BELLEVILLE — The Belleville East Lancers ended the 2012 season as the eighth best Class 3A girls high school track team in the state, a state champion 800 meter relay team and multiple individual state medal winners.
But the Lancers also were the fourth best team in the Southwestern Conference. In perhaps one of the best campaigns in school history, the Lancers still finished behind conference rival and state champion Edwardsville, state runner-up Belleville West and East St. Louis which placed fifth.
In 2013, Lancers coach Bryan Mitchell said he doesn't expect things to change much.
"It will be different in that East St. Louis is in Class 2A this year. "But as far as Edwardsville and Belleville West are concerned I look for it to continue.''
"As for us I look for us to be good in the relays and we've some good athletes back in the field events. I think we'll have another successful season.''
East will be led by one of the top sprinters in the metro east in senior Aniecia Brewster. A member of the 400, 800 and 1,600 meter relay teams which placed in the top eight in state, Brewster will also run in the 200 and 400 meter events.
Brewster already has broken the Lancers indoor school record in the 400 meters this month with a time of 1 minute.
But one of the strengths of the 2013 Lancers in the field events where seniors Anna Gailius (pole vault) and Sadie Mosby (shot put and discus) should be among the best around.
"Anna qualified for state last year, made the finals and cleared 10 feet 9 inches. But she didn't place,'' Mitchell said. "If she continues to improve this year she's got a good chance to medal.
"Sadie did well in both but I think her best event is the discus. If she and Katelyn Budnicki keep improving, I look for both of them to have a shot at getting to state.''
Tyesha Coleman will also be counted on in the shot put.
Top distance runners include Haley Inyart, Kaitlynn Sanchez, while senior Maddie Gaul is also solid.
Junior Taylor Sunkett and sophomore Sidne' Williamson will team with Brewster in the sprint relays.
But if East is to have a chance at another top 10 finish at state, it will be Brewster who will lead the way.
"Right now, we've got her in all three sprint relays and either the open 200 or 400 meters,'' Mitchell said of Brewster. "I think her best event is the open 400.''
Lancers boys team
Former assistant Joe Byrne takes over as the Lancers' third head coach in the last three years and inherits a talented but young squad of thinclads in 2013.
East has one of the best hurdlers in the metro-east in sophomore Os Moore, but Byrne is still learning the ropes in his new job.
"I'm doing the best I can,'' Byrne said. "Being a head coach is different. It's a lot more responsibility and less time to have fun. But still the same interaction with the kids.
"We have a bunch of kids out. But we're really young. We've got a lot of sophomores and a lot of freshmen. The freshmen, I'm just really excited to see how we can do but I'm also excited about the kids we have leading us this year.''
The Lancers have two of the best hurdlers in the metro east in senior Brandon Gray (300 hurdles) and the gifted Moore (100 ) to lead the way.
Byrne also has about five freshmen hurdlers who may be a year away from making an impact on the Lancers varsity squad.
Moore, who also set the freshman record in the triple jump with a leap of 47 feet, will senior Aaron Dunn in that event, while junior Donovan Hicks will also see time in the jumps.
Byrne said that it may take a while for the Lancers to be at their best.
"In track everyone wants to be good right off the bat. But it really doesn't matter how good you are in March. It doesn't matter how good you are in April. It does matter how good you are in May,'' Byrne said. "That's when we're going to need these guys to be at 100 percent.''
Senior Andre Burnett will lead a strong group of sprinters which will also be needed in the relays. Other possibilities include Donovan Hicks, Jalen McIntyre, Dunn and Daniel Jackson.
"We have a bunch of guys who if they continue to work hard will go out and exceed their own expectations,'' Byrne said. "These are good kids. I'm looking forward to what this season will bring and I'm looking forward to a very promising future.''
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or email@example.com