LEROY — Long-time Pine River assistant girls track coach Dick Dietrick is the new head skipper this year as the Bucks get ready for the spring season.

Dietrick was assistant coach under Cecil Burch for 14 years. Burch, the head coach for more than 35 years, died in October.

Jan Burch, Cecil Burch’s wife, is an assistant coach this season.

The first meet is set for April 6, weather-permitting, against Farwell.

Practices officially started on March 14.

“We did really well the first week,” Dietrick said. “Most of it was indoors. After that, it seemed like it tapered off. We brought the pads in so they could do field events.”

Top athletes include Haley Russel, a senior thrower, who has signed with Cornerstone University. She was fourth in the state last season in the shot put.

“She’s working harder than I’ve ever seen her working,” Dietrick said.

Sheila Vokes, a junior sprinter, and Angela Nicholson, a junior pole vaulter and high jumper, are also expected to be key point producers for Pine River.

Myriah Holmes will also be a pole vaulter.

Dietrick has been pleased with some of his freshmen, including Devyn Powell, who almost broke a sub one-minute 400 last season. Powell, a state qualifier in cross country, will run the 400 and 800.

Another freshman is Michelle Kelsey who “has excellent times in the short sprints and jumped 5 feet in the middle school (high jump),” Dietrick said. “We’re a young team. It’s an energetic hard-working group.”

Dietrick predicts his team will do well in the Highland.

Manton has an incredibly strong team,” he said. “I think they’ll stay a powerful team for awhile.”

Dietrick reflected on how much Burch meant to the cross country and track programs at Pine River.

“They were hoping he would make it through the cross country season,” Dietrick said. “It was hard on the kids when he passed. The kids really loved him. He was one of those guys who knew everybody.”