Falcons duo aiming high

As a junior last season, Crescenta Valley High's Claire Collison stole the show when it came to storylines for area girls' track and field. She finished seventh in the state in the 1,600 meters and 10th in the 3,200 meters.

Now, back for her senior season, Collison, the reigning All-Area Athlete of the Year, and teammate Rachel Lange, who narrowly missed out on a trip to state last season, are poised to have the Falcons soaring to new heights in 2008.

“Our goal is to always run faster,” said Crescenta Valley Coach Mark Evans, who saw Lange finish second in the 3,200 in CIF last year and Collison take second in state in cross country earlier this season. “We want to get both Claire and Rachel to state this year.”

While the distance group will clearly be the backbone of the Falcons' squad this season, Evans is expecting big contributions from several other areas as well.

Claire Harrison is back to compete in the 400, among other events, while sophomore Carli Opland should provide a spark in the 100.

Senior Candice Chessum, also a standout basketball player, and junior Holly Wilson will give the Falcons a nice 1-2 punch in the hurdles.

“We've got a lot of people back,” Evans said. “I think we are gonna still be a little young in some of the events, but we should be pretty solid.”

While the Falcons have grand plans for 2008, Hoover and Glendale are hoping they can establish themselves amongst the Pacific League's elite.

At Hoover, Coach Jack Sallakian has fielded a small team of about 25 athletes, but one he feels is going to be competitive.

“Our numbers are pretty small, but we have a lot of returners that are focused and strong,” said Sallakian, who has a strong hurdler in Shannon Azigi coming back. “We are focused on individual performances this year because [our] numbers are small.”

Sophomore Katherine Brouwer and Amy Ingram will lead the Tornadoes' distance crew, while Annie Sahl eyes a big season in the 100 and 200.

A host of returning athletes, led by sprinters Alin Jabourian and Jennifer Dowty and jumpers Rita Assioan and Daniela Pollard, has Glendale aiming high this season.

“Our girls will probably be our strongest group,” said Nitros Coach Bob Bailey. “We lost very little to graduation. We should be strong in the sprints.”

Kenny Fisher's Flintridge Prep squad took third last year in the Prep League and the Rebels are hungry to elevate their status.

Erica Slater, a key ingredient in the Rebels' two league champion relay teams last season, will take on a bigger leadership role this season. Distance runners Dot Silverman, the defending league champion in the 3,200, and Katherine Iwata are poised for breakout seasons, while junior Alex Baptiste returns to track after a one-year break from the sport.

“We'll have our share of league champions and kids who will be very competitive,” said Fisher, who has the luxury of having junior pole vaulter Lauren Miller back after finishing second in league last year. “The key is to develop other kids for seconds, thirds, fourths and get those important points.”

Led by the return of senior Amanda Rincon, the Mission League champion last year in the 3,200 meters, and junior Erin Hartwig, a CIF qualifier, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy enters the season bubbling with optimism.

“We've got a lot numbers this year,” said Tologs Coach Eddie Gorton, who is hoping to get a boost from high jumper Angela Pascal. “A lot of seniors came out to get their track on before they go to college. We've got some first time track athletes, but a lot of good athletes.”

The Tologs will also get a lift with senior Heather Riley, a star hurdler, returning to the track after a one-year hiatus.

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