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updated: 3/30/2012 2:20 PM

Scouting DuPage County girls track teams

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By Kevin McGavin

Daily Herald Correspondent

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Addison Trail

Coach: Dave Pytko (third season).

Last year: Seventh in the West Suburban Gold; failed to score at the Class 3A Glenbard North sectional.

Top athletes: Jazmine Acosta, sr., sprints, hurdles, throws; Zoe Diamondopoulos, jr., hurdles, throws; Diana Hernandez, jr., distance; Chandler Kulpa, jr., sprints; Kaleen Smith, soph., sprints, jumps; Kishara Smith, sr., sprints; Joanna Villalobos, fr., middle distance, jumps.

Outlook: After years of struggling to compete, Addison Trail is on the road to respectability. "We're vastly improved," Pytko said. "We kind of caught the conference by surprise with our frosh-soph team from a year ago." The Blazers' underclassmen placed third a year ago, and the impetus to change the direction of the program has been set in motion. Acosta, Diamondopoulos and Kaleen Smith were the primary point-earners for Addison Trail at indoor conference. Acosta is particular valuable to Addison Trail for her unique ability to score in three separate disciplines. "We still have a young team," Pytko said. "That youth is going to help us make a push the next couple of years."

Benet

Coach: Scott Brooks (18th season)

Last year: East Suburban Catholic Conference champion; seventh at the Class 3A Glenbard North sectional.

Top athletes: Audrey Blazek, jr., distance; Darcy Cabman, sr., sprints, jumps; Maddie Girard, sr., sprints; Rachel Mann, soph., distance; Nini Marchese, sr., middle distance; Shannon Martin, sr., sprints, middle distance; Loren Riedy, soph., sprints, hurdles; Anne Yahiro, sr., jumps.

Outlook: Benet has dominated the East Suburban Catholic Conference for almost a decade, but Brooks admits times may be changing. It's probably a transition year for us," Brooks said of his squad winning the last five league titles in succession. "We're a little bit down compared to last year, and everybody else is a little up." Yahiro is the Redwings' most accomplished returning state veteran after taking fifth in the triple jump last spring in Charleston. Benet has been historically strong in the middle distances, though, and its 800 runners and 3,200 relay figure to be the backbone of the program once again. "We're going to have to make up this year with depth," Brooks said.

Downers Grove North

Coach: Tim McDonald (seventh season)

Last year: Fourth in the West Suburban Silver; fifth at the Class 3A Bolingbrook sectional.

Top athletes: Meghan Bonfield, soph., middle distance; Gabbie Hesslau, jr., middle distance, distance; Tess Johnson, sr., sprints, jumps; Jillian Kothanek, jr., middle distance; Rebecca Ridderhoff, jr., sprints, hurdles; Stephanie Urbancik, soph., middle distance.

Outlook: The triumvirate of Hesslau, Kothanek and Urbanic returns to defend its state championship in the 3,200 relay for Downers North this spring. Bonfield appears to be the most likely replacement for all-state 800 runner Gaby Effrein (Wisconsin) as the fourth leg, but the Trojans, who turned back Wheaton Warrenville South for their first relay title in program history, are determined. "They're looking just as strong," Glenbard West coach Kelly Hass said of the Trojans' potent lineup. Johnson is the Trojans' acknowledged senior leader and a legitimate contender for a run at a state title in the high jump. "We have a little more depth than we did a year ago," McDonald said.

Downers Grove South

Coach: Doug Plunkett (third season, 13th overall)

Last year: West Suburban Gold champion; Class 3A Bolingbrook sectional champion; fifth in state.

Top athletes: Sam Baeten, jr., sprints; Jada Franklin, jr., sprints, jumps; Blake Mueller, jr., middle distance; Rebecca Stearns, sr., sprints, middle distance; Katie Strelau, jr., distance; Amanda Thate, fr., distance; Jacquelyn Thate, sr., distance.

Outlook: The Mustangs have been the class of their league with seven consecutive conference championships. But Plunkett, beginning his second stint as coach, knows replacing former triple jump state champion Tori Franklin (Michigan State) and fellow member of state runner-up 1,600 relay Melissa Radek is no simple task. "I don't think we can come close to replacing their points," Plunkett said. The cupboard is far from bare, however, for Downers South. Baeten and Stearns return for the second-place 1,600 relay. Jacquelyn Thate has been a force her entire career for the Mustangs and her freshman sister Amanda has already left a strong imprint during the indoor season. "Our focus right now is on the relays (for state)," Plunkett said.

