Like a lot of other 5A girls' teams, ThunderRidge has some hurdle talent coming back this year. Erin Bowers leads the pack for TR. Photo by Alan Versaw.
Even though ThunderRidge has had a good girls' track team for several years running, I owe at least the timing of this piece of recognition to a tip from the message board. This is a team to be reckoned with.
The strength of the Grizzly program this year appears to lie in the hurdle events. While a strength is never a bad thing to have, this isn't necessarily the best of years to be looking for a lot of state points from your hurdlers. Surely, some team is going to hit the jackpot, but there are a lot of other teams that are going to find the pot of points rather thinly divided among the returning hurdlers.
That said, both Erin Bowers and Chanah Gallagher are returning state qualifers. Both rank in the top 10 among returners for the 100 hurdles. Bowers, only a sophomore this season, also ranks in the top six among returning 300 hurdlers. Both figure to see some relay action as well (see comments below about the TR sprint relays).
In distance events, sisters Taylor and Dominique Gerard will be the ones ThunderRidge looks to to score points in the distance events. An improvement in the 12th-place finish at state for the 4x800 relay seems to be a likely point of emphasis. The distance crew will likely miss the contributions of graduate Hannah Krumreich. Dominique Gerard's best race is the 3200, but she has potential to score in the 800 and 1600 as well. Four-eventing Gerard, however, seems a high-risk strategy with the current depth of the field in girls' distance events. Taylor Gerard had a solid freshman cross country season in the fall and will probably spend some of the spring sorting out her best event on the track.
Elisa Isakson is a solid senior pole vaulter who will enter the season ranked #3 in 5A, but also as someone with solid 200/400 speed.
And that leads us to where ThunderRidge has excelled in recent years--the 4x200 and 4x400 relays. For TR to make a serious run at the top of 5A girls track and field, they need their relays to produce as they have in the past. They may even need them to produce above what they've produced in the past.
Last year, ThunderRidge took thirds in both relays. Those points were huge in enabling them to finish tied for fifth at state.
Right now, the missing piece--excepting, of course, Elisa Isakson in the pole vault--is the field events. If ThunderRidge starts to find some state-level productivity in the field events, their team stock figures to see a strong surge.