State-qualifying sprint relay foursome headlines varied list of 17 letterwinning veterans returning for 2015 Waukon girls track team

2015 Waukon girls track returning letterwinners: Left to right - Front row: Emily Hammel, Allie Schwartz, Lyvia Bulman, Nicole Behrend, Madison Snitker, Alex Marti. Second row: Claire Beyer, Grace Blocker, Katelynn Griffith, Regan Wasson, Leah Riese, Bethany Stock. Back row: Dietsy Mitchell, Erika Johnson, Lizabeth Waters, Lanci Bulman, Meredith Lensing.

Fielding its largest team member numbers in several seasons, the Waukon girls track team looks to broaden its recent season-end success during the 2015 season under first-year head coach Bob Wasson. A total of 17 veterans return with previous varsity letterwinning experience to headline this year’s team of 36 young ladies reporting for early-season duty.
“I feel that we have a very strong core group of runners returning from last year and we have a number of new participants that I feel will be able to make an immediate impact,” Coach Wasson said in regard to the outlook for his first season at the Waukon girls track helm. “I am looking forward to getting on the track and seeing how we compare with other area schools.”
Although this is his first head coaching tenure with Waukon varsity girls track, Wasson brings with him a successful eight years of head coaching experience with varsity track at West Bend-Mallard that featured three conference team championships and two runner-up conference finishes in his final five seasons there, along with State Meet qualification in all but one of his eight seasons that included nearly every running event possible. His tenure at Waukon High School has included numerous years of coaching experience within the school district in a variety of other sports, including his most recent stint as Waukon varsity softball coach, as well as varsity assistant roles in football and basketball.
Among this season’s 14 returning veterans are all four individuals who qualified together in three sprint relay events for last season’s State Meet, including a trio of multi-year letterwinners who are two-year qualifiers for the season grand finale in the 4x100, 4x200 and sprint medley relays. Senior Lyvia Bulman headlines that decorated sprint corps, joining forces once again with juniors Nicole Behrend and Madison Snitker and sophomore Regan Wasson to pace that veteran sprint group.
Bulman was the lone junior competing for the Indians last season, but has been joined by four other classmates to form a larger senior nucleus this year, including Allie Schwartz, who returns to the oval for the first time since her letterwinning freshman season. “There are a number of upperclassmen that have come out for the first time or the first time in a few years, and I look for them to set good examples for the younger runners,” Coach Wasson said. “I think that a number of girls can build upon the success that they had last year and they should be able to help the others improve also.”
Additional letterwinning returnees include a half dozen members of this past fall’s girls cross country team that finished its season on the brink of State Meet qualification, including juniors Leah Riese, Alex Marti and Emily Hammel and sophomores Grace Blocker, Katelynn Griffith and Lizabeth Waters, with freshmen Gabby Marti and Laurel Keenan also adding to that distance running success this past fall.
“We return all of our runners from the three State qualifying relays,” Coach Wasson said of his team’s strongest aspects heading into this season. “I look for us to also be more competitive in many of our field events, as well as the shuttle hurdle relay. I think that our middle distance and distance events will also be much improved.”
Junior Bethany Stock and sophomore Meredith Lensing return as letterwinning veterans in the throwing field events, with sophomore Erika Johnson coming off a freshman season last year that culminated in a third-place long jump finish just beyond State Meet qualification that should further bolster this season’s field event efforts. Johnson will also mix in with fellow letterwinning veteran sophomores Claire Beyer, Lanci Bulman and Dietsy Mitchell in the Indians’ sprint corps and hurdle events. In fact, nine of this season’s returning veterans come from this season’s sophomore class.
“We are still a very young team, with a lot of girls that have not had a lot of varsity competition under their belts,” Coach Wasson said. “It is still too early to tell, but I believe that we have added six or seven girls that will have an immediate impact upon the team.”
That mix of returning veteran experience and expected contributions from newcomers this season has the first-year head coach setting some significant standards he would like to see his squad accomplish. But, he also knows that past experience and pleasant early-season surprises are certainly not guarantees for this or any season.
“I would like to have more events qualify for the State Meet,  finish higher in the conference standings, and maybe break a school record,” Coach Wasson outlined as this season’s goals. “The girls will have to work hard and improve from last year and, of course, we will need to stay healthy and injury free.”
That improved standing in the Northeast Iowa Conference (NEIC) faces a daunting task, as the NEIC continues to produce some of the best competitors and teams in the entire state of Iowa. “Decorah will be the favorites again this year,” Coach Wasson said of that perennial power not only in the NEIC, but also at the state level. “But after that, I am not sure how the rest of the teams will finish.”
The Indians will get an early taste of their NEIC potential as they open their 2015 season with the Northeast Iowa Conference Indoor Meet Tuesday, March 24 at Wartburg College in Waverly. The track Tribe will then move outdoors for a Tuesday, March 31 competition at Sumner-Fredericksburg.