Young does not equal inexperienced, at least not as far as the Fenwick High School girls track team is concerned.
The Friars have four returning state qualifiers and only one of them is a senior, which has Fenwick coach Dale Heidloff optimistic about the 2014 outdoor campaign, which begins April 9 with a home meet against Carmel and Marist at Concordia University.
"I'm hoping that we get the same group Downstate and a couple others as well," Heidloff said.
The Friars scored 10 points in finishing 28th at the 2013 Class 2A state finals. The 3,200-meter relay team of Megan Cahill, Brianna Daley, Arriana Arroyo and Olivia Ryan finished fourth in a school-record 9:31.24, while Ryan earned an individual medal in the 1,600 by taking sixth place in 5:12.84.
Cahill was the only one of the four to graduate, meaning the Friars could be competing for the state title in the relay if they can find a fourth leg.
"The fourth leg is up in the air," Heidloff said. "I don't know who is going to take that post."
Senior Rachel Clark and sophomore Ciera Hopkinson are the leading candidates, but whoever it is will have the benefit of running with three talented athletes. Daley, a senior, and Ryan, a junior, both qualified for state in the 1,600 and will run that event again, while Arroyo is part of a strong sophomore class.
Heidloff also might put Ryan in the 800, where she is the school record-holder, having clocked 2:18.7 as a freshman.
Speaking of records, sophomore Grace Cronin recently broke the school record in the high jump. Her leap of 5-4 was an inch higher than Jacque Madden's old mark, which had stood since 2004, and would have placed her third at last year's state meet.
"She had been jumping 5-foot all last year and this year she started at 5-2 and then she popped a 5-4 at Morton," Heidloff said. "She's a basketball player and we don't have an indoor facility, so I don't know where that came from."
The versatile Cronin could make a major impact in a number of areas. She was a member of the state-qualifying 1,600 relay last season and also qualified in the 300 low hurdles, where she was sectional champion.
Heidloff said Cronin could be a four-event qualifier this spring if she can get enough work in on the 100 high hurdles.
"I'm hoping she gets us some points Downstate," Heidloff said. "Last year she didn't compete in the 100 hurdles because the weather was so bad. She never got an opportunity."
The Friars aren't as strong in the sprints, but that means several youngsters will get an opportunity to shine. Sophomores Casey McCarthy, Desiree Gibson and Presley Owusu-Bonsu and senior Mallory McCarthy have shown the most promise. The McCarthys are not related.
"I'm excited about the possibilities," Heidloff said. "If some of these kids come through, we could sneak another relay Downstate, which would be awesome."
Fenwick was fourth in the East Suburban Catholic Conference last year and Heidloff thinks the Friars could move up as high as third.
"Marian Catholic and Benet are usually the leaders," Heidloff said. "Then Carmel, us and Providence battle for third, fourth and fifth."
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