Saline girls track one of the state's largest, most successful programs
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When Brian Boze competed for the Saline track and field team in the 1980’s, he had a different coach every year. He saw firsthand how detrimental coaching turnover can be in the development of a program.
But when he returned to the program as a coach in the 1990’s, he joined a dedicated group of coaches in it for the long haul, leading a program that had been rebuilt under coach David Medley.
Boze coached the Hornets boys team starting in 2002, including to a state title in 2006, before moving into an assistant role in 2007.
Now in his first year coaching the girls, he’s hoping to take them to the same level he brought the boys team.
“I take a lot of pride in watching this track team develop into what it is,” Boze said.
The Saline girls track team, this week’s AnnArbor.com Team of the Week, has become one of the largest and most successful programs in the state in recent years.
The Hornets finished tied for fourth at last year’s state meet, and should have the talent to be among the top teams again at this year’s meet on June 1.
“We have a lot of motivation this year, that’s our drive,” senior sprinter Amanda Luurtsema said. “We want to come back with a trophy really bad. So we’ve been pushing it a lot.”
All four of the team’s individual runners who finished in the top eight last year -- Luurtsema, hurdler Quenee' Dale and distance runners Abby Rentschler and Elianna Shwayder -- are back this year.
And of the team’s two relays that were All-State, the 400-meter relay that won a state title and the 3,200 relay that finished third, both return three members. Lauren Green returns to the sprint relay, while Alana Hollis returns to the sprint team.
While topping two-time defending state champion Grosse Pointe South may be a tall task, the Hornets are hopeful they can be among the top teams at the end of the year.
“There’s no illusion as to their talent, they have certain talent that’s untouchable,” Boze said. “Our goal is to be as competitive as we can and to put forth the best team we can on that day.”
Friday should provide a good preview for the state meet, as Saline will host the 17th annual Golden Triangle meet. More than 20 of the best teams from around the state will be on hand.
Field events start at noon, with running preliminaries at 1:30 p.m. and running finals at 4 p.m.
“It’s one of the biggest meets we have on the schedule," Dale said. "I’m excited for that.”
While Saline has no shortage of bodies on his 130-member team, the next step is developing athletes that can compete for individual state championships. The Hornets haven’t had one since 2002.
“We are very strong, but you need superstars and we’re trying to develop some of those kids to be competitive at that level,” Boze said.
In the meantime, Saline continue to blow through the competition in Washtenaw County. Tuesday, the Hornets topped Huron to run their SEC record to 4-0 on the year, and they’ve won every invitational they’ve entered this year.
In 2010, Saline won its first regional title since 1983. They’ve now won it for three straight years. They’ve also won the SEC Red three of the last four years.
No small part of that success has been the numbers the Hornets have been able to draw. This year’s squad features around 130 athlete’s, Boze said (which is actually smaller than the boys team, which is around 170.)
The numbers grow in a cascading effect, Boze said, with more girls coming out for the team as they have more friends coming out.
“If there’s 50 girls you might not know anybody, but 70 there’s a friend, then suddenly they bring a friend and it’s 100 and it just sort of blossoms,” Boze said.
And in the end, there’s an enormous team that provides plenty of competition for one another.
“I love Saline because we have so much depth,” Dale said. “There’s always competition in every race.”