There's an abundance of quality and quantity on the Carson High School track and field squad. There's also an abundance of unanswered questions for coach Todd Ackerman and his staff to answer as the season opens up Saturday.
The Senators open at home when they join South Tahoe and McQueen for competition starting at 9 a.m. at the Jim Frank Track and Field Complex.
"For the most part, it's going to come down to our youth and how much those kids are going to improve in the next two and a half months," said Ackerman, who greeted an opening day turnout of 114 boys and girls. "It's going to be interesting to see how it turns out."
But not a complete challenge because George Pincock and Shanna Sparks -- seniors who rank among the state's best in their respective events -- lead teams that finished among the top three teams in both the boys and girls divisions at the Sierra League Championships last year.
Pincock is coming off a 2002 season in which he placed second in the 400 meters and fourth in the 200 at the state finals. Pincock ran a school record time of 49.02 seconds in the 400 at state and he ran a school record 21.79 in the 200 earlier in the season. He was also a member of Carson's school record-setting 4x400 relay team that ran 3:19.74 to place second at state last year.
"George has got to be the favorite in the North to win the 400 and he should be one of the favorites in the 200 and 100 as well," Ackerman said. "It's going to be tough to duplicate that 4x400 (relay team) from last year, but we're going to be competitive just because of George."
On the girls side, Sparks is expected to set the pace for a deep and talented group of distance runners. The lone senior on the Carson girls roster -- who is being recruited by such Division I programs as Colorado, Columbia and Washington -- has career bests of 2:17 in the 800 meters, 5:05.76 in the 1,600 (state champion as a freshman in 2000) and 10:50.33 in the 3,200 (state champion as a sophomore and runner-up as a junior).
Among the other athletes to watch are Shaylyn Tom, who placed fourth in the shot put (35-0) and fifth in the discus (122-10) as a sophomore at last year's state meet. Sheena Bonaldi returns as the defending Northern 4A Regional 800 meters champion (2:21.63), plus she ran on Carson's gold medal 4x400 relay team.
"The girls won the 4x4 last year and I look for them to be a little stronger this year," Ackerman said of team that also returns Katie Kotter and Amanda Benson.
Freshman Annie Brinson (best of 11:47 for the 3,200), Tabitha Adams, Terrah Laack, Janine Stone, Kristin Neddenriep, Illiana Juarez and Erica Smokey round out the distance girls. The Senators also look to field a 4x800 relay team that hopes to challenge the school record of 9:46.67 set last year.
Help is also expected from freshman Nicole Scott in the high jump and triple jump. On the boys side, freshman Adam Houghton carries potential in the high jump, sophomore Tyler Smith in the long jump and newcomer Curtis Dixon, a junior who saw extensive action for Carson's state tournament qualifying basketball team this winter, in the long jump and sprints. Mike Dittenber cleared 6-5 in the high jump last year to set a school sophomore class record.
The boys distance running group includes sophomores Ryan Turner, Seth Carter and Shelby Mouldon and freshman Brian Mustafa.