Sheryl Page may be gone, but the cupboard isn't bare; several Sandy athletes have a chance to achieve postseason success
Track is back.
Sandy's most decorated OSAA-sanctioned sport is ready for another season of excitement and fun, despite losing superstar Sheryl Page to graduation.
'Sheryl's a big loss - you don't replace Sheryl,' Sandy coach Anouxa Vixathep said. 'But I think we are deep enough to still be major contenders - not only in the conference, but in the state.'
Part of Vixathep's enthusiasm is due to the addition of some talented new freshmen. One of those freshmen - Katie Pelchar - is a particularly outstanding high jumper.
'I've seen her jump as a seventh grade and eight grader and she's already cleared 5-6 in a meet,' Vixathep said. 'We're looking for her to contribute right away.'
Vixathep is also expecting a lot from Sandy's veteran girls, namely senior Brenna Hoffman.
'Brenna - she's incredible,' Vixathep said. 'A great kid. She's stronger, more fit this year. I believe she's more focused. It's her senior season - she wants to make an impact. She wants to take down a few records with her, which I think all are legitimate goals for her.'
'She's one of the stronger girl runners I've ever seen,' Vixathep added.
Hoffman is one of three returning girls from last season's 4x400 team and stands an excellent chance of racking up big points at state.
Senior Kayla Hendershot will be another huge contributor for the Pioneers. She finished second in state in the discus last season and Vixathep believes she has a very good chance of being this season's state champion.
'She's very talented, very focused and she's a competitor,' he said. 'She thrives on the big meet situations.'
Other key members of an extremely deep girls team will be sophomores Nikki Smith, Siara Leininger and Lynsey Bender and junior Malia Ingrao.
Leininger, a member of Sandy's girls basketball team, carries over some of her roundball skills on to the track.
'She's fast and she can move and she can defend,' Vixathep said. 'That all carries through on the track for her.'
Vixathep also raves about Ingrao.
'Malia - man, what a talented girl,' he said.
Vixathep's initial plans are to get Ingrao involved in the long jump, which needed some warm bodies.
'Based on what I've seen in practice and just working with her,' he said, 'I thought she was the best candidate for that. She's got speed and she's also got really good body control and running mechanics.'
According to Vixathep, Ingrao will also be used extensively in several relay events.
On the boys' side of the equation, a host of talented athletes comprise this season's squad, among them seniors Ryan Ball, Kevin Warren, Pat Fox and Michael T. Lynch; juniors Blake Bithell, Trevor Hayward and Andrew Paugh; and sophomore Devin Connell.
Vixathep believes Warren can step out of the shadows of some past throwers and really represent the Pioneers well this season.
'Sandy's kind of known for having a 50-foot shot put,' Vixathep said, 'and I expect we'll have someone this year too - we just don't know who it is. It might be Kevin.'
Fox leads a very good group of jumpers into the 2007 campaign.
'I think our jump is one of our strong suits this year,' Vixathep said. 'We've got a pretty good group of seniors and they've been pretty good leaders throughout their time here, starting last year.'
In the realm of breakout and emerging athletes, Vixathep points to Sarah Kathrein, who may help fill the immense void left by Page's departure.
'I had her run a 4x400 a couple weeks ago at Linfield,' Vixathep said. 'I had a feeling she would be the replacement for Sheryl on that team. And she came through - she came through in fantastic fashion. She's going to be our breakthrough girl, I think.'
As far as conference competition goes, Vixathep anticipated that Gresham, David Douglas and St. Mary's would all provide formidable challenges.
And Vixathep indicated that he strives to maintain an underdog mentality, despite his team's incredible past successes.
'I like to downplay what we have,' he said. 'Just to keep them hungry. I haven't really noticed much of a slip-up from last year, either. They're not content with just winning last year. It's a new season.'