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New Life track & field: The bigger, the better?

Returning to the Eagles this season will be senior Mitch Peterson, a team captain, whose focus will be on the 300 hurdles and the 800 and 1600 relays.

New Life's track and field teams are the biggest they have ever been, according to boys head coach Lawrence Simmons, who is in his fourth year.

In Simmons' first year he said the boys and girls teams combined had between 10 and 15 athletes. This season, there are over 50 kids on the two teams.

"We've definitely grown," Simmons said. "We have the numbers. We'll have to see how that all translates, because a lot of the kids are new and inexperienced."

Simmons said he thinks the growth in numbers is due to a belief that track and field can be very beneficial to other sports.

"We got a lot of kids out for track and field that we didn't get out before, because they realize that track will help them with football in the fall, or basketball or soccer," Simmons said. "We have a lot of talented athletes on the team that are using track and field as a means to get better at their primary sports."

Last season was one of the best in school history for the Eagles' boys.

New Life boys won the Minnesota Christian Athletic Association championship and sent nine different individuals to the state meet, quite an accomplishment considering the 2008 graduating class was about 40 kids total.

"To be able to send that many athletes to state was huge," Simmons said.

At state, New Life's 800-meter relay team and 1600-meter relay team each finished fifth in the state.

However, the Eagles will need to replace 2008 graduate Paul Schreiner, a two-time state entrant who won the 400-meter dash at sections and anchored both state-qualifying relay teams. Schreiner, the team's lone individual state entrant last season, finished second in the state in the 400 in 2006-07 and, although battling the flu, was 10th in the 400 last year.

New Life also will be without 2008 graduates Isaiah Tolo and Matt Rahimi. Tolo was on the 1600-meter relay team and Rahimi was on the 800-meter relay team.

"We have some huge holes to fill," Simmons said. "But so far, it looks like we might be able to fill them. If not with individual talent, with sheer numbers."

Returning to the team this season will be seniors Mitch Peterson and Rob LeMay, who were members of both the state relay teams, along with senior Kyle Otto.

Peterson, a team captain, will be focusing on the 300 hurdles and the 800 and 1600-meter relays. LeMay will concentrate on the individual 400-meter run and will be on the 800 and 1600 relay teams and Otto will compete in the 300 and 110 hurdles.

Last season, the boys team, which had finished as MCAA runners-up in 2005-06 and 2006-07, won the conference title. Simmons felt the team should be repeat champs this season.

"I'd be shocked if we didn't repeat as conference champions," Simmons said. "The boys side is really strong. On the girls side, we're still picking up steam."

Leading the youthful girls squad will be senior Andrea Wallert, who has state meet hopes in the shot put, triple jump and high jump.

Last season, Wallert came in third place in the shot put -- one spot away from the state meet. Wallert's toss of 34-08.75 was just shy of Mayer Lutheran's Brittany Erdmann's toss of 34-11.5 for second place and a trip to state. The throw was Wallert's career best and broke her own school record, which she set earlier this year. Wallert also finished sixth in the triple jump and 10th in the high jump.

"Andrea was just a one-woman wrecking crew last year," Simmons said. "We never came in last as a girls team, sometimes just because of Andrea."

For New Life, the season begins on April 16 with a meet at Faribault High School.

"The feeling is really good for both teams," Simmons said. "We have a lot of raw talent. Overall, it's very exciting. There's just a lot of unknowns because there are so many new participants."


-- 2008 - 09

Key returners: Mitch Peterson, sr.; Andrea Wallert, sr.; Rob LeMay, sr.; Kyle Otto, sr.

Key graduates: Paul Schreiner, Isaiah Tolo, Matt Rahimi.

Main competition: Boys: MCAA: West Lutheran, Trinity. Section 4A: St. Croix Lutheran, Holy Family, Minnehaha Academy, DeLaSalle. Girls: MCAA: Providence Academy/Heritage Academy, Meadow Creek. Section 4A: Providence Academy/Heritage Academy, Mayer Lutheran, DeLaSalle, St. Croix Lutheran.