UTICA — After graduating a state champion hurdler and each member of an All-State sprint relay, the Utica High boys track team is searching for new contributors to replace those lost from last year’s regional title team.
The Chieftains are looking to the distance events as their strong suit this year. Senior Andrei Rotar, Utica’s school record holder for cross-country, will lead the distance group.
Seth LaTour, a state championship qualifier in shot put last year, is back for his senior season. Senior hurdler Nebojsa Marceta, who has a personal best of 15.1 seconds in the high hurdles, will lead the hurdles and sprint teams this spring.
“Having a young group of sprinters, it’s kind of open. We have a good group that’s all bunched together, so as the season goes on, we’ll see who separates themselves and get back to some of the success we’ve had in the sprints here,” Utica co-head coach Roger White said.
On the girls side, Utica will be returning many of its runners from a team that went undefeated in duals and also won the MAC White league meet by 83 points last spring.
Three out of the four members from a state meet qualifying mile relay team are back this year for Utica. Junior Meredith Sorenson will return with seniors Deja Davis and Brianna Hadley on the relay.
Sorenson will also contribute in the distance events, while Davis and Hadley will help in sprints.
“They’re all multievent, really talented girls and very versatile,” Utica co-head coach Megan Berry said. “Pretty much everyone is returning except for our top distance runner, but we still have some girls developing on the distance side, too.”
Freshman thrower Kiya Anderson placed at a varsity indoor meet this spring at Eastern Michigan University, and she is key to balancing out the lineup.
Combined boys and girls, Utica has approximately 125 athletes out for track this year. With such a high number, White was excited about the future for the Chieftains’ program.
“When we can keep kids around like this, it helps develop them, and you can see the improvement from year to year,” White said. “That’s what we’re looking for with this group, is to come out, have fun and improve each day, and keep as many kids as you can and do the same thing next year.”
Utica visits Warren Mott in its first MAC White dual meet on April 17.
Eagles hope to fly
With about 65 girls this year, Utica Eisenhower coach Jim Thomas expects to have a balanced lineup this spring.
Juniors Samantha Allmacher and Colleen McCarthy lead a distance group that qualified for the team state finals in cross-country this past fall. Allmacher took 22nd place at states for cross-country, and she contributes in the 1600- and 3200-meter run.
Seniors Ryan Stiff and Allison Freeman, along with junior Genna LaRocca, form an experienced trio in the hurdle events.
Sophomore Jackie Hinkson and senior Jamie Svisco lead in sprints. Sophomore Leah Schulz contributes in middle distances, and Miranda DeBellis helps in long jump. Four-year thrower Olivia Pupiec is looking to have a strong senior season.
“We’re a little bit heavier with freshmen and sophomores than upperclassmen. We have a well-balanced team this year for sure. Pretty much every event, we’re pretty competitive. Our distance is probably our strongest aspect of our team, followed probably by our hurdlers,” Eisenhower girls coach Jim Thomas said.
“I think we’ll be very competitive. Every meet is going to be a battle. The favorite would be Grosse Pointe South or Macomb Dakota, I would guess, but I think every time that you go against any of those teams, you’re going to compete and be a battle,” he added.
For the boys, Eisenhower coach Chris Smith will be leaning on his sprint team to lead.
Junior Nick Osuch could challenge the Eisenhower school record in the 100-meter dash. Osuch placed third at the Macomb County Championship meet last year, and he ran a 10.95 in Eisenhower’s first dual this season against Grosse Pointe North.
“Compared to last year, I think we’re younger. I don’t think we’re as strong as we were last year, but I think with the young kids coming up and getting some experience and getting in shape is going to be the main thing,” Smith said. “The youth has a chance to do some things.”
Seniors Nick Wodtke and Taylor Gianfermi contribute in middle distances. Chris VanCoillie and Eric Esper lead the Eagles’ distance team.
Alex Brunk and Jimmy Yarema both cleared 6 feet in the high jump last year and form a formidable duo again this spring.