The Lakeville South girls’ track program has an expectation of excellence. It doesn’t fluctuate depending on who is returning on a yearly basis.

“While we may have graduated some very talented seniors last year, the expectations of excellence amongst our coaches and current athletes did not graduate,” Cougars coach Andrew Hilliard said.

The Cougars won the Class 3A True Team state meet a year ago. They finished third in the Class 2A individual state meet three weeks later.

“One of the biggest goals our program sets every year is to qualify for the True Team state meet,” Hilliard said. “We know it’ll be a tough goal to achieve, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Lakeville South’s success stems from one word — improvement. That pertains to each member on the roster.

“Regardless of ability, our program has always focused on improvement,” Hilliard said. “Over the past several years, those improvements added up to state championships and, more importantly, an expectation of excellence in our program.”

The Cougars will be led by a state-caliber distance crew. Senior captains Annie Brekken, Emily Everson and Kaytlyn Larson helped the cross-country team to a ninth-place finish in the Class 2A state meet this past fall.

“Coach Jessica Just’s cross-country program has provided us with another group that should be a strength of the team,” Hilliard said. “While we certainly will have a new look, having graduated 11 seniors who scored at the True Team state meet for us, we’re optimistic that returners and new faces in our program will step up to continue our run as one of the top teams in the state.”

Senior captains Kacy Rodamaker and Caraline Slattery will be counted on in the sprints and hurdles. They’ll be joined by senior Belle Matos, juniors Jocie Johnson, Haley Lubow and Abby Mullenbach and sophomores Katie Guentzel and Jenny Mosser in those events as well as the relays. Lubow took seventh place in the 400-meter run in the state meet last season.

“What made last year so special was that it was fun, too,” Slattery said. “We were a really close-knit group. We would like to get back to the True Team state meet again this year. It would be unbelievable to win it again.”

Slattery (high jump, triple jump) and senior captain Mallory Butchko (long jump, pole vault) headline the field event contingent. Slattery is coming off a second-place finish in the high jump and sixth-place finish in the 300 hurdles in the state meet a year ago.

“The biggest pieces of the puzzle we’re trying to put together are in the field events, so hopefully a few nice weeks of weather will give us the time we need to develop enough athletes to be ready for the true team section meet,” Hilliard said. “We have another strong team returning for the 2015 season.”