Fenton

Coach: Frank Kekstadt (fifth season).

Last year: Sixth in Metro Suburban Conference; seventh at Class 2A Glenbard South regional.

Top athletes: Ariel Beck, jr., sprints; Kayla Kottra, soph., jumps; Kandy Mora, soph., distance; Taylor Patton, soph., jumps, pole vault; Taylor Schaub, sr., jumps, pole vault; Mimi Valois, fr., distance; Sheridan Witt, soph., middle distance.

Outlook: Fenton enters the new track and field season with an unmistakable sense of ambivalence. "I'm very excited about this year," Kekstadt said. "We're a much more balanced team than last year." But the Bison will have to compete at a much higher level during the postseason after the program became one of many girls track teams to be moved up a class. Schaub is the best bet without question to make a serious run at state contention in a field event for Fenton. The Bison have a youthful collective appearance, but Kekstadt is confident the program is heading in the right direction. "We have 17 freshmen and 18 sophomores," Kekstadt said of their baptism by fire. "They're filling a lot of the varsity roles."

Glenbard East

Coach: Joe Latala (fourth season)

Last year: Fifth in the DuPage Valley Conference; fourth at the Class 3A Glenbard North sectional.

Top athletes: Maggie Angst, sr., distance; Hayley Cardinal, sr., sprints, hurdles; Taylor Clark, jr., throws; Stephany Flores, soph., sprints; Jamie Gradishar, soph., jumps, pole vault; Corinthia Jordan, jr., sprints; Kelly Kevil, jr., middle distance; Lindsey Rakosnik, sr., middle distance, distance; Maddie Smith, jr., jumps.

Outlook: Illinois-bound Rakosnik is poised for a monster season after two head-turning championships at 800 -- where she is the defending Class 3A champion -- and 1,600 meters. "It's going to be a tough decision," Latala said of whether Rakosnik goes for the 1,600 title or rests to revitalize the Rams' potentially medal-earning 1,600 relay. "I want to do (the 800-1,600 double)," Rakosnik said.

Glenbard North

Coach: Gary Heilers (12th season)

Last year: Fourth in the DuPage Valley Conference; fifth at the Class 3A Glenbard North sectional.

Top athletes: Simone Carr, soph., sprints; Jematia Chepyator, jr., distance; Tasia Collins, soph., throws; Kailey James, jr., jumps; Brianna Kruse, jr., sprints, jumps; Jordan Ritchie, sr., hurdles.

Outlook: In only her second year Carr has emerged as one of the favorites at 400 meters for the Panthers. Carr was third last weekend at the Top Times meet in the event. "(Carr) is the strength of our team on the track," Heilers said. "Right now it's all a matter of putting the right people around her." James and Kruse, meanwhile, give the Panthers a formidable 1-2 punch in the high jump. "We're very strong in the field events," Heilers said.

Glenbard South

Coach: Mark Tacchi (22nd season)

Last year: Metro Suburban Conference champion; Class 2A Glenbard South sectional champion.

Top athletes: Talia Benware, sr., sprints; Monica Byrne, jr., distance; Shannon Cadigan, jr., distance; Katelyn Hill, soph., sprints; Sam Howard, jr., throws; Kenice Lawrence, sr., throws; Melissa Nelson, sr., hurdles, pole vault; Elizabeth Niedert, soph., distance; Mary Kate Sippel, sr., jumps, pole vault.

Outlook: The Raiders are a prohibitive favorite to retain their supremacy in the conference after winning the indoor championship by more than an almost-inconceivable 100 points. Tacchi has concerns about the depth of his sprinters -- normally an asset for Glenbard South -- but the veteran coach is extremely pleased with his field-event performers. "We lost a lot of the sprinters (to graduation)," Tacchi said. "That's our one question mark. Our field-event kids are pretty much carrying us."

Glenbard West

Coach: Kelly Hass (ninth season)

Last year: West Suburban Silver champion; second at the Class 3A Glenbard North sectional; sixth at state meet.

