the spot.
“I’m sure that they would love to team up again,” Swisher said. “I’m going to say the same thing I always say: every season is different and the best people for the 4×100 will be in the 4×100.
“I’m sure that we will try different variations of athletes throughout the season and hopefully will find four to six that can do as well or improve upon the effort those guys made last year,” he said. “I imagine that we have several guys who will push each other very hard to be on the relay team.”
In addition to that, sophomores Carter Loven and Sam Mettler should be top competitors in distance events, with junior Joey Jensen looked upon again as a jumper and sprinter among returners, Swisher said.
Incoming senior Dylan Zimmerman and Tim Valencia-Louden should help in jumps and sprints, with junior Dylan Wudinich also expected to boost USA as a sprinter.
“Honestly, with our youth, I don’t know what to expect,” Swisher said. “My main expectations are that we will improve throughout the season and hopefully advance several boys to the Section 6A meet in Moorhead.”
Seniors on this year’s roster include Corey Poland and Zimmerman.
Graduating from last year’s roster were Paul Fruechte, Travis Koetter and Jacob Opelia.
USA competed at an indoor meet in St. Cloud, March 22, with its outdoor opener scheduled to be held in Holdingford, April 8.