ROCHELLE — The Rochelle girls track and field program competed in its first meet under new head coach Alison Vrana on Tuesday, when the Lady Hubs battled several local schools in the annual Sycamore Invitational at the Sycamore High School Fieldhouse.
Vrana takes over for Kyle Kissack, who stepped down this past school year. Rochelle will look to build on its three event victories last season, and Vrana will be counting on many new runners to fill spots voided by graduating state qualifiers Morgan Baker, Jacie Wyatt, Cesca Vardman and Morgan Knight.
“I’m expecting there to be some rebuilding,” Vrana said. “We’re going to put a lot of work into building our freshmen up and I’m expecting to see some of our freshmen step up as leaders. We’re catering to our juniors and seniors who’ve put a lot of work in and who deserve chances to compete at the sectional and state meet.”
Junior Macey Ryan headlines Rochelle’s returning sprinters after helping the Lady Hubs reach state during both the indoor and the outdoor season last year. Newcomers including junior Kylee Brown and freshman Liberty Hayes will also see starts in the sprinting events this year. Senior Abby Tilton returns with the most experience in the hurdling events.
“Macey and Abby have both stepped up as leaders,” Vrana said. “Macey’s been helping our relay racers learn the hand-offs and the basics. Abby’s been working with the hurdlers, and it’s been great seeing them teach the freshmen how to start off the blocks and get comfortable.”
Senior Katherine Bakken returns to lead Rochelle’s distance crew after reaching the outdoor state championships in the 3200-meter run last season. Junior Britney Baez and senior Camryn Turner will also play key roles for the Lady Hubs in the distance events.
Rochelle will have experience in the throwing events, as juniors Gabrielle Harding and sophomore Afi Gati return to the varsity lineup. Junior Maddie Ohlinger and freshman Teagan Meyers are the Lady Hubs to watch in the jumping pits.
“Katherine has come into this season in fantastic shape,” Vrana said. “She’s way ahead of where she was last year, and this season is going to be one to watch for her. It’s going to be exciting, and she’s been a leader in our distance program since her freshman year.”