There is a new crop of track and field coaches at Cottage Grove High School this season. A season after Ricky Knutson stepped down as head coach, it is throws coach Gyna Walton, who has been coaching at the high school for the past three seasons, filling the role of head coach.
“Ricky Knutson was an amazing track coach so hopefully I can just follow in his shoes and do the best I can do and keep the program going,” said Walton, a 1990 CGHS graduate. While this is a new position for Walton, she has been coaching various teams around the area for nearly the past two decades. She has coached volleyball and basketball at the middle school level in addition to coaching middle school track and field.
Walton has been involved in track since she, herself, was in middle school at Lincoln, where she still holds the record in both shot put and discus.
“1985 and 1986. The kids look at (those records) and say, ‘Wow, you’re old,’” said Walton.
After attending nationals as an eighth grader, Walton was on varsity track all throughout high school and finished fifth place at state in the discus during her senior year. Walton competed for a year at Lane Community College and still competes in the United States Track and Field Masters Circuit where she currently has two national titles.
For the upcoming high school season, Walton is looking to continue on the recent success that the Lions have had as they enter a league that now features successful programs in both Marshfield and Marist. The Marshfield girls won the state title last year while their boys team finished fourth. For the Spartans, their boys were second in 5A while the girls finished fifth.
“We have won district championships for the boys the last three years and the co-ed for the last three years, also,” said Walton. “I guess our goal would be to do that. We’re going to need more numbers, we’ve always had a lot of numbers. But I would say that’s probably our biggest goal as a team, is to try to get those championships.”
Walton is being joined by a host of new faces in the track and field program. First year coaches include Lacey Guest, who will work with middle distance and distance runners and Kaelen Byrum, a 2013 Marist graduate, who will be the jumps coach. Kallie Black, a 2008 CGHS graduate, will be a throws coach. CGHS wrestling coach Christina Kent will also be assisting the program by leading a new weights program.
Also joining the coaching staff is hurdles coach Katie Springer. Springer is a 1995 CGHS graduate who still currently holds the school record in both the 100 and 300 hurdles. After high school she competed at Boise State, LCC and then the University of Oregon for a year.
“There’s only three of us coming back from staff last year so (we are) super excited to have a new coaching staff that’s eager to build the program and keep it going because track has been a big program in Cottage Grove for years,” said Walton on the new staff.
The Lions begin their season next Wednesday (March 16) at the Pleasant Hill Ice Breaker.