Cougar coach Mark Marsden thinks so.

Bolstered by a number of talented juniors and sophomores, as well as a promising freshman class, Marsden is eager to see his team in action. Craig opens the Big Eight Conference and outdoor season today at preseason favorite Middleton.

“We weren’t sure what these kids would be like until we got them into a big meet, but they did pretty well at the (Nelson-Daniel) indoor meet,” Marsden said. “That was our best finish ever (fourth), and the competition was very good with a number of really strong teams.

“We’ll be a work in progress because we’re going to be so young, but we’ve got a chance to be a pretty good team because of our depth.”

The top returnee is senior Caroline Shea, a state qualifier a year ago in the 400. The tri-captain also will add the high jump to her list of events this season.

“Caroline came into the season in great shape, and it showed at the indoor meet,” Marsden said. “She’s also going to be a big part of our 4x400 relay, and is our top returning point scorer from last year.”

The other senior expected to contribute is captain Kayla Schlieger, who also will compete in the 400.

Marsden is excited about the team’s depth in the sprints, which will translate into strong 400, 800 and 1,600 relay teams. Freshmen Maggie Slatter and Ashley Pohlman have impressed Marsden in the sprints, along with junior captain Ally Wirkus, as well as sophomore Lakera Dubois and junior Mia Metcalf.

Pohlman also will be the team’s top triple jumper after winning the event at the Nelson- Daniel indoor meet.

“She’s a special athlete,” Marsden said of Pohlman. “She jumped 35-6 at the indoor meet, and our coach thinks she’s got a chance to jump 40 feet. That’s impressive for a freshman.”

Sophomore Morgan Gray also is expected to compete in the triple jump, while junior Ciarra Sroda is expected to be one of the top long jumpers.

Led by Shea and sophomore Katie Bagley, the Cougars will be strong in the middle distances. Bagley ran a sub-60 second 400 at the indoor meet, but she can run anything from the 200 to the 3,200.

Sophomores Emilie O’Donnell and Jessica Finnane add quality depth to the middle distances, as well as junior Rachel Gilmore.

Gilmore, sophomore Danica Reinicke and senior Hailey Smith are the team’s top distance runners.

Junior Jill Castro will be the team’s top hurdler, with freshman Jessica Washington a promising pole vaulter. Freshman Kyara Murry will provide depth in the high jump.

Sophomore Kaylyn Funk returns in the shot put, and will be joined by talented freshman Katie Villa. Junior Kayla Rohr will compete in the discus.

“We’ve got a real nice 1-2 punch with Funk and Villa in the shot,” Marsden said. “Funk was our fifth-highest point scorer last year, and Villa is going to throw at state before she’s done. She’s very talented, and it showed when she finished fourth at the indoor meet.”

APRIL: 13—At Middleton, 4:30 p.m. 20—Verona, 4:30 p.m. 23—Watertown Invitational, 4:15 p.m. 30—Cougar Relays, 4 p.m.

MAY: 4—Madison East, 4:30 p.m.; 7—Burlington Invitational, 4 p.m. 11—Janesville Parker, Beloit Memorial; 14—Hartford Invitational, 4 p.m. 18—At Big Eight Conference meet, 3:45 p.m. does not condone or review every comment. Read more in our Commenter Policy Agreement

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