Having twins Mia McLain and Madi McLain on the roster is a great place to start for any track and field team.
That's the luxury that Benton girls head coach Andy Sloan has again this season. Mia McLain advanced to state in two events (1,600 and 3,200) as a sophomore a year ago.
"Her training regimen is just unbelievable," Sloan said. "She takes a little bit of time off after cross country and then goes straight into training again. She'll do some days where she'll go swim at the aquatic center at Rend Lake at six in the morning and then run after school. Her worth ethic and commitment are really great."
Sloan said the talented junior will also run a leg on the 4 x 400-meter relay team and possibly the 4 x 800 relay. Mia McLain's second-place finish at the Herrin 2A Sectional in the 3,200 last year was to the eventual state champion.
"Our sectional is so difficult right now with the teams that are in it," Sloan said. "You've got to be really, really good to get out of the sectional, and Mia has been able to do that. I think she's running her best right now and will have a good season. She's already run under 5:20 in the mile, which she hadn't done in her career."
Madi McLain excels in both of the hurdles events, and she is a well-rounded athlete in general.
"Besides both of the hurdles, she runs the 4 x 400 and will triple jump a little bit," Sloan said. "She qualified for state in the 300 hurdles as a freshman, and she just got nipped out from going to state again as a sophomore last year. She's got one of the top three or four hurdle times in both of them in school history. We've had some pretty good hurdlers here, and she's right up there with some of the best."
It's no surprise that both of the McLain girls train quite a bit considering their dad, Brent, is the cross country coach.
"Madi is like Mia and always working in the offseason," Sloan said. "She's lifting weights and training very hard a lot."
Macy Sanchez returns to the squad for her senior campaign.
"She's always been a relay kid for us and runs the 400 open," Sloan said. "She is a really solid kid who is always going to give us her best."
Katy Johnson, a junior, is back. She will be relied upon the most in the throwing events.
"Katy really threw well last year and was all-conference in the discus," Sloan said. "She's a junior, and we look forward to her taking the next step. Hopefully, she learned a lot last year and will be even better this year."
Sloan only took four girls to the recent SIU Indoor Meet on Saturday. Two of those competitors were freshmen Evie Krieger and Hailey Wallace.
"Krieger will be a hurdler and a sprint relay kid," Sloan said. "Wallace is a state qualifier in cross country, so she'll be in the distance events. She's already gone under six minutes in the mile, so she's had a good indoor season so far."
Sloan isn't exactly sure the total number of athletes who will compete this season just yet, but the freshmen should certainly help.
"It's a big difference," Sloan said. "Even though my wife is a junior high coach, high school track and junior high track are a lot different. The season is longer, and you've got the indoor stuff. You have to break them in gradually. Hailey did some cross country, so she may be a little more used to the training regimen that Coach McLain has for the distance kids. We don't really go outdoors until the end of March, so it gives us some time to work with them."
The Benton girls will compete in a meet at Eastern Illinois University on Saturday.