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Kenny Bristow, Wasatch Wave
Bryson Ritchie attempts to catch Josh Rhees as the two give it all they've got at a workout this week at Wasatch's Wright-Tree Stadium.

Wasatch High School has always had its share of talented athletes. Many, over the years, have excelled in wrestling, basketball, football and soccer. When it came to track and field, however, many athletes participated to simply be involved, or because friends did, or to stay in shape for their “main” sport.

That has recently changed.

Head track and field coach Brad Foster, entering his third year at the helm and fourth at Wasatch, is pleased with the change in the culture he has witnessed over the past couple of seasons.

“Not to say anything negative about the way it was when I came in, but things were a little … loose — unorganized a bit,” Foster said. “I really wanted to make an effort to change the feel and the approach. We wanted to make track and field a serious sport here, with dedicated competitors and knowledgeable coaches. And I think we’ve done that.”

Foster has surrounded himself with quality assistant coaches, a necessity for a program where the head coach oversees so many different athletes competing in so many different areas.

Ashlie Whiting and Diana Horner, the sprints and hurdles coaches, respectively, are both Wasatch record-holders and competitors at the college level. Shauna Bowden, who ran at Southern Utah University, coaches the distance runners with the assistance of Lisa Willey. Norm Hayter, no stranger to coaching student-athletes to great success at Wasatch, coaches the high and long jumpers.

New to the staff this year is Steve Coburn, who is the school’s head football coach. He'll handle the throwers duties. Coburn’s wife, Laurel, has been brought in to work with the javelin throwers. Laurel Coburn has five state champions in the event on her resume.

“Its really about management,” the head coach said with a smile in between fielding questions from some of his participants. Most of Foster’s time at a practice is directing kids to what areas of the stadium to go to and which coach to check in with and what events they will be working on that day. Not an easy task, but one Foster seems to handle without a misstep.

Among the areas where the Wasps feel secure is boys distance. That area looks deep with seniors Talem Franco, who has committed to run for BYU, Brian Probst, Hunter Lundskog and Jeremy Willey leading the way.

Girls sprints and hurdles look strong with senior McKeil Ostergaard, junior Kaitlyn Walker (a 2012 state champ), and sophomores Ashlyn Coleman and Emily Benson all returning from last year.

Middle distance runners will be competitive as usual featuring Franco on the boys side and Savannah Heywood for the girls. Both are seniors and looking to have great years.

Seniors Nate Lee, Rebecca MaWhinney and Joanna Remund will all be expected to have success this spring in the long and high jump.

“The throwing events and the jumps are where we really want to see a noticeable improvement,” said Foster. “If we had some of the early distances that we’re getting already in jumps and throws last year, we would have been in the thick of it at state,” he added.

After a very short preseason, all of this will hopefully come together when the Wasatch team heads to Moab this weekend for the Red Rock Invitational. Foster classifies the contest, held at Grand County High School, as a pretty small regional meet, but it's a great chance for his staff to see how individuals perform in a race environment.

“This meet is a chance to reward kids who have been with the program for a number of years, and an opportunity to start the season off with some success," Foster said. “We will really be looking forward to the Pine View Invitational in St. George (March 22 and 23) for a high-quality meet where we will see the best early-season competition in the state.

"It was a meet the boys won last year — edging out Alta by two points.” the coach added.

Kenny Bristow is the staff sports writer for the Wasatch Wave and a contributor to the Deseret News high school coverage for the Wasatch region. Email: kennywbristow@gmail.com