Braves are hoping to send another large contingent to Eugene for the 4A state track meet this spring

Banks has rung up a series of fine track and field seasons in recent years. Look for 2014 to be no different.

About 70 kids have turned out this spring, and the Braves boys and girls squads are loaded with talent and depth, fueling quite a bit of optimism in coach Rob Frank, who is nearing four decades at the helm of the program.

Perhaps the best part of all is that a number of top performers return for Banks, but, Frank said, about half of the kids are new to the program this season. That is a lot of as-yet untapped potential.

“It’s kind of fun,” Frank said about having so many newcomers. “I know there’s going to be some real pleasant surprises in those groups.”

On the boys’ side, several state qualifiers return from last season, when the team finished third at the Cowapa League district meet and tied for 17th at state.

The first name Frank mentioned was that of junior pole vaulter Lucas Hidalgo. Eighth at state last season, he jumped 14 feet, 4 inches indoors on Monday and Frank said he has cleared 15 feet in practice. Either of those marks would put him in the running to win a state title in Eugene come late May.

“There’s a lot of variables, but he’s certainly vaulting incredibly well right now,” Frank noted.

Also back are Dallin Shurts (third at state in the discus) and Garrett Markham (13th, javelin), who both battled injury at times last year. A foot injury limited the versatile 6-foot-6 Shurts’ events last season, but Frank has plans to also use him in the 400 and triple jump this spring. Markham suffered an injury right before the district meet that restricted his performance during the championship portion of the season, but both he and Shurts are showing good early-season form, Frank said.

And on the track, Frank is excited about the potential of sprinter Devin King, a senior who moonlighted in track while playing baseball last year. King has decided to forsake the diamond for the oval, and despite pretty much no training his junior year, he returns with the second-fastest 400 time (52.60) in the Cowapa League.

“I think Devin could do really, really well this year,” Frank said. “He’s certainly got the speed, and you either have speed or you don’t.”

Other top returners include Jake Sandhagen (throws), Keenan Marston (jumps), and Mykah Rosa (sprints). Sandhagen took fourth in the discus at last year’s district meet, while Marston was fourth in the high jump. Rosa is another baseball player back to lend his speed to the track team.

Among the newcomers, a couple of seniors out for the first time could make splashy debuts. Nick Boguski shows promise as a sprinter, and Frank said Enrique Smith has been throwing close to 50 feet in the shot put already in practice.

As for the girls team, last year the Braves saw their run of four consecutive Cowapa League championships snapped by Yamhill-Carlton, but they return plenty of firepower to make a run at taking the crown back after finishing ninth at state in 2013.

Senior high jumpers Amy Hilger and Lauren Birr both have made multiple trips to state, and Hilger has two top-three finishes to her credit. She cleared 5-5 last summer to take sixth place at the USA Track & Field Junior Olympic national meet in North Carolina.

“Our goal is to have her go higher than that, for sure,” Frank said.

Also in the field, Banks is particularly loaded in the throws. Annie Victor, a four-time state placer, is back for her final season. She was a career-best third in the discus and eighth in the shot put last year in Eugene. School record holder Kindel Bailey placed eighth at state last year in the javelin and is already in fine form for her junior campaign.

Sophomore sprinter Maddison King returns as the reigning Cowapa champion and school record holder in the 100 and 200. She was fifth in the 100 state final last year.

“Her starts are looking better than they ever have, by far — much better than they were last year,” Frank said. “We’re hoping with a better start and with her speed, just looking for better things.”

Classmate Ariel Slifka returns as a multi-event threat (hurdles, high jump, pole vault), and junior Ellie Monroe finished third in the discus and fifth in the javelin at last year’s district meet.

Top newcomers include Rose Johnson and Madey Stanley (distances).

Banks kicks off the season today by hosting Gladstone and Estacada. The program’s annual Banks Invitational Track Meet is slated for April 19. The district meet will be at Yamhill-Carlton May 15-16.

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