• MARK LEFFINGWELL

    Monarch's Claire Green, front, Elissa Mann, center, and Karina Mann run the 800-meter run at last year's state track meet.

  • MARK LEFFINGWELL

    Monarch's Kaitlyn Benner, left, runs the second leg of the Coyotes' state-runner-up 3,200-meter relay at last spring's state track meet.

of

Expand

LOUISVILLE — Young as they were in 2012, the Monarch girls 3,200-meter relay runners took second at the Class 5A state meet.

All four of the Coyotes were underclassmen then. Returning their full battery of distance runners, the Coyotes are back to improve on their early prep careers in 2013.

Juniors Claire Green and Kaitlyn Benner and sophomore twins Elissa and Karina Mann will team back up in the Coyotes’ 3,200 relay lineup. After coming as close as they did to a title last season, and having to consider a technicality all year, they’re back with a chip on their shoulder.

The Coyotes initially finished third last year behind Cherry Creek and Ralston Valley with a time of 9 minutes, 15.78 seconds. But the Coyotes were bumped up to second when Ralston Valley was disqualified for throwing the baton.

“In our minds, we didn’t really beat them and it’s more about us,” Elissa Mann said. “We came in with high expectations and we still did an awesome job. But we were expecting a little more.”

Aside from the obvious improvement the Coyotes would like to make from first to second place, they’re also hoping to simply improve their own time from last season. Last spring, the Coyotes didn’t run as well as they could have because Green had mononucleosis and both Mann twins were admittedly a little overwhelmed as freshmen.

The more the 3,200 relay runners improve the better for the Coyotes girls team, which finished 22nd in the team scoring last season. All four also are effective scorers in their individual events.

Elissa Mann took ninth in the 800-meter run while Green took 10th and Karina Mann finished 16th. Benner placed 15th in the 1,600 and Green took 18th.

“I think we’ll do better. I think we have stronger people all around,” Benner said of the overall improvement she’s seen on the Coyotes girls team. “We have a lot of juniors this year so a lot of those girls are getting better. It seems like we have more jumpers and sprinters this year, too, so we’ll see.”

Elissa Mann (ninth), Benner (12th), Green (15th) and Karina Mann (18th) also were the top four finishers on the Coyotes cross country team that won the 5A state title in the fall.

Already in good shape to start the season, Green said the relay team’s training hasn’t changed much from a year ago. Keeping it consistent appears to be working for them, as they’re already showing signs of improvement in the preseason.

“We’re improving so much and the season hasn’t even started yet,” Green said. “Our times from last year are gonna drop like crazy and we’re definitely going to be fighting for a state championship. There are so many good teams out there, though, that it’s going to be a real dogfight.”

The current Coyotes 3,200 quartet set a new school record last season. This season, they said they’d like to shoot for a state record, though it may be a long shot. Then again, they have next year, too.

The Colorado prep record stands at a 9:00.07, set by Thompson Valley in 2009. The state track meet record is 9:01.83, which Smoky Hill has held since 2003.

“We’re really pushing for a state record, which is around 9 minutes flat,” Karina Mann said. “We’re really hoping for that. That would be 15 seconds faster than our time last year but we know we can get close to that. Last year we didn’t have the race we wanted so we know we can do a lot better.”

Coyotes head coach Kent Rieder said Cherry Creek should be tough again and he also expects both Arapahoe and Pine Creek to be in contention for the state title.

With the state meet a ways off, Rieder said the promising Coyotes group is trying to keep things in perspective early on. But with their young talent, early accomplishments and the potential for this year and another, their perspective is a bid broader than that of most others.

“The sky’s the limit for them,” Rieder said. “Really, it is.”

Follow Brad on Twitter: @BradCochi