CHARLESTON -- The Charleston girls' track team is a bit low on numbers this season with 19 athletes on the roster. Those 19 athletes bring a good amount of talent to the roster, though. About one-third of Charleston's roster has Class 2A state track and field experience.
So Charleston coach Justin Tomaska isn't too concerned about the numbers because he knows he has plenty of talent to work with as the Lady Trojans try to win their third straight Apollo Conference title.
"We have a small team this year, but that does not mean we are not talented," Tomaska said. "We have a lot of talent returning and a lot of young girls that are coming in to help us. Once we get all of the pieces in the right spot, we will be able to compete with anyone."
Sarah Flight already has two years of 2A state experience coming into the season as a junior. She qualified for state in the high jump as a freshman but didn't qualify for the finals. Last season she broke the school record in the high jump and once again qualified for the state meet in the high jump. Not only did she make the finals this time, Flight finished in second place in the high jump after clearing 5-5.
The Lady Trojans are only a couple of meets into the indoor season, but Flight has already set a record. She broke her own school high jump mark by clearing 5-6.5.
Tomaska said Flight wants to be a state champion this season.
"Sarah is focused on getting better each meet. She has been working hard in the offseason and really wants that state title these next two years," Tomaska said. "Second place was huge for her as a sophomore. We are putting her on a jump training program so she can get a little more bounce in her step. We are all excited to see what height she will PR at by the end of the season."
Senior Macy Riedemann qualified for the state meet as a freshman in the long jump. She missed out on state as a sophomore, but she got back to state as a junior in the pole vault. Riedemann hopes to get back to state for the third time and is focused solely on pole vault this season.
"I think keeping her focus on one thing will help her so much," Tomaska said. "She can hit some high heights this year and can help us score a lot of points."
Sharifa Hurtault is also going through what Riedemann went through as a junior. After qualifying for state in the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash as a freshman, Hurtault missed the state meet as a sophomore.
Hurtault has already started the season on a strong note after winning the 60-meter dash at the Apollo Conference indoor meet and also the 200-meter dash. She competed in the long jump and came away as the top individual in the event.
Tomaska said Hurtault will be pushed in some meets this season more than last spring. As a freshman, Hurtault competed with Mattoon's Sierra Thompson, who didn't go out for track last year. Mattoon's Amiyah Johnson has stepped up in the sprints and pushed Hurtault at the Apollo indoor meet.
Tomaska will continue to use Hurtault in the jumps, too.
She looks quicker than ever this year for this early on in the season," Tomaska said. "It will help with Amiya getting faster this year as she will always have some competition. We are trying any avenue possible to help Sharifa be able to score points for us. She has a lot of untouched potential."
Seniors Hope and Julia Griffin have been key runners in the distance events for the past few seasons. As a freshman, Hope Griffin qualified for state in the 400-meter dash. As a sophomore, she qualified for state in the 800-meter dash and ran with Julia as a member of the Lady Trojans 4x800-meter state-qualifying relay team. Both are looking to get back to state during their final season.
Tomaska said Julia Griffin will be a key player in the distance events this season and he can use Hope Griffin in a number of different roles.
"I am excited to get Julia back this year. She seems tougher than ever and make some big impacts helping us score some big points in usually our weaker events like the two-mile and 4x400," Tomaska said. "I can't wait to see what Hope can do her senior year. She is a very unique athlete and I can put her in any event and she can score points for us. I'll be interested to see where we end up putting her this year. We are going to do some experiments and see what fits her best."
Freshman Megan Garrett is one of Charleston's newcomers who can make a big impact right away. She won the 800-meter run and the 1,600-meter run at the Apollo indoor meet on Saturday.
Tomaska said Garrett can score a good amount of points right away for the Lady Trojans.
"Megan has prepared a long time for this. She can do some big things if she stays out of her own head. Obviously, she is a little nervous coming in as a freshman, but once she gets a few meets in, she can get rid of those nerves and just start running hard," Tomaska said. "We have small goals each meet we want her to reach, but she is moving along very well. We just want her to compete to the best of her ability every meet and if she does that, she will have one of the most successful freshman seasons we have seen."
Charleston will compete at the Charleston Indoor Invitational on Saturday at Eastern Illinois University.