Story last updated at 2:34 p.m. Thursday, April 18, 2002

Breakup or not, Mariners ready for track season
by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

The Mariners have been running, jumping and throwing for weeks now, they just haven't been running, jumping and throwing on a track <> or a field. It's still a little wintry.

In trying to beat breakup, the Homer High School track and field team has been sprinting in the parking lot, running through town and cross-training by playing ultimate Frisbee on the beach.

All that gets shoved aside today as the Mariners get started for real in Soldotna with a tri-meet against Seward and host Skyview.

After enduring the cancellation of last week's Peninsula relays, Homer head coach Tari Hoeft said her team is more than eager to hear the gun that first event of the season.

"The kids have been working really hard," Hoeft said. "But they're getting a little frustrated."

Right out of the blocks, Hoeft expects there will be a little rust on some of the relay handoffs but since all the teams on the Peninsula are dealing with the same stubborn snow, she said it should all equal out.

"It'll be nice to see where we're at with our timing," Hoeft said. "And it'll be nice to see where the other teams are at as well."

Hoeft is hoping her team can improve on last season's campaign, which resulted in five Mariners qualifying for the state meet. Three of those five <> junior Cody Smith, senior Nahanni Wills and sophomore Stacy Bowden <> are back this year.

"We will definitely miss the leadership of (state qualifiers) Mike (Abbott) and Erin (Pate)," Hoeft said. "But we have some outstanding seniors who have been stepping up and leading warm-ups, without us even asking."

The Mariner seniors on this team are sprinters Luke Roberts, Toby Pruett and Tom Shover, distance runners Jami Epley, Erika Hendrickson, Andrew Peters and Travis Kauffman, throwing-event specialist Alder Seaman and hurdler Wills.

In her second season as head coach, Hoeft will again have the benefit of a large and specialized crew of assistant coaches, something she said really helps.

"For being a head coach you couldn't ask for a better situation," Hoeft said. "We have all the areas (of the team) covered with very qualified people."

After competing in Soldotna today, the Mariners return home to host a citizen's event on Friday. The All-Comers Meet, a team fund-raiser, will feature a slate of events for elementary, middle school competition as well as a full run of events for a high school-age athletes on up. Adults are welcome to participate <> the cost is $5 for one event and $10 for the whole slate. The action gets under way at 4 p.m.

In the spirit of a citizen's meet, Hoeft said she has encouraged her athletes to try at least one event they've never competed in before.