Top athletes: Katie Born, sr., distance; Nina Fraticola, jr., throws; Lisa Luczak, fr., distance; Caroline Maloney, sr., sprints, jumps; Cynthia Mote, jr., sprints, hurdles; Maddie Nagle, sr., distance; Madeline Perez, soph., distance; Emma Reifel, jr., middle distance; Grace Walker, jr., sprints, jumps.

Outlook: After the most honored season in program history, Glenbard West looks for an encore this spring. But the Hilltoppers have a much different look after losing the teeth of their sprint and sprint-relay dominance due to graduation and the unexpected move of standout Kinn Badger. "We have kind of reversed our fortunes," Hass said. "Last year it was the sprinters; this year it's the distance runners who are our stars."

Hinsdale Central

Coach: Pat Richards (21st season)

Last year: Third in the West Suburban Silver; second at the Class 3A Bolingbrook sectional.

Top athletes: Coco Bergdoll, jr., jumps; Laura Culler, jr., sprints; Jill Hardies, jr., distance; Marie-Louise Kloster, soph., middle distance; Betsy Morgan, soph., hurdles; Lauren Paul, sr., sprints; Cara Tenerelli, jr., hurdles, jumps; Beccy Ventura, jr., distance.

Outlook: Two years removed from a state championship, the Red Devils will look to Hardies as their mainstay this season. The junior is one of the top distance runners in the state when healthy, with Paul and Culler shouldering the load at the other end of the running spectrum. Tenerelli displayed versatility at the indoor conference meet, and Richards has a knack for having his athletes primed for the state series.

Hinsdale South

Coach: Matthew Guritz (third season)

Last year: Second in the West Suburban Gold; seventh at the Class 3A Bolingbrook sectional.

Top athletes: Lena Biedrzycki, sr., middle distance, distance; Alivia Blumenstein, soph., sprints, jumps; Bridget Bodee, jr., jumps; Nakiyah Darden, fr., sprints; Destinee Ferguson, sr., sprints; Nicole Hall, soph., hurdles; Jessica Hawken, soph., jumps; Sarah Legansik, fr., distance; Uzo Okoro, sr., jumps; Sarah Warren, sprints.

Outlook: As if the Hornets did not have enough in their jumping arsenal with perennial state contender Okoro in the long and triple jumps, Bodee is a legitimate state contender in the high jump after transferring from Montini. "We thought she could have been a state champion in Class 2A this year," Montini coach Pete Connolly said. Warren was deadly on the track at the indoor conference meet, and the Hornets' distance potential has been greatly enhanced.

Immaculate Conception

Coach: Bob Cronin (eighth season)

Last year: Ninth at the Suburban Christian Conference meet; Class 1A Lisle sectional result unknown.

Top athletes: Allie Cervone, jr., throws; Mairi Doyle, jr., sprints; Rachel Hill, soph., sprints; Cara Horton, soph., sprints; Marissa Mesnard, jr., sprints; Jessica Monteon, sr., middle distance; Stephanie Stahl, hurdles; Demetra Stell, soph., sprints, jumps.

Outlook: The Knights are looking to infuse their program with a new level of energy and commitment after a long period of struggling with numbers. Only a handful of years removed from a single-digit number of team members, Immaculate Conception looks to revive its fortunes behind a committed group of sprinters. "I think we have some quality in our sprinters," Cronin said. "I would like to get some sprint relays downstate."

Lake Park

Coach: Brian Hesik (fifth season)

Last year: Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division champion; third at the Class 3A Glenbard North sectional.

Top athletes: Nicole Alfano, soph., middle distance; Shayna Clark, sr., throws; Meghan Duggan, sr., middle distance; Kaylee Flanagan, jr., distance; Tyshai Freeman, jr., jumps; Maya Golliday, jr., pole vault; Samantha Montalbano, jr., middle distance; Brianna Murphy, jr., middle distance; Natalie Olsen, sr., sprints; Sofia Tobon, sr., sprints.

Outlook: Flanagan appears to be the reincarnation of her legendary sister Lindsay. The Lancers' star junior posted one of the fastest indoor times in the nation in breezing to the Top Times' 3,200 run in 10 minutes, 29.02 seconds. The junior will seek the 1,600-3,200 double this spring. "I know there is a lot of time between the races," Flanagan said. Like their male counterparts, the Lancers are potent in the field behind Clark, Freeman and Golliday.

