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Girls track: New conference, same high goals for Irish

When the Rosemount girls track and field team finished last season with an eighth-place showing at the Class 2A state meet, it was the culmination of a lot of hard work.

The Irish showed marked improvement throughout the year and finished with the best season they've had in several years. The weather cooperated early in the season, allowing Rosemount its starting point.

While there was still snow on the ground and snow in the forecast on Monday, Irish coach Sara Hatleli wasn't worried about weather as her team began its second week of practice.

"Last year was kind of a unique spring when there wasn't any snow on the ground," Hatleli said. "This spring isn't anything we haven't dealt with in the past.

"Our first week is really working on building a base. We've been able to do that. And we do have the dome and a pit indoors for pole vault. We're lucky in the facilities we do have. We're doing just fine."

Hatleli has quality overall numbers combined with several key returning athletes, and the Irish still have time to prepare.

Rosemount opened practice on March 14. The first meet is scheduled for April 7 at Prior Lake.

"We have a good number of kids out," Hatleli said. "We have good returning athletes and some new talent coming in."

With the South Suburban Conference in place, Hatleli is hoping for another strong conference showing.

"You never know with a new conference," she said. "It should be interesting to see what the other schools have to bring. We finished second in the conference last year. We'd like to be in the top three again."

The Irish did lose important seniors from last year's team, but return each member of two state relay teams.

The 4x800-meter relay team of Sara Feeser, Tori Grund, Laura Dennis and Shade Pratt are back after placing fifth at the state meet last season. Dennis, Thana Hussein, Grund and Pratt combined to take fifth in the 4x400 relay last season.

Pratt and Feeser are seniors this season. Grund, Dennis and Hussein are juniors.

Pratt also was one of the top 400 dash runners in the state, placing fourth at the season-ending meet.

With the returning state runners, combined with several runners from the girls cross country team that advanced to state in the fall, Hatleli has some depth in the long sprints, middle distance and distance events.

Grund, Pratt, ninth-grader Hannah Grim, senior Ashley Comstock, Dennis, Hussein, sophomore Taylor Rambo, sophomore Taybri Irving, junior Emily Davis and senior Bridget Burkard all ran for the Irish cross country team in the fall.

"Those girls have put on a lot of miles over the winter," Hatleli said.

Junior Natalie Busher returns after just missing the state meet in the high jump and triple jump last season.

"She's been fantastic for us the last three years," Hatleli said. "She missed state by one place and we're looking forward to having her back in the jumps and hurdles."

Juniors Madeline Phillips, Katherine Toombs and Elaine Gillis also could step forward for Rosemount this season.

"We did lose some seniors last year that were in the sprints, relays and field events," Hatleli said. "We have some young talent coming in and they are willing to learn the events. We will try some in different field events. We have some good athletes and they are willing to step forward and fill in where we need them."

Pancake breakfast

The Irish girls track and field team will holding a pancake breakfast fundraising event on Saturday, April 2 at Rosemount High School.

The breakfast will be available from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. and includes all you can eat pancakes, sausage, coffee and juice.

The cost is $7 per person.