For the Palisades track program, it is not a matter of rebuilding; it is a matter of reloading.
Over the years, the Pirates have established themselves as one of the elite programs in the Colonial League and District 11. They have had their share of outstanding individual performances that have solidified the program.
As they headed into the Colonial League meet Tuesday, head coach Scott Antoni has watched his team mature over the past weeks. He has the usual high expectations, but they have a slightly different look.
“We had some huge graduation losses,” said the veteran coach. “But we also have had a number of kids who have stepped up. We’re looking for some strong performances at leagues that will set us up for districts, and we are more balanced.”
In the girls lineup, Antoni will be looking for a sophomore core group of Kaylei Gruver, Angela Henry, Jenna Magditch and Holly Pason to extend their regular-season, top-10 success in the sprints to the postseason. Senior Morgan Magditch looms as a favorite in the hurdles.
Senior Charlotte Houghton and sophomore Amelia Smith will be major players in the 400 and 800 respectively.
Junior Paige Casterline, a state medalist a year ago in the high jump, figures to be a favorite in the event as well as the triple jump and long jump. Fellow junior Lucia Brunton-Dardaris should be near the top in the long and triple jumps. Senior Samantha Trickel should be a contender in the triple jump.
Seniors Katelyn Shoemaker and Skylar Donaldson have been consistent medal winners in the shot put and pole vault respectively. Shoemaker alo has been dominant in the discus all season. The Pirates’ girls 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams have been setting new marks on a regular basis.
Junior Thomas Smigo recently reset his school record in the 800 to 1:58.84 in the Pirates’ final regular season meet. Smigo, a three-time league cross country champion, has led the field in the 800 and 1,600 throughout the majority of the season.
Smigo sees a productive postseason ahead.
“I feel great entering the postseason, and I feel I am the strongest I have been in my career,” he beamed. “I set PRs (personal record) in the 800 and a leg of the 4x400, which goes to show that my leg speed has increased a ton.
“Ultimately, my eyes are on the states and how I do there. I have high expectations for myself, as I would love to medal in the 1,600, 800 and as a team again in the 4x400. I have faith my coaches will get me to where I need to be by the end of the season.”
Antoni knows Smigo can be a wild card in his lineup.
“He is a unique character who can do anything,” said Antoni. “He ran a 400 to see what he could do, and he ran a sub-50 in the 4x400. We’ll be leaning toward the 1,600 and 800, and he may do the 3,200 in leagues just to get a feel for it.
“He is running very strong, and he should have a couple of good outings ahead.”
Aside from Smigo, senior Nate Carr recently broke 47 feet in the shot put, and teammate senior Dean Bartels has excelled in the discus and javelin.
Senior Griffin Campbell has flourished all season in the triple jump and hurdles, and junior Gianluca LeBlanc could make a mark in the triple jump. Like the girls, the Pirates’ 4x100 and 4x400 have been fluid.
With a solid lineup, Antoni expects his team to make an overall impact.
“We have bodies across the board,” he stressed. “We don’t have that many individual standouts as we did in the past. We have a number of underclassmen who will continue to grow.
“We expect to have some individual winners, but we could have a better team effort.”