Arlee track and field looks for breakout year
ARLEE — After graduating most of the team after last season, Arlee’s track and field squad is looking to have a great year despite their inexperience.
“Young,” Coach Russell Baker said of this year’s team. “We’re awfully young and we graduated a lot of kids last year, so we’re starting over, but it’s alright.”
Athletic director Jim Taylor said the team sends several athletes to state every year, and while the roster lacks depth, the athletes are working hard.
“We have some skills and some pretty good kids coming up through the program,” Taylor said. “We haven’t won any championships in a long time, but our kids compete pretty well and I think we have a couple of kids that can make it.”
Arlee just participated in its first track meet of the season in Ronan March 28, and the athletes’ performances gave coach Baker a good deal of hope for the future.
“The young kids did pretty well yesterday,” Baker said after the meet. “Just to see the kids improve ... Hard work, that’s how they improve. Hard work, practice and competing is how they improve themselves, and they have to get out there and compete against other kids to see what they have to do to move up in their standings.”
Several athletes already have their eyes set on the divisional and state tournament. Whitney Malatare, a sophomore long-jumper, missed qualifying for state by only 2 inches last year.
“I think she’ll have a pretty good year this year,” Baker said of Malatare. “She’s jumped close to 17 feet in practice. She kept scratching by 3 to 4 inches (at the Ronan meet last week), but even her bad jumps are farther than she went last year. She’s starting off pretty well.”
Baker said many freshmen are turning in solid times and, based on several excellent individual performances in the 400-meter dash at the Ronan meet, Arlee should have a solid relay team.
As a returning state qualifier, Donovan McDonald is poised to have a great year.
Last year at state, McDonald placed seventh in the 2-mile as a sophomore. This year, he will run the mile, 2-mile and 800-meter races for Arlee.
“I think we’re going to do pretty well,” McDonald said. “Better than last year, I think, because last year was just me and three other runners. Now there’s a lot more people on the team, so we should do better.”
McDonald’s goals for the season are to run a 4:40 mile and qualify for state as he did last year. He’s been training by running timed intervals and long-distance runs on his own.
As for Baker’s philosophy on how to put together a winning squad, he had a few powerful words.
“Just win, baby. That’s all it is,” he said.