AHS girls track ready to move up the charts

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Strong senior leadership should help guide a youthful Austin girls' track and field team to an improved season under first-year head coach Nancy Jones.

Jones coached for a total of 12 years at New Prague and is in her third year as a member of the Packer coaching staff. Senior co-captains Theresa Hirsch, Lia Middlebrook and Jenny Tucker will provide Jones with the leadership she'll need to guide this team through a strong Big Nine Conference and an even tougher Section 1AA.

"We've got some enthusiasm and a big freshman class this year," Jones said. "They're pretty motivated right now in practice so far."

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Austin failed to qualify any events for the state meet each of the past two seasons, leaving some business left to accomplish for this year's hopefuls.

"I think it's a little early for us to really know," Jones said, "but our best bet for goals of going to state is probably in relays. We've got good quality when we run together."

The 4×100 and 4×200 relays are the early favorites, returning three of four runners in each event. The co-captains are Austin's top sprinters, while the younger members of the squad will stride out and add to a deeper Packer roster that for now includes 49 total runners.

"It seems like our numbers are bigger, and our goals should be to maybe win a couple triangulars and finish in the top half of the Big Nine," Middlebrook said. "Hopefully relays will be our big strengths and we can maybe do well at sections with a few of our relays."

Sophomores Katie Munk and Natalie Bowers lead the distance crew, while senior Molly Thatcher adds another body to a not-very-deep distance corps. Junior Lisa Bue leads the crew of middle-distance, with underclassmen competing up and down the lineup.

"We'll just work on it one at a time," Jones said. "Each year we're building. It helps to have a new track."

Austin hosts this year's Big Nine meet, helping to gain exposure to the local track fans.