One team returns a lineup filled with firepower.
Another suddenly has some holes to fill.
Yet, the Dallas girls track and field team shares a common ground with the Coughlin boys.
Both defending Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 champions are favored to repeat. By a lot.
“The objective is to try and go undefeated and to take the district title again,” said Ed Radzinski, who was named co-coach of the Dallas girls and boys teams with Matt Samuel. “And along the way, try to get as many kids qualified for the PIAA state championships as we can.”
The Dallas girls have every reason to set their sights so high.
The Mountaineers bring back just about every key contributor from a lineup that lost only state medalist distance runner Lindsay Oremus to a Dallas team that went 7-0 to win the WVC Division 2 last year. Among those returners are Ally Rome, the defending District 2 champion and state qualifier in the 3,200 run and two-time state high jump medalist Katie Kravitsky.
Although Samuel worries about regular league contenders Hazleton Area and Pittston Area, both lost key components from last year and neither appears in prime position to slow down the Mountaineers, although they’ll certainly try.
“I would think there’s a target on our back,” Radzinski said, “when you go undefeated and win the district title. Our girls program, we only have five losses in 12 years. We have a nice tradition here. We know what’s at stake.”
The Coughlin boys will try to stake claim to a second straight Division 1 title after finishing 7-0 in the league in 2015.
To do it, though, the Crusaders will have to overcome some key graduations in all phases of the sport, starting with graduated jumper Bobby Hawkins. Speedy sprinter and ace jumper Chesson Muhammod transferred to Hanover Area before the school year, leaving the Crusaders scrambling to pick up some of the key team points he took with him.
“We might need three or four guys to take over for him,” Coughlin coach Paul McGrane said. “He was fabulous last year, ran the 100 (dash), 200, 400, four-by-four (relay), four-by-eight, did long jump, triple jump.”
The Crusaders will lean on returning District 2 shot put champ Jacob Khalife, some strong field events and superior mid-distance running to try pulling away with their third WVC title in four years.
“The kids, they have this attitude now,” McGrane said. “Three years ago, we were undefeated. Then we won everything last year. They like winning. They’re coming in with a positive attitude. I know we did lose a lot. But I think we have a nice group.”