Prep track: Irish girls lack seniors, but not short on talent
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- What the Charleston Catholic girls track team lacks in seniors, the Irish compensate with potential that should extend toward years of future success.
The seniorless track squad finished fourth among Class A schools during the weekend's Gazette/Friends of Coal Relays, a solid finish given the event's annual top-level competition. Without the impending graduation of any team members, the Irish expect to only improve with a pipeline of talent ready to join the current athletes.
"We don't have a single senior on the girls team," Catholic Coach Scott Welch said. "We have a good core of eighth-graders coming up, a lot of middle distance and distance runners coming up, so if everybody stays the course, then we could be pretty decent next year."
With leaders in place like juniors Quincy McKown, Sarah Joseck and Catherine Casingal, the Irish have already laid the foundation for success, Welch said.
"They're very consistent, strong girls, good leaders on the team," he said of the trio. "They set the tone in practices and even meets with no nonsense, 'Let's get going here,' yet at the same time very upbeat, all three of them."
Beyond setting the tone for hard work, the three juniors lead with their performances, too.
McKown won the 800-meter run at Gazette Relays with a time of 2:30.76 - nine seconds faster than her season-best performance listed at www.runwv.com, which ranks her fifth in Class A. At the 2012 state championship meet, McKown finished eighth in the 1600 and ninth in the 800.
At Gazette Relays, McKown placed second in the 1600 and teamed with Joseck, sophomore Amanda Lane and freshman Peyton Keener in the 4x800 relay to take first, defeating the next closest team by 20 seconds. Catholic's 4x800 relay currently ranks second in the state.
Welch said Joseck is a key member of each of Catholic's relay teams.
"She leads off actually in all the relays that we run," he said, "so she sets the tone really, really well."
The shorter-distance relays didn't perform to their potential at Gazette Relays with some members missing, though they are among the state's best, the coach said. The Irish lack true sprinters, but as a team race strong.
"They're not fast enough to win something outright, but collectively, I think, the 4x100s and 4x200s are definitely top four in the state in both races," Welch said.
Freshman Payton Mullen represents perhaps the team's top sprinter as she is ranked sixth individually in the 400.
Meanwhile, Casingal, another relay member, also makes her name in the field events.
"Her pole vaulting is getting better and she got an 8-6 (at Gazette Relays), which is her personal best," Welch said of Casingal, "so she's improving very well in the pole vault. That was very, very good to see."
Casingal entered the weekend meet ranked second in the state to Williamstown's Lincoln Postlewaite (10 feet, 1 inch). Casingal placed sixth at last year's state meet.
Also, in field events, junior Gina Marks won the shot put at Gazette Relays with a throw of 30 feet, three inches. Marks ranked seventh in the state in shot entering the weekend's meet. Last year, Marks finished fifth at the state meet.
Junior distance runner Annie Crockett also returns with state meet experience after placing seventh in the 3200 and 10th in the 1600 last season.
For Keener, a freshman, she will be looking to make her first appearance at the state championships this year.
Keener, ranked eighth in the 1600 for Class A, beat her personal record by 18 seconds in winning the event at Gazette Relays. Additionally, Keener claimed fourth place in the 800.
"She really stepped up," Welch said of Keener's effort.
He added the Irish will need such strong contributions to advance from Class A Region 4 that features back-to-back defending champion Williamstown and perennial power Doddridge County.
"Our region is the strongest region," he said.
With a young roster, the titles may take some time to achieve, but Catholic's talented corps should soon contend among the state's best, and that reign could last for years to come.
The Irish will next compete the Lions Club Invitational, hosted by Oak Hill, on Friday.