Lisle

Coach: Myanna Thompson (second season)

Top athletes: Shelby Anderson, fr.; Annie Cochran, sr.; Agata Furmanski, fr.; Hannah Groce, sr.; Amanda Hagen, sr.; Aditi Jha, fr.; Hannah Kiesling, fr.; Kaelin Laue, sr.; Alexandra McClain, jr.;

Courtney O'Connell, fr.; Ejiehi Omoike, sr.; Darian Payne, sr.; Nichelle Peterson, soph.; Julia Reed, sr.; Kate Russo, soph.; Kendra Schafer, fr.; Caroline Smith, sr.; Kaitlyn Stanley, fr.; Kimberly White, soph.; Dawn Yackley, soph.; Christina Yau, jr.

Outlook: According to Thompson, Smith, a hurdler and pole vaulter, is "really our only chance" to get downstate. "We have only 22 girls in the entire program," Thompson said. "It's a really young team, and I don't know what is going to happen."

Metea Valley

Coach: Jim Braun (third season, 10th overall)

Last year: Fourth in the Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division; 14th at Class 3A Glenbard North sectional.

Top athletes: Elizabeth Brandenburg, soph., hurdles; Crystal Butler, sr., sprints; Emily Cowen, soph., sprints; Jasmine Davis, fr., throws; Lauren Lindholm, jr., middle distance, distance; Amira Turner, sr., sprints; Z Williams, sr., sprints.

Outlook: The ever-elusive first state qualifier in program history for Metea Valley seems a forgone conclusion in its third year of existence. The Mustangs were second in the single-division indoor conference meet, and state-qualifying measurements have been easily exceeded on both the track and in the field. "I think we can get it done this year," Braun said of the likelihood. "Last year we participated in the meets; this year we want to be competitors in the meets."

Montini

Coach: Pete Connolly (fourth season)

Last year: Third in the Suburban Christian Conference; third at the Class 2A Glenbard South sectional.

Top athletes: Clare Biederman, sr., throws; Alex Briggs, sr., middle distance; Tiana Brown, sr., throws; Theresa Connolly, jr., middle distance; distance; Brittany Fisher, soph., middle distance; Ericka Laviste, sr., middle distance, distance; Bianca Maduko, sr., throws.

Outlook: The Broncos continue to make strides through the cultivation of their distance runners, who look to carry over an impressive cross country showing from last fall. "We feel like we have one of the top distance teams in the state at Class 2A," Connolly said. Laviste and Connolly are dual threats for the Broncos at 1,600 meters. Montini will also do considerable damage in the two throwing events behind returning state qualifiers Biederman and Brown. Connolly expects the Broncos' depth at distance to be a difference-maker. "We have another ace in the deck," he said.

Naperville Central

Coach: Mike Stine (23rd season)

Last year: Fourth at the DuPage Valley Conference meet; third at the Class 3A Naperville North sectional.

Top athletes: Mary Beth Blank, so., sprints; Loren Brown, sr., sprints; Lauren Erickson, soph., sprints; Kelli Erickson, sr., sprints; Amanda Fox, sr., distance; Jayda Haynes, hurdles, fr., Lisa Huang, jr., jumps; Michelle Lass, sr., jumps; Nicole Latronica, jr., distance; Kailey Mikulec, sr., middle distance; Christina Norris, jr., throws, Katie Sheehan, fr., middle distance.

Outlook: Fox is looking to end her track career in style after claiming the Class 3A cross country state championship last fall. "I put a lot of pressure on myself," Fox said. "(Winning state cross country) gave me a lot of confidence going into the season."

Naperville North

Coach: Joanna Wilson (first year)

Last year: Fifth in the DuPage Valley Conference; fourth at the Class 3A Naperville North sectional.

Top athletes: Lexley Adesanya, jr, sprints; Alexis Hyshaw, soph., sprints; Kara Kolany, sr., sprints; Maria McDaniel, soph., middle distance; Kimber Meyer, jr., distance; Alex Moxon, soph., distance; Hope Turner, jr., pole vault, throws; Rachel Weathered, sr., middle distance.

