MANISTIQUE - The Manistique girls will rely on a handful of upperclassmen to lead the way this track season.
Manistique, with just 14 on its roster, opens Tuesday at 3 p.m. in the Marquette Invitational at the Superior Dome.
"Our numbers are definitely down," said coach Chris Marana. "We've been in the mid 20s consistently the past few years. We can usually count on 10-plus freshmen coming in. But this year not as many came out, which may hurt us in some areas. But I like what we have. We cover a pretty good base. We expect to be competitive in some events."
Manistique's lone senior is Taylor Lockwood in pole vault and long jump. In last year's Upper Peninsula Division 1 Finals, she matched the winning height in pole vault at nine feet while placing third on a tie-breaker.
"Taylor has high expectations for herself," said Marana. "She's a pleasure to coach, and I look forward to watching her this year. The other girls also look to Taylor for leadership, and she's willing to accept that role. We're looking for other spots for her, potentially the sprint relays."
The Emeralds also have four juniors. They include Monica Giles (weight events), Hannah Bryant and Kyra Lauzon (sprints) and Darby Demers (middle distance).
"Monica has a lot of experience," said Marana. "We expect big things from her, and Hannah and Kyra will provide leadership to the underclassmen in their events. These girls can compete. We expect our upperclassmen to perform so their leadership can filter down among the underclassmen. The potential is there for good things to happen."
Bryant and Lauzon are also key returners on a 400-meter relay, which was U.P. runner-up to Marquette last season.
"We expect our 400 relay to be very competitive again this year," said Marana. "We have another girl who ran with that group as an alternate. I like the look of that team.
"We also have some underclassmen whom we have an eye on. There's some whom I think are a little tentative, but there's a couple who could do some good things."
The Emeralds, like everybody else, have been dealing with recent chilly and windy conditions.
"We got spoiled the first couple weeks," said Marana. "We had all the mats out and temperature was above 70 degrees. Lately, we had a few days in the 30s and were limited to what we could do."
The Emeralds, however, won't have to deal with the elements in their opener.
"We always have good weather in the Dome," said Marana. "The nice thing about a meet like this is you get to see where you stack up. We're one of those schools which is on the bubble (between D-1 and D-2) every year. On a weekly basis, we don't compete against those schools."
April 17 - at Marquette (Superior Dome); April 24 - at Iron Mountain; April 28 - Manistique Kiwanis Invitational.
May 3 - at Westwood; May 4 - at St. Ignace; May 8 - Big Bay de Noc and Newberry; May 12 - at Negaunee; May 14 - at Newberry; May 17 - Division 1 regional at Gladstone; May 24 - M-PC meet at Negaunee.
June 2 - U.P. Finals at Kingsford.