Farmington Harrison has the potential for another big year in girls track and field, but it won’t be an easy feat to duplicate last year’s success, according to coach Mark Babcock.
The Hawks, who are the defending OAA White Division and city champions, are thinner in some areas and will face new challenges following a league re-alignment.
“We have a lot of work to do, so we’ll see how it goes,” Babcock said. “I feel we’re off to a little bit of a slow start. It’s a combination of things. Certainly, the weather was one. We’ll work hard and try to put thing together.”
Harrison has one of the state’s best hurdlers in senior Maya Roberts, an all-Observer selection the past two years.
She finished third in the 100-meter hurdles at the Division 1 state meet with a career-best time of 14.26 seconds.
Roberts is the Oakland County, OAA White, regional and city champion in that event. She also won the 100 dash and 300 hurdles at the city meet and anchored Harrison’s 400 relay team that finished eighth in the state.
“She had a good indoor season and has done a lot to improve herself since last track season,” Babcock said. “I’d say she’s ahead of where she’s been in the past.
“We want her to be a double-barrel hurdler and be good in both of them. If we can assemble a good relay team in the 4×1, we want to put her in there.
“My biggest concern is to keep her healthy and keep her progressing. We’re taking everything one step, one week and one meet at a time.”
Senior Candace Cannon is another quality hurdler who returns. Harrison might not be as strong in those events since a persistent back injury will prevent junior Mikel Coleman from competing in the hurdles.
“She’ll be one of the best sprinters, but I think her hurdling days are over,” Babcock said. “It’s probably a good precautionary step to take. We’ll miss her in the hurdles, but she’ll still be out there and contributing a lot.”
Junior Arica Hyman and sophomore Daria Cook are up-and-coming hurdlers who could possibly fill the void.
“Maybe there’s another young one in there that we haven’t found yet,” Babcock said.
Though the Hawks lost all-area shot putter Kalyn Brown to graduation, they return senior Kyla Roland and welcome back senior Chelsea Savage.
“They’re a dynamic duo,” Babcock said. “They’ll be a force for sure. And they compete with each other and that’s a good thing.”
Savage, who was all-state her first two years and is a two-time, all-area selection, missed last season because of a school-imposed action and will miss the first couple meets this year.
Swimmer Sydney Poisson has come a long way in the throws and could make an impact, according to Babcock, and basketball player Ayo-ola Sobowale is doing well, too.
Roberts and seniors Deja Hunter and Daija Talley are quality sprinters, but that’s one of the areas in which Harrison doesn’t have the depth it had other years. Cannon also will run relays.
Sophomore Atlantis Johnson made quite an impact the second half of last season in the 400 and 800.
“She has good speed and is pretty tough-minded,” Babcock said. “Hopefully, she’ll start coming into her own this year.”
Sophomore Nia Soloman is another good half-miler who can run the 1,600 meters, too. Senior Erika Abbott, juniors Maggie Kondek and Maya Roberts and freshman Abbey Garcia are the top distance runners.
The Hawks won’t have senior Emily Brunett, who was a triple winner in the city meet as a freshman, available in those events. She has a scholarship to Michigan State for swimming and is focusing on that sport.
Talley is the best high jumper; Poisson and Hyman give the Hawks depth. They have a good long jumper in Hunter, and Babcock is thinking about putting Cannon in that event, too.
“We have some younger kids, but we haven’t long jumped enough to be able to say (who will be in the lineup),” Babcock said. “Actually, we’ve high jumped more than long jumped because of the surface. The long jump pit is still a mess.”
Harrison lost Molly Miller, a four-year varsity athlete, in the pole vault, but they return sophomores Nicole Borchenko and Rachel Wechsler.
The Hawks will be in the new OAA Blue Division with Oak Park, Southfield, North Farmington, Berkley, Lathrup, Hazel Park and Ferndale.
Oak Park is the defending Division 1 state champion, and the Knights have added Grosse Pointe South transfer Ersula Farrow, the reigning 800-meter champion.
“They’re loaded; they have everything,” Babcock said. “They’re as good or better in my opinion.”
Harrison’s first competition will be Wednesday, April 15, at Southfield High School.
“I think we have some strong suits,” Babcock said. “I would say we’re thinner in some areas than we have been, but we certainly have some things we can do well.”