In order for the Lady Raiders to duplicate that feat, they will have to overcome the loss of several talented athletes who are no longer with the team due to graduation.
Missing is 100-meter champion Tayla Carter, who also finished second in the 200 and was a key member of the 400 relay team that also placed second. Sydney Griffin won the 100 hurdles and was also a part of the aforementioned relay team, with Mikayla Greer and Cleo Holt. Lia Sewell also picked up points for the team in the 800.
The unit also helped the Lady Raiders win the Cobb County championship and place second in Region 5AAAAA. For all of their triumphs, last season was a banner year for the Lady Raiders.
However, because of their considerable losses, coach Travis Gower knows repeating won’t be easy.
“Those girls scored the biggest chunks and picked up most of the points for us last year,” he said. “It was a good group. Those girls were together all four years, and they were healthy all at the same time and at the right time.
“They had put in the work, and had been a huge part of the program all four years. With all of that experience, I thought we’d do well last season, and we ended up one point ahead when all was said and done, and we were state champions. It will be difficult to duplicate all of the success we had.”
While the level of sprinting talent will take time to develop, Gower sees the strength of his 2013 team lying squarely on the shoulders of his distance runners.
Led by senior Alexa Womack, who was a state finalist in the 1,600 and 3,200, the Lady Raiders will count on the group to set the tone at meets. Womack, who recently signed to run cross country at Clemson, finished fourth in the 3,200 and fifth in the 1,600.
“Alexa comes back as one of the better distance girls runners in the state,” said Gower, who doubles as the school’s cross country coach, “so she should help in that area.”
Senior Katie Frey is another returning veteran who should help Walton in scoring. Frey placed sixth in the pole vault at the state meet and is expected to get better as the season wears on.
“Katie is another girl that scored points for us at state,” Gower said, “so we expect her to be solid for us as well.”
One area that Gower anticipates seeing improvement in is the shot put and discus. It’s an area sophomore Tatiana Taylor is expected to anchor.
“Hopefully, she will be one of the better throwers in the state after she made the sectional last year,” he said. “Tatiana, Katie and Alexa are the pieces we’re going to start from, and we’re going to add from there.”
With the foundation set in distance events, Gower will work to get the other areas of the team up to speed quickly.
“We have a number of good distance runners, but we have to build our sprints,” he said. “Those girls have some big shoes to fill early in the year, and we’ll have some growing pains.
“We know we’re not coming in as one of the favorites to repeat, with the girls that we lost, but we think we’ll be able to compete in the big meets as the season goes on.”