Dust Devils field small but talented track squad
DAYTON — Dayton High track coach Mike Paul said his numbers are down this year, but he also pointed out he has no shortage of quality athletes and potential state-meet qualifiers.
The boys squad has four state qualifiers from a year ago — Josh Koch (shot and discus), Benji Ply (pole vault and high jump), Aaron Elissa (1600) and Andrew Goodman (400).
Koch was second in the shot put (50-7 1/2) and third in the discus (134-8) at state last spring. Koch has bests of 151-5 and 51-7 in his specialties.
“He’s one of the top throwers coming back,” Paul said. “It should be exciting this year.”
Elissa has been a standout on both the cross country and track squads since entering Dayton. After finishing third in the 1600 last year (4:35.29), he’s looking to move up this year. Desert Pines’ Abdirahman Mohamed, a sophomore, won the 1600 in 4:33.65.
“We’ll run him in everything from the 800 on up,” Paul said. “His best event is the 1600. He’s been training like a mad man. He’s looking really good.”
Ply was third in the high jump (6-2) and sixth in the pole vault (12-0). Paul said Ply also will run hurdles this year. Goodman was sixth in the 400 last year (51.59), and Paul has been impressed in the early days of practice.
Jesus Castandea has a best of 44-0 3/4 in the shot and has thrown 121-2 in the discus. Zach Hawley has thrown 40-9 3/4 and 119-1. Skylar Berntson figures to pick up points in the sprints and relays as does Mendoza.
On the girls’ side, the key performers are sprinter Lettie Lynch and thrower Kaylee Turner. Lynch was sixth in the 100 at state (13.29) and seventh in the 200 (27.18). Turner was second in the discus with a lifetime best of 121-1 and third in the shot (34-3 1/4). She is the top state returner in both events this year.
“Lettie will run the 100 and 200, and we’re going to try her in the 400 and maybe a little long jump,” Paul said. “Kaylee looks good. I expect her to be even better this year.”
Cheyanne Strong (hurdles and jumps), Hanna Elissa (distance) and Mallorie Gribble (distance) are all expected to make serious challenges for state-meet berths.
Strong has a 15-4 1/2 in the long jump, an 18.34 and 54.40 in the hurdles and a 4-8 in the high jump. Gribble and Elissa will run everything from the 800 to the 3200. Elissa has a 14:01 in the 3200 and 6:05.53 in the 1600. Grible has a 2:43.67 in the 800 and a 6:14.29 in the 1600.
Vaulter Lauren Bailey cleared 7-feet last season, and Paul is hoping for improvement this year.