Outlook: Last year was an anomaly for the Huskies as Turner was the lone individual state qualifier, making a visit in the discus and pole vault. "We want to take a more all-around team (to the state finals)," Wilson said. The big development for Naperville North was the return of sprinter Hyshaw, who swept the two short sprints at indoor conference after missing virtually her entire freshman year.

Neuqua Valley

Coach: Gretchen Parejko (11th season)

Last year: Third in the Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division; second in the Class 3A Naperville North sectional.

Top athletes: Caitlin Blalock, sr., sprints; Savannah Carson, jr., sprints, jumps; Stephanie Jackson, sr., sprints, hurdles; Maya Neal, fr., hurdles, middle distance, jumps; Gina O'Brien, sr., distance; Alex Rozgony, sr., sprints.

Outlook: Neuqua Valley is the unquestioned front-runner for Valley supremacy this spring after dominating the single-division indoor Upstate Eight Conference meet. "Neuqua is awful, awful good," Metea Valley coach Jim Braun said. Carson and Jackson are seasoned state veterans for the Wildcats, but Neal is already drawing comparisons to Waubonsie Valley immortal Shakeia Pinnick for her versatility in hurdling, jumping and middle-distance running. "They're all such great kids," Parejko said.

St. Francis

Coach: Scott Nelson (24th season)

Last year: Third in the Suburban Christian Conference; fourth at the Class 2A Glenbard South sectional.

Top athletes: Alli Frost, jr., jumps; Ann Kolker, sr., middle distance, distance; Meghan McShea, soph., distance; Amanda Nunley, soph., sprints; Amanda Schmidt, jr., sprints; Jenna DiValerio, jr., distance.

Outlook: St. Francis' primary task will be replacing significant point-earners Kelly McShea and Katy Garcia. "I think we'll get better at each meet," Nelson said. "As always we want to compete for the conference championship and get some kids to the state meet." Much will be expected of Kolker to anchor the Spartans' traditionally strong middle- and long-distance contingent. Kolker is one of only two seniors on the squad. "We're a very young team," Nelson said.

Timothy Christian

Coach: Kevin Hackert (16th season)

Last year: Second in the Metro Suburban Conference; second at the Class 1A Lisle sectional.

Top athletes: Tessa Bosman, sr., distance; Elana Bulthuis, soph., sprints, jumps; Abby Dykema, soph., middle distance; Kelah Freeman, sr., sprints, middle distance; Heidi Huiner, fr., middle distance; Jordan Smits, sr., sprints; Linnea Venousen, sr., middle distance, jumps.

Outlook: Timothy Christian, a traditional power in the smaller-class system, was reclassified to Class 2A for this season. "The state-qualifying standards are definitely more challenging," Hackert said. "I think you get better playing with the big boys." Dykema is the lone returning member of the Trojans' state-championship 3,200 relay, and Smits powers the sprinters for Timothy Christian.

Waubonsie Valley

Coach: Dave Gow (third season)

Last year: Second in the Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division; fifth at the Class 3A Naperville North sectional.

Top athletes: Morolake Akinosun, sr., sprints; Katie Benson, jr., distance; Ashley Bruner, jr., middle distance; Tina Marie Frantantion, jr., sprints; Anna Klaus, jr., hurdles, jumps, pole vault; Alyssa Post, soph., sprints, hurdles; Alli Wilson, soph., middle distance.

Outlook: Illinois-bound Akinosun turned in the fastest 55-meter indoor time in the nation last weekend en route to a pair of shattering victories at the Top Times meet. "(Akinosun) is always wanting to get better," Gow said. "She is the hardest-working kid with that kind of talent. It is a dangerous combination." Gow hinted that Akinosun may try for the daunting 100-200-400 triple in the state series. Akinosun would also make any of the Warriors' sprint relays a major factor.

West Chicago

Coach: Bob Maxson (fourth year)

Last year: Eighth in the DuPage Valley Conference; 13th at the Class 3A Glenbard North sectional.

Top athletes: Julia Caithamer, jr., sprints, middle distance; Liz Carillo, soph., sprints; Kelsey Sayner, sr., middle distance, distance; Lindsey Sayner, soph., middle distance, distance; Sarah Triner, jr., sprints; Lali Valdivia, sr., sprints, jumps.

