Hilhi returns a slew of athletes from last year's track team that finished ninth at the state meet

There is no doubt that 2013 was another great year for the Hillsboro girls track and field program. After all, the Spartans came oh-so-close to defending their 2012 Pacific Conference crown before settling for a narrow third-place finish in the team standings at the district meet in Tualatin.

But that was just a launching point. The team qualified a total of eight entries in the sprints and hurdles and another in the 3,000 meters out of the district meet to the Class 6A state competition in Eugene. There, capped by Anna Dean’s state championship in the 100-meter hurdles, the Spartans piled on the points and finished in a tie for ninth in the team HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Hillsboro's Sami Moellmer and Century's Braana Weber go stride-for-stride in the girls 300-meter hurdles at last year's Elden Kellar Invitational track and field meet.

The scariest thing about all of that?

The Spartans bring back almost everyone from that state run, which means they could be scary-good this season, especially with some key additions.

“Our girls will be pretty strong,” Tim Kasper admitted Tuesday while watching his kids compete in the Liberty/Hilhi Ice Breaker. “We have a lot of sprinters returning and a good distance runner in Lauren Lykins.”

Among that bevy of sprinters, Dean returns to defend her hurdles title. Still just a junior, she is now an eight-time state meet placer and a six-time district meet champion. Last year at state, she also finished fourth in the 100, seventh in the 200 and chipped in the third leg on the Spartans’ third-place 4x100 relay.

But while the Spartans perhaps start with Dean, they hardly end with her. Also back is Krissy Thomas, who — like Dean — was a state finalist in the 100 and 200 last season. She also pulled a state meet quadruple, anchoring that short relay and running a leg on the team’s 10th-place 4x400 squad.

A third member of that short relay, Kylee Taube returns for her senior season and brings along freshman sister Kennedy this spring. The elder Taube took third in the district 200 final last season, while the younger one looks to replace the now-graduated Cassidy Estep on the short relay and continue a long line of fine Spartan sprinters.

Finally, junior Sami Moellmer is another speedster and returning state meet participant. She was second in the open 400 at districts last spring and anchored the team’s long relay. She added a fourth-place finish in the 300 hurdles at the district meet in her first season contesting the event.

“It’s unbelievable to have that many fast kids at one time,” Kasper said.

And as Kasper mentioned, Lykins is back to cap her high school career with one more go-round on the track. A four-time state meet qualifier in cross-country and a basketball standout, she added track state meet qualifier to her resume last spring after a second-place district meet finish in the 3,000.

Clearly, Hilhi does not lack for speed on the track. Where the Spartans may be better than a year ago is in the field.

“Last year, we weren’t super-strong in the field events, so I think we’re going to find a few,” Kasper noted.

Hilhi’s field event capabilities get an immediate boost this season thanks to Tarea Green, a junior transitioning right now from the hardwood to the throwers ring. Green won the Metro League shot put title last year while at Jesuit, and she is capable in the discus as well.

Fellow throwers Anna Mathisen (shot put) and Mikayla Webb (discus, javelin) placed at the 2013 district meet, and along with Payton Johnson and Mattea Ciliberto, they help form a strong throwing corps.

“Those throws have become really solid for us,” Kasper said.

One of Green’s basketball teammates, Makenna Gambee, also shows promise, though Kasper is not yet sure which events will be her best. She cleared 4 feet, 6 inches in the high jump at the Ice Breaker, and a solid jumper would be a boon to Hilhi, especially with senior pole vaulter Erika Moellmer, a 2012 state meet qualifier, expected out for the season with an ankle injury.

The Spartans boys are coming off of a sixth-place district meet performance in 2013.

“The boys, we aren’t going to be as strong as the girls, but we certainly have some strong competitors,” Kasper said.

They return junior Cricket Browning, who was third in the district 400 final last year and has been experimenting with the hurdles this spring. He opened up with a solid time of 16.01 seconds in the high hurdles at the Ice Breaker.

Hilhi could be particularly solid in the jumps, as district meet placers Michael Gonzalez (third, long jump), Jed Thomas (fourth, high jump) and Marshall Taunton (seventh, high jump) all are back. Thomas also hurdles.

The Spartans also have one of the top javelin throwers in the state in Tylar Deveraux-Stevens. The senior was sixth at the district meet last spring, but he also posted the eighth-longest mark in all of Class 6A in 2013 with his Elden Kellar Invitational-winning throw of 183 feet, 11 inches. Kasper also thinks Tony Jesko, who gained a lot of steam late last season, will be big in the throws.

Tim McSpadden, seventh in the 3,000 in 2012, is back to anchor the distance events for his senior season.

A top newcomer to look out for is Anton Dean, a former all-league player in basketball who is out for track for the first time and shows ability in the sprints and jumps, according to Kasper.

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