Sun Prairie East may technically be a new school in the 2022-23 track & field season, but the Cardinals still command respect in the Big Eight conference. They are the reigning conference champions on the boys side of competition with the girls also taking second place last season. With many athletes and coaching staff back again this season, Sun Prairie East is out to prove that splitting its roster in half won't slow it down.
"We're going to have to be a slightly different kind of program," Sun Prairie East head coach Doug Maughan said. "But, tradition never graduates. We have the same basic coaching staff and the same old school, blue collar mentality. As far as we're concerned, we're just going to keep it rolling."
That difference Maughan eluded to was event diversification. Sun Prairie's previous depth allowed it the benefit of allowing athletes to focus on one or two specific events. Now, the Cardinals' top athletes will be asked to help score points across the board.
"It's a new opportunity for some kids to step up," Maughan said. "We've been so deep in the past that some of our fourth or fifth options would have placed at a lot of our meets. Now, we've asked a lot of our athletes to diversify how much they compete in. If you're an athlete and you're competitive, we can put you in plenty of events and you'll do just fine."
As is always the case with Maughan's programs, the senior class runs the ship. The girls team has the benefit of having experienced leaders in various categories. The distance runners can look up to Mickey Griffith. The jumpers have Nicole Everson. Pole vaulters will learn from Marissa Mapes.
On the boys side, the returning senior duo of Jerry Kaminski and Cortez LeGrant Jr., which ran the back two legs of Sun Prairie's state-qualified 4x100 relay team last season, bring a wealth of experience. Maughan also mentioned seniors like Trevor Schulz, Kwaymaine Stinson, Nate Codlyn, and David Diancin as important role models.
"We always tell our seniors that this is their team," Maughan said. "If you run hard, everyone else runs hard. If you're positive, everyone else is positive. If you work in the weight room, they work hard in the weight room. Having a great group of seniors that appreciates the sport and the work it takes will be huge all season."
Kaminski and LeGrant aren't from the only returning state participants on the roster. Schulz made it in the pole vault, where he finished tied for eighth place. Standout junior Audrey Seefeld, who ran hurdles, pole vaulted, and competed in the jumping events, also returns after taking 18th at the long jump state finals last season.
The Cardinals benefit from standouts in other sports lending their efforts to the track & field team, also. Two cross country state finals qualifiers, junior Jonah Marshall and sophomore Shaela Elert, will run for Sun Prairie East. They're joined by standout teammates like junior Yutaro Suzucki, sophomores Pat McRoberts, Cole Dwyer, Leo Saron, and Malcolm More on the boys side as well junior Gretchen Bedner and sophomore Brooke Marchewka for the girls.
The throwing events get a major boost from the football team as juniors Alton Williams, Logan Gross, and Curtis Johnson have brought their power to the team. The girls will be a bit less experienced in the event, but Maughan pointed out early standouts like juniors Sara Drake and Emily Sydow plus sophomores Aly Rostan and Milee Podoll.
Outside of Sun Prairie East's known quantities, there is plenty of youth that needs molding on the team this year. The Cardinals' freshman class is massive with 20 on the boys side and 17 girls. Sun Prairie East's smaller roster as a whole means these newcomers will get more reps in practice and more attention from coaches and seniors alike. Though the season's still a bit away, things are already trending in the correct direction.
"We've been pleasantly surprised with how far our kids have already come," Maughan said. "We've definitely already found some diamonds in the rough. You can tell how hard they've worked in the offseason."
The Cardinals still have time to continue honing their craft. Their first meet won't come until Tuesday, Mar. 28 when they'll make the trip north to Ripon College for an indoor invitational. The outdoor season is set to begin on Tuesday, Apr. 4 as Sun Prairie East will host new cross-town rival Sun Prairie West, as well as Madison East. While many challenges lay ahead for this upcoming season, Maughan is still confident in his team's ability to compete with the best of the best.
"We're going to show up to every meet prepared, do the absolute best we can do, and the points will add up from there," Maughan said.