By Jason Haddix
For The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
The prolonged winter weather has finally broke and allowed the area track teams to do what many had hoped to do weeks ago — run outdoors.
Cold temperatures with a late snowfall followed by, as strange as it sounds, spring break put many teams behind the eight ball as they scrambled to set their rosters and determine where each team member fit into the dynamics of a track and field team.
Track and field is a numbers game when determining a team victory. Those with the greatest number of participants, like Pendleton Heights, are likely to earn the most points. The Arabians will bring 35 student-athletes to participate in the girls’ county track tournament on Friday. By sheer numbers alone, they have the advantage in capturing the county crown.
With the addition of a couple runners, along with some key returners, Lapel is setup to challenge in many of the events, but is still lacking in overall roster size to compete for a team title.
If the Alexandria girls track team wants to repeat last year’s success, they will have to do so without two of the team’s top three scores. The Tigers’ coach Tina Bolte said the team also lost depth in the distance events.
With the loss of some key members from last season’s 7-4 squad, Bolte will need some production from her younger team members.
“I believe there are some girls that will step up this season,” she said. “Juniors Allie Ward (throwing) and Brittany Clark and sophomores Morgan Oliver (distance) and Allie Mohler (throwing) have the potential to fill big roles for us this year.”
Bolte points to juniors Kelsey Crisp, Desirae Litchfield, and Courtney Skinner, along with senior Kelsey Thurber as team leaders for the Tigers in hopes they can guide Alexandria to the same kind of success it experienced last year.
Veteran coach Linda Williams-Boyd task early this season is to replace the 12 seniors from last season team. The Indians take to the track with 18 members, six of them were part of last years team.
Returning seniors sprinter Ariel Ashley, pole-vaulter Samantha Roy and Darien Thompson, a hurdler and relay runner will be looked upon as leaders for Williams-Boyd’s young group of girls.
“We have always had pretty good sprinter—we seem to find them along the way,” she said. “We are going to need some help in our distance areas.”
Kelsey Rhodes is the lone returning distance runner for the Indians.
Sophomore Jaycie Dickerson (shot put) and junior Da’Sha Boyd (long jump) lead the way in the field events.
Fourth-year coach Jim Watters said he hope the Panthers will build upon their above .500 season from a year ago.
With 17 girls on the team, Watters said the Panthers will compete in most tournaments, but in larger ones, like the county meet it will be difficult because of the size of his roster.
His group of girls this year differs from ones in the past, in that he said he has more sprinters than he does distance runners.
Freshmen Morgan McCormick, Haily Gillam and Ashley Reese are three young runners Watters will rely on this season and he hopes to be they can be a foundation to build a consistent competitive program.
Senior leadership for the Elwood squad will come from Whitney Campbell and Erica Harpel.
At the conclusion of last season, fourth year coach Nick Clarkson was faced with rebuilding the Bulldog’s roster after losing many of his runners to graduation. Luckily for him, a large contingent of freshmen helped fill the void and grow the roster from 11 to 20.
Freshman Paige