SHORELINE — To capture last year’s Western Conference 4A South Division girls track title, Shorewood raked in points in just about every event.
But it was their pole vaulting prowess that pushed the Thunderbirds over the top. Five Shorewood vaulters placed in the top six at the division meet, securing the T-birds a hefty margin of victory in the final team results.
T-birds coach Cecil Jackson is counting on a stacked distance crew to produce similar results for a much improved Shorewood boys team this year.
“The distance program is basically going to make us a contender,” Jackson said.
Senior Chris Goiney and junior Kevin Klein return in the mile and two-mile and seniors Ryan Johnson and Rob Osborne excel in the 800-meter run.
“Those four kids together are really going to make Shorewood a contender for the title,” Jackson said. “I think our team will feed off what those guys do.”
That’s assuming they stay injury-free. Goiney battled a stress fracture the entire cross country season and Johnson has a been slowed in the past by an aggravated hamstring.
“We’re at the point where we have enough people doing well that we have some versatility, especially with relays,” Goiney said. “This is the first year we’ve had strength in the 800 through 3,200. It should be a good year as far as distance is concerned.”
Jackson anticipates high finishes from seniors Anthony Miranda and Zach McCallister in the sprints and relays.
“We’ve got enough experience to compete with the big boys,” Miranda said.
The hurdles could be another consistent source of points for Shorewood with the return of seniors Andrew Dustan and Phillip Ng.
“I think people had better look out because at least a few of us are going to surprise some people,” Dustan said. “I can’t think of one area where we don’t have the potential to score points at the district meet.”
Several football players have joined junior Ishmael Easton in the throws. Easton placed third in the shot put and discus at the division championships behind teammate David Phaxayseng and another graduating senior.
“We want him to realize, ‘Hey, it’s in your court,’” Jackson said. “If he outworks those guys, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be Wesco champion in those throws.”
Jackson has those same aspirations for the rest of the team. And his fervor is starting to spread.
“Coach Jackson always talks about, ‘We want to win Wesco. We want to win state.’ It sets up some lofty team goals,” Goiney said. “Hopefully we can win Wesco. It would be fun to accomplish something as a team. This year more than any other year we have a pretty good chance of doing that.”
The chances of a second straight division title by the Shorewood girls also appear to be favorable.
Junior sprinter Akosua Fordjour was the team’s lone state qualifier last season. She advanced in the 100 and 200 and finished eighth in the latter.
This season, Jackson intends to stretch Fordjour out to the 400 as well.
“As Akosua goes, our program goes,” Jackson said. “We need her to come in with a focus, working hard at practice and knowing that she can take this team and win a state title. That’s our goal.”
Sophomores Katie Whittle, Annie Boone and Hilary Zetlan round out an up-and-coming sprinting corps. Shorewood’s 400 relay team took first at last year’s division meet and its other two relays finished in the top four.
Senior Lea John and sophomore Rachel Botham bring experience in the middle distances. Botham could also push senior Tiffany Passi in the 1,600 and 3,200.
Passi placed fifth in the two-mile and ninth in the mile at Northwest Districts last spring.
“It was kind of a breakout season for me,” said Passi, who went on to earn a trip to the state cross country championships in the fall. “I’m looking to build off of that. I went to state in cross country, so I’m hoping to repeat that success this track season.”
Senior Nanda McCormick is the reigning division champion in the 300 hurdles and took third in the 100 hurdles. McCormick and juniors Anne Gerhard and Megan Sego anchor a strong jumping core.
Senior Laura Weigel and junior Jessica Creelman were part of Shorewood’s acclaimed collection of pole vaulters. Weigel tied for second at the South Division meet and Creelman took fifth.
“I don’t know what kind of team we’d be without that strong pole vaulting program we have,” Jackson said. “It’s something we made a commitment to.”
Repeating as division champs is just the first of many goals Jackson has set for the girls. After winning the South title by almost 50 points last year, the T-birds stumbled at districts against their North Division counterparts.
Jackson wants to avoid another letdown at all costs.
“Those teams from the North showed us a lot last year,” he said. “I’m challenging our team to be ready. There’s nothing like great competition. I don’t want it to be easy for us.”