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Girls track and field: Ten back for Irish track

Members of the track team were happy to get back to running. The girls start their season at Prior Lake April 12.

Rosemount girls track coach Sara Hatleli is hoping a group of 10 returning letterwinners can vault the Irish into the top half of the conference and section fields this spring.

The Irish lost lots of potential points with the graduation of All-State 400 runner Shade Pratt, so it will take contributions from up and down the lineup if the Irish are going to improve on seventh-place finishes in both the South Suburban Conference and Section 3AA meets.

"I definitely think there is room for improvement. I'd like to finish in the top half of the conference. We have some high-end kids and if they perform to their potential they will score and place in the conference and section meets," Hatleli said. "Improving throughout the season is a goal of ours. We need more depth in all areas and are asking athletes to try things they haven't in the past, so individual growth in new events is another goal."

Two of those high-end kids are returning All-State performers. Senior Thana Hussein and freshman Rachel Schow were both part of the 4x400 relay team that placed second at the state meet last year and shattered the school record in the event by over four seconds. Hussein is expected to see time in the long sprints and middle-distance races, while Schow will compete in anything from a 100 to a 400.

Hatleli is also expecting big things from four returning conference-meet placewinners; Tori Grund, Laura Dennis, Natalie Busher and Katie Duff. Grund and Dennis were half of the Irish's conference championship 4x800 relay, while Duff emerged to place third in the discus and Busher provided placewinning efforts in the high jump and long jump.

Sprinter Kaitlyn Debaun, distance runner Taylor Rambo, shot putter Katie Toombs and hurdler Madeline Phillips round out the list of returning letterwinners.

"We have several returning varsity athletes that we are counting on and will build the team around this year. Our senior class has been a big part of our varsity lineup since they were freshmen, so they are experienced athletes who know how to compete and perform under pressure," Hatleli said. "They are good leaders and role models to the underclassmen."

Among a large group of newcomers who could contribute at the varsity level are sophomore Kailey Askew, who is coming off a state-qualifying season in gymnastics, freshman Liz Evenocheck, a state cross country qualifier, and Ellie Vraa, who lettered as a freshman for the Irish basketball team over the winter.

The Irish open the season next Thursday at Prior Lake.