Outlook: Valdivia has been the one bright light for West Chicago between last spring and the conclusion of the indoor season. The reigning 400 state qualifier placed at Top Times and is the Wildcats' most important athlete. "I'm hoping (Valdivia) can qualify for the 200 this year as well (as the 400)," Maxson said. "She was just one-tenth of a second off the qualifying mark at the conference meet (last year)." Maxson believes the Wildcats' 800 relay has a chance to qualify behind Valdivia, Caithamer, Carillo and Triner.

Wheaton North

Coach: Brian Zeglin (first season)

Last season: Seventh at the DuPage Valley Conference meet; ninth in the Class 3A Glenbard North sectional.

Top athletes: Katie Blume, soph., distance; Julie Currie, soph., sprints; Allison Farnsworth, jr., middle distance; Laura Gann, sr., middle distance, distance; Emma Grisanzio, jr., sprints, jumps; Raven Kelly, jr., throws; Kelly O'Connor, sr., jumps; Abeni Pierson, jr., sprints; Arica Secrest, jr., hurdles, pole vault.

Outlook: O'Connor comes back as the Falcons' lone returning state qualifier; the senior was all-state in the long jump with her ninth-place result last year. Zeglin is looking for a marked improvement as several athletes have made startling gains. Secrest has added 2 feet since last spring in the pole vault, while Grisanzio is the Falcons' best all-around sprinter. "(Grisanzio) is a dynamic athlete," Zeglin said.

WW South

Coach: Rob Harvey (22nd season)

Last year: Second in the DuPage Valley Conference; Class 3A Glenbard North sectional champion.

Top athletes: Maggie Dansdill, soph., sprints; Kasey Gassensmith, sr., jumps; Kayla Kightlinger, jr., middle distance; McKenna Kiple, jr., middle distance, distance; Lauren Mordini, sr., distance; Emily Phillip, sr., sprints; Desirae Ranberg, sr., throws; Hope Schmelzle, jr., middle distance; Jessica Spera, jr., sprints, hurdles; Emily Schwartz, sr., pole vault; Amy Yong, sr., middle distance.

Outlook: WW South can make a powerful argument for being the best all-around team in the western suburbs. Dansdill leads a markedly improved sprinting core, but the true strength comes with the Tigers' interchangeable collection of middle-distance standouts. Yong, Kightlinger, Kiple and Schmelzle all return from a state runner-up 3,200 relay crew. "I'm excited to see how we do (during the regular season and state series)," Schmelzle said.

Willowbrook

Coach: Scott McKinney (22nd season)

Last year: Third in the West Suburban Gold; sixth at the Class 3A Glenbard North sectional.

Top athletes: Taylor Burton, soph., sprints; Grace Flood, sr., sprints; Julia Garcia, sr., middle distance; Jahari Jones, sr., sprints; Colleen Krawczykowski, jr., sprints, jumps; Molly Krawczykowski, soph., middle distance; Abbie Pearlman, soph., middle distance; Cherise Porter, sr., sprints; Jada Stills, soph., throws.

Outlook: Porter, the two-time defending 200-meter state runner-up, is the heart and soul of the team. "She has some things that coaches can't teach," McKinney said of his prized sprinter. "She has that good second gear to go after people." The elder Krawczykowski has earned state hardware before in the long jump for the Warriors. Look for McKinney to maximize his sprinters' abilities to get all three sprint relays to state.

York

Coach: Annette Schulte (19th season, 22nd overall)

Last year: Fifth in the West Suburban Silver; seventh at the Class 3A Glenbard North sectional.

Top athletes: Jessica Bianchi, fr., sprints; Shante Dansby, fr., sprints; Emma Fisher, jr., middle distance, distance; Michelle Frigo, sr., middle distance, distance; Alex Harrell, sr., sprints, jumps; Josephine Jelinek, fr., sprints; Sherry Lund, sr., distance; Erin McHugh, sr., sprints; Caily Schwartz, fr., sprints; Tanisha Tate, jr., throws.

Outlook: York enters the season as an extremely dangerous team, especially with the four exceptional freshmen sprinters to augment their traditional strength: middle and long distance. "The older girls are such hard-working kids," Schulte said. "They have come full circle." York possesses one of many stacked 3,200 relay squads in the area, and the Dukes' sprint relays could very well surprise.

-- Kevin McGavin

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