Spring '07 Prep Preview... MHS Track & Field/Thinclads mix youth, experience

Monday, March 19, 2007
After winning seven meets in the shot put last year, Marshall junior Cortni Ervin is hoping to improve upon her fifth-place finish at state.

Marshall head track and field coach Paul Thomas is rightly proud of the progress made by the program during his seven years at the helm.

"We're striving to be competitive," he said, "and I think we are."

That was certainly the case last year, when the Owls claimed the NCMC boys' title and finished second in the Class 3, District 4 Championships and three other meets. Of course, when you have perennial all-state distance runners like Michael McCampbell and Jeremy Glassmaker -- both now at Southwest Baptist University -- to lead the way, points will pile up in a hurry.

This season the spotlight may shift to the girls, who have bolstered their numbers and return their key performers -- notable senior sprinter-jumper Linzi Bledsoe and junior thrower Cortni Ervin. Bledsoe won the conference gold in the long jump, placing sixth at state, and was second in the 100. She had nine victories during the season in either the long or triple jumps.

Ervin won seven times in the shot put -- including the NCMC, district and sectional meets -- setting the school record with a toss to 40 feet, five inches while coming in fifth in the state.

"We have high hopes for those girls," Thomas said about the all-state duo, as well as senior sprinter Breinne Clemens and senior harrier Madison Marshman -- a three-time state qualifier. "They've been real leaders."

With junior hurdler Chere Wright and junior sprinter Kylie Heying, the Lady Owls can now even compete in relays. They also have some depth in the distance races with seniors Crystal Kearney and Chelsea Norman showing improvement during the cross country campaign.

"Our numbers are better, and that should help us tremendously," Thomas said. "Filling out events is a big thing in [team] scoring."

Replacing the boys' distance runners Marshall lost will be impossible, but senior Alex Jones showed he was ready to lead in the fall. Sophomore Matt Bledsoe should also be in the mix.

A good all-purpose sprinter and jumper -- Trey Thomas, a state medalist as a junior -- is also gone, along with Lee Standley. Junior Anthony Thompson and sophomore Emmanuel Reeders lead a young corps of speedsters. Juniors Kyle Farrelly and Jake Venable represents an improving batch of throwers.

"This is a group with a lot of potential," Thomas declared. "I'm impressed with our kids and how hard they're working."

The Owls are hardly dominating, but -- unlike the bleak period prior to the opening of the all-weather Wayne O'Neal Track, when they were down to one state qualifier in 1997 -- they are capable of going head to head with other quality programs.

"I think we're going to be real competitive," Thomas predicted. "What we do early [in the season] really doesn't matter to us. It's what we do late."

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