BELLEVILLE — In a little more then two years, Roscoe Whitfield has gone from coaching one of the top high school track and field programs in the nation at East St. Louis to one at Althoff, which has been low in numbers and tradition.
And while the Crusaders can't match the caliber of athletes produced by the Flyers' program, Whitfield has noticed has noticed that Althoff athletes have more self-discipline.
"The major differences that I see are the caliber of athletes and the long tradition that East St. Louis has," he said. "When you talk of East St. Louis track and field, you are talking about one of the elite programs in the country -- boys and girls,'' Whitfield said. "But at East St. Louis, we have to always be there and the kids have to be almost under constant supervision.
"At Althoff, you tell kids to do something and they do it.''
Now in his second full season as the Crusaders' head coach, Whitfield hopes that self-discipline equates into success this spring.
Numbers have nearly doubled on both teams. Whitfield has 23 boys and 21 girls to work with, including two returning Class 1A state track meet placewinners in Cara Brooks (shot put) and Savannah Ames (1,600 meters).
A third state qualifier -- junior Marle Harla (high jump) also returns. With the addition of several other promising newcomers, including freshman sprinter Rachel Collins, the outlook on the girls team is promising.
Collins placed third in the 60-meter dash at an indoor meet in Carbondale on Saturday.
Ames, who will attend Western Kentucky University on a track and cross country scholarship, is also a member of the Althoff girls soccer team.
"That is a love of hers,'' Whitfield said of Ames playing soccer. "But I'm optimistic about the girls maybe contending for a trophy at the Class 1A state meet in May.
"I'm not sure about the boys yet. But with the staff we've put together with myself, Marion Stallings and William Cobb. and the support we're getting from the other athletic programs and administration at Althoff, I think we'll have a successful season.''
In Collins, Althoff has a premier sprinter in the making, while senior Jade Sanlin and sophomore Krystian Stover are others Whitfield hopes will help out in the sprint events and sprint relays.
Harla and Ames will also be keys in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter relays, while Brooks will double up in the discus.
On the boys side, freshman Jaylon Bester has shown progress and may be one of the top Class 1A sprinters by the end of the season.
Whitfield said Bester will run the 100- and 200-meter events and will also be a key athlete on the 400- and 800-meter relays.
Senior Dennis Jackson and sophomore Malik Easley, both of whom played key roles on an Althoff football team that reached the state quarterfinals in the fall, will also compete in sprint events and relays.
Jack Buese is another standout for the boys team who Whitfield is hopeful will be one of the team leaders. Buese can run the 400- and 800-meter events and who will also help out in the 800- and 1,600-meter relays.
Buese is one of the athletes Whitfield is hoping will help start the solid tradition in this new era of Althoff track and field.
And, like Whitfield's East St. Louis teams, the Crusaders won't back down from any competition -- no matter what class it may be.
"We'll compete in Class 1A in the sectional and state meets, but with the caliber of track and field in the metro- east, we certainly won't shy away from going up against Class 2A and 3A schools as well,'' Whitfield said. "We feel like competing against the top schools will do nothing but help us get ready for the postseason.''