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RAF LAKENHEATH — The birds chirp a little louder. The sun stays a little longer. And the rain, it just won’t stop.

Spring is knocking on England’s door and students at Lakenheath High School are out getting prepped for the final season of athletics in the waning school year.

More than 100 students braved the cold rain for the first week of practice in track, softball and soccer, some of which had to be moved indoors. Track and soccer have boys and girls squads while the softball team is girls only.

Here is a quick look at the teams.

Girls soccerCoaches Ann Gerstner and Alex Miller lead a young squad without a superstar but plenty of enthusiasm. More than 40 girls showed up for the first week of practice. That’s to field two teams of 11.

Vikki Sixtos, Greta Gerstner, Brand Baumgartner and Kristina Jemison return from last season’s team to provide leadership while the coaches expect newcomers Desiree Colbert, Brittany Buckingham and Kaitlin Riddle to be strong contributors.

“We don’t have a ton of experience, but we have a lot of girls ready to work hard to learn,” Gerstner said.

Boys soccerCoach Garrett Billington is working his team hard and likes what he sees thus far.

“Any couch potatoes are losing their blisters and winter weight,” he said.

Although the team lost many of its starters from last year, Billington still talks optimistically about the squad’s prospects.

Returning senior starters Bryce Watkins and David Parent will work together from the midfield to score and lead the team.

And Billington said the defensive set of Ben Green, Andrew Tygett, J.D. McCaw and Alex Hooper with Carl Snapp in goal will work hard to thwart the best offenses from Germany.

“The team is already very well-knit, and the boys are eager for play to begin,” Billington said.

SoftballLike so many of his fellow coaches, softball coach John Gilmore is starting the season working with a lot of new faces. The team is working on the fundamentals as it prepares for the 2006 campaign.

The coach is blessed with two returning seniors, including 2005 All-Conference and All-Tournament standout Brynn Lipor. Ashley Mannsfield also will serve as a key leader for the otherwise green team.

“I like their enthusiasm, energy and willingness to learn new things, which should help us in the long run,” Gilmore said. “Hopefully, by Europeans we will know what to do and how to do it.”

Track and fieldCoach Dan Achenbach is still working to figure out how he will spread his talent across the five field events and 12 running events. With each athlete bound to compete in no more than four events at a given meet, many Lancer athletes will get an opportunity to compete.

The squad’s top runner is junior Greg Billington, who competes in the 1,500- and 3,000-meter races.

The 16-year-old trains diligently, running roughly 50 miles a week. Last year, he clocked a 3,000-meter race (a little under two miles) in 8:56.

“I don’t really know what I am capable of this year,” Billington said. “That’s a good thing.”

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