By Mackensey O'hara CONTRIBUTING WRITER
---- — The Milford girls have a new face on the track this season in the form of fourth-grade teacher Gabrielle Pedersen.
Pedersen, a teacher at MCS, takes over the girls program from Dave Prouty, who has coached both the boys and girls in the past. Prouty will continue coaching the boy’s team this season.
A graduate of Gilbertsville-Mount Upton, Pedersen ran track in high school and continued with cross-country and track throughout college.
“I still competitively race and I just love it,” said Pedersen.
With a young team that finished third in last year’s Tri-Valley League Championships, it should be a great first season for Pedersen.
“They had a great season last year, especially for being so young,” said Pedersen. “We lost a couple of seniors, but for the most part, everyone is returning, which is exciting.”
Leading the Wildcats this season will be freshmen Hannah Saggese, who won Tri-Valley titles in both the 400 and 800 last year.
“She had a phenomenal season (as an eighth-grader) last season,” said Pedersen. “She is very well-rounded.”
Senior Keira Higgins will be Pedersen’s top distance runner, competing in the 1500, 3000 and steeplechase.
Emily Mertz, a junior, will run sprints for the Wildcats and is an athlete Pedersen described as being very diverse.
In the throws, Pedersen will be looking to sophomore Hannah Baker to lead the way.
“She’s going to throw really well for us this season,” said Pedersen.
A newcomer to the team this year will be eighth-grader Grace Brennan, who’s primary event will be the 400.
“She ran really well on modified last year,” said Pedersen. “She has a great work ethic and I think she will do very well this year.”
One hole Pedersen will be looking to fill is the hurdling shoes of Sadie Hogan. Hogan suffered an injury last season and chose to only play basketball this season.
“She is a great hurdler,” said Pedersen. “It will hurt a little bit to lose her.”
Looking at the competition in the Tri-Valley, GMU-Morris should be tough again this year.
“In terms of shear numbers, they will be very hard,” said Pedersen.
GM-U/Morris won the Tri-Valley Champions last season.
Overall, Pedersen said she is very happy about the group she is working with this year.
“They are very dedicated and self-motivated,” said Pedersen. “I enjoy coming to practice every day.”
“No matter how hard I push them, they always have a smile on their faces,” Pedersen continued. “The girls are very committed to each other and the team.”
On the boy’s side, Dave Prouty will be working with a team of only 10 athletes.
“Our numbers are definitely down. We are always looking for recruits,” said Prouty.
Two new recruits this season for the Wildcats are junior Paul VanWarner and senior Brandon Macumber.
VanWarner, a sprinter, is also playing baseball this season.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Prouty of VanWarner juggling both sports. “I look forward to seeing what he can do for us.”
Brandon Macumber is trying track for the first time, but Prouty is optimistic about his abilities.
“He’s working really hard and we are trying to find out his strengths,” said Prouty. “He’ll do really well for us this year.”
Seniors Josh Bush and Elijah Rutledge will be top competitors for the Wildcats this season.
“I’m looking for (Bush) to lead our sprinters this year,” said Prouty. Bush will also throw for Milford.
“Elijah is one of the best high jumpers in the Tri-Valley and Class D,” said Prouty of Rutledge, who may also run middle distance this season and compete in another jumping event.
Juniors Will Wilcox and Brian Atwell will be top throwers for Milford this season.
“I see big things from them this year,” said Prouty.
Mike Miller is a sophomore sprinter who hopefully will be healthy enough to be on the track this season.
“He is one of our better sprinters if he can stay away from injuries,” said Prouty.
One of the biggest holes to fill is that of Elijah Coley, who was a standout hurdler for the Wildcats last season.
“It will be tough replacing him,” said Prouty.
In terms of strengths this season, Prouty sees his team being most competitive in the throws, sprints, and high jump.
“We don’t have a large team, but I’m looking to see what kind of growth we can accomplish this season,” said Prouty.
Looking to the Tri-Valley, a number of teams will be tough this year.
“CV-S has the numbers, GMU-Morris will be strong with numbers and good athletes, Edmeston has a strong distance program and Downsville has good sprinters,” said Prouty. “Each team brings their own strengths.”
Time will tell as the season unfolds and the competitions begin.
“I’m happy with our work ethic and attitude,” said Prouty. “We’re anxious to get on a track and be in weather above 42 degrees.”