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Preview: New Life track teams continue to work with small numbers

New Life Academy junior Eric Finley hands off the baton to classmate Chase Swenson in practice last week. Finley and Swenson should be two of the Eagles best this season. (Photo by John Molene)

New Life Academy will be small in numbers, and still young overall, but head coach Kristen Hawkins likes the talent and attitude on this year's team.

Of the 16 boys and eight girls out for the track and field teams, none are seniors.

A newcomer to the track team, junior Eric Finley, ran a 56-second 400-meter dash in his first try at the event.

Junior Jackson Gilles will compete in the throws.

Sprinter Mark Rygh placed third in the Minnesota Christian Athletic Association 100-meter dash last season as a sophomore with a time of 11.97. Chase Swenson is another junior sprinter looking for faster times this season.

Isaiah Avery should be competitive in the 800 meters.

Junior Malachi Thomas was sixth in the MCAA 1,600 (4:53.14) last spring. He has his eyes on the school record in the mile this spring. Noah Burroughs will compete in the 2-mile. He was seventh in the event (11:13.42) at the MCAA meet a year ago.

The New Life Academy girls' team is small in numbers, with eight members, but all of them are underclassmen.

Sophomore sprinter Emily Bakken should set the pace for the New Life Academy girls' team. Bakken was second in the 100-meter dash (13.29) and third in the 200 (27.31) in the MCAA meet last spring.

"She should have a good year again," said Hawkins.

Three members of New Life's school-record setting 4x100-meter relay team return in ninth-grader Hannah George, sophomore Robin Ahlquist and Bakken. Finding a fourth speedster to replace graduated Abbey Bakken in that relay this season may be a challenge, said Hawkins.

Ahlquist will compete in the 400 this season.

Bakken and Ahlquist have a shot at doing well at sections and qualifying for state, Hawkins said.

Catherine Michael should do well in the high jump.

New Life remains handicapped a bit by a lack of a track at the school. The Eagles rent practice time on the St. Croix Lutheran facilities in West St. Paul and obviously have no home meets.

"It's a small school, and there are a lot of other things," Hawkins said. "So we just try to make the best of it. I think we do a pretty good job."