Winslow Towson/for The Boston Globe
Somerville High School’s outdoor track and field teams will begin their season Thursday afternoon against Everett at Dilboy Stadium. Both the boys’ and girls’ squads went undefeated and claimed Greater Boston League titles last spring, but key losses to both rosters might hurt their chances to repeat this year.
“I think we just could be that one or two person short this season,” said girls’ coach Charlie O’Rourke.
See our gallery of Somerville High track photos here.
Cambridge poses the biggest threat to both Somerville teams, having won both indoor track GBL titles during the winter season.
“Cambridge is much improved, but I’m hoping maybe some of these new people – and we have a lot of new kids – maybe some of them can come up and fill that hole,” said O’Rourke. “We need some more distance runners.”
For Somerville to reestablish its track supremacy, they’ll need more from their returning veterans. For the boys, that starts with junior phenom Andre Rolim, a national-level athlete whose speed and adaptability makes him a threat to win just about any event he competes in. Hurdles, relays, high jump, middle-distance runs – Rolim can handle anything boys’ coach Dave Dickerson throws at him.
Dickerson said integrating the younger runners into the team could be the deciding factor in the Highlanders’ season. As captain, Rolim has already started making that happen.
“He’s done a real nice job of kids that are coming to the track, telling them ‘Give it four weeks, you’ll be fine,'” said Dickerson. “Andre’s grown up a little bit.”
Sophomore Marcelo Brociner and senior Lyndon Kaba join Rolim among the team’s veterans. Brociner looked impressive in the 800 meters at Thursday’s scrimmage against Winchester, building a sizable lead early in the race and maintaining it through to the finish line.
Kaba, meanwhile, may see more time in short-distance races. Kaba won several 55 meter dashes during the winter, including at February’s GBL Meet.
Both runners played for the GBL-winning Highlander soccer team in the fall, which may explain their conditioning and athleticism.
“I always figure that if guys can run 400 meters, have some speed and have some endurance, then they can run anything,” Dickerson said. “All three of those guys can run any event.”
On the girls’ squad, Nicole Genard – who next year will run for Northeastern on a full athletic scholarship – returns to the team as the defending state champion in the heptathlon. Like Rolim, Genard can succeed in any number of events, including javelin, relays, and hurdles.
“She’s a good leader,” O’Rourke said. “She’s matured a lot, she sees the big picture and she’s willing to work towards it.”
O’Rourke also expects a lot out of senior Michel-le Meranda another returning veteran on the girls’ squad.
“Michel-le can do everything,” O’Rourke said. “She can jump, she can run, she can hurdle. She’s just as equally important to the team as Nicole is.”
Junior Gelyne Berger is another versatile Highlander, able to run as well as compete in jumping events. During Thursday’s scrimmage, Gelyne took charge of the Highlanders’ jumpers, organizing them during practice periods and freely sharing her observations with the younger athletes.
Genard, Meranda, Berger, and sophomore Alison Kaba comprise the 4x100 relay team, which should rack up points for the Highlanders.
“We had that good 4x200 [during the winter] with those four girls, but I think we’ll be a better 4x100,” O’Rourke said. “Quicker speed, Alison’s quicker in the 100 than the 200.”
Though the girls’ outdoor track team has the size to stay competitive during the dual-meet season, Dickerson said the tiny boys’ roster may force him to focus on the state meets later in the spring.
“I’m not even sure right now that we can cover every event sometimes in the dual meet,” Dickerson said. “And we’ve never had that.”
Added Dickerson, “I always like to stress the team first, and this might be one of the first season that that changes.”
No matter the team’s size, Highlander fans can still expect to see several athletes from both teams go deep into the spring and succeed at the highest levels of competition.