After guiding his Princeton High girls’ track squad to the team title last spring at the Mercer County Championships, Jim Smirk had different goals coming into this year’s meet last Saturday at Steinert.
“It is a young team with the exception of Michelle Bazile and Amelia Whaley,” said PHS head coach Smirk, whose team stood seventh in the standings of the meet, which was delayed due to rain and was slated to be completed on Tuesday.
“We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores and this was a good tune-up for the sectionals. We knew we couldn’t score enough points to win so we cut back on the events so they could really focus.”
Sophomore Paige Metzheiser showed her focus, taking fourth in the 800 with a time of 2:22.69.
“Paige ran track last year and got introduced to the sport,” said Smirk. “She ran cross country this fall and made the varsity. The surprise is the distances she is competing at. We thought she was going to be a pure 400 runner but she has found a niche in the 800.”
Another young performer finding a niche is freshman Maia Hauschild, the fourth place finisher in the long jump in 16’1.5.
“She is a very hard worker,” said Smirk of Hauschild. “She came out for cross country last fall to build her strength. She also runs the 400. We are keeping her to the fundamentals and letting her get strong and fit and see where that takes her. She didn’t worry about the slippery track on Saturday. She was herself and jumped really well.”
Another hard worker for the Tigers is sophomore distance runner Mary Sutton.
“Mary Sutton took seventh in the 2-mile; she ran a 12:03, four weeks ago she was running a 12:51,” said Smirk, noting that freshman Sarah Klebanov placed 13th in the 3,200-meter run.
“She plays basketball and she doesn’t get the winter track work so it takes her a while to get going in the spring.”
Senior star Whaley got going down the stretch in the 3,200 as she took third in 11:58.05.
“Amelia is really carrying the load this year; most of her career she had two very good runners [Elyssa Gensib and Jenna Cody] with her,” said Smirk.
“She has put herself out there each week. She is working on being competitive when it counts the most. We saw that yesterday in the 2-mile. She got to the mile mark and she realized she wasn’t going to get a PR so she set herself up for a good finish. She usually grinds it out at a steady pace and she flipped the script. She showed what kind of a veteran she really is. I told her with a half mile you have to go and she made a great move.”
Bazile, for her part, showed once again that she is one of the great throwers in the area as the junior star won the discus with a heave of 119’2.
“You have to start with her work ethic; she is there every day,” said Smirk.
“She is completely focused at all times. She is always there figuring out how great she can be. She is a strong athlete and brings a different level of intensity. She balances that with having a good time, she has an exciting personality and is a lot of fun to have on the team. She is a junior; she is not as polished as she is going to be and she is working on that.”
Smirk is excited about his team’s potential as he looks ahead to the upcoming sectional meet.
“This crew might not be as impressive out of the gate; we are not going to score points in the big meets like we did last year,” said Smirk.
“But as they develop, they are understanding what it takes to compete at a higher level. We may come up short, but it will be a good chance for the freshmen and sophomores to get experience and compete hard. If we do that, that will be success for us. We have people that had never run track before this year and some of them may score points in the sectional, which is exciting.”