The Lady Blue Devils return the majority of their roster after finishing third at last year’s Class AAAAAA state meet last year.
The bad news for Marietta entering the season is that it will be without the services of Jenessa Jackson, who won a state championship in the shot put and finished second in the discus. Jackson is now at Western Kentucky
The good news for Marietta is that distance and middle-distance runners Mary Jeanne Assinzo, Kayla Dawson and Nyasiah Mercado return, along with Elizabeth Hartley.
Hartley had top-four state finishes in the high jump and pole vault last year, while Assinzo and Mercado placed among the top six in the 800-meter run. Dawson’s role in the 1,600 also builds optimism, along with several newcomers entering the Marietta ranks. Jessie Miller will also be a factor in the pole vault competition.
“The girls are excited and determined to do well this year,” Marietta coach Chad Christman said. “They’ve been working hard during the offseason, and they never quit running and practicing.”
Another veteran returning is Tatiyana Rayford, who Christman held out of last year’s state meet due to disciplinary reasons. Rayford’s versatility in the sprints, hurdles and field events could have placed the Lady Blue Devils firmly ahead of second-place Mill Creek in the team standings at state, and they could have possibly challenged Westlake for the overall crown.
“I think we definitely would have outscored Mill Creek, but we probably wouldn’t have beaten Westlake,” Christman said. “They were pretty solid. Rayford could have helped us in the long jump, 100, the relays and the hurdles.
“It was a tough pill to swallow not having her there, but the girls competed well. Our goal was the state championship. We didn’t get that, but we got on the podium.”
Before being removed from the active roster, Rayford won Region 4AAAAAA titles in the long jump and 100 dash, while also placing second in the 100 hurdles and helping the relay teams to top-three finishes.
“To let my team down like that was very disappointing for me,” Rayford said. “My team needed my help and I wasn’t there to participate. I feel like we could have won state if I could have helped out.
“I’m very excited for this season. As long as I can stay healthy, I’m going to be there for the team the whole year. I’m looking to see what we can do.”
Hartley also expects big things from Marietta.
“I think we’ll be a strong group,” she said. “We lost some seniors that helped us last year, but we’ll do well this season. Rayford’s a game-changer. With her, we probably could have won (state), and with her back, we might get that chance.
“I’m pretty excited about the season. My goal is to get 13 feet in the pole vault and win state, so, hopefully, I can get that.”
Assinzo has also dedicated herself to having a good season, and her year-round training should be a huge benefit. During cross country season, she finished second in Class AAAAAA to Walton’s Avery Bussjager.
“We’ve been getting the runs in and doing what we’re supposed to do,” Assinzo said. “We go hard when necessary and keep it easy when we can. I feel like we’ll have an amazing season.”
McEachern, which finished fourth at the Class AAAAAAA meet, should also challenge for the region and state championships. The Lady Indians return Cierra Dunston, Makenzie Dunmore and Destiny Riley, among others.
“McEachern’s good,” Christman said. “They’re really good. They have great athletes over there, so the hunger to beat them will help carry us. I always tell the girls, ‘If you’re not working, then the other kids are.’ The girls know I never want them to get outworked by anybody. That will be key for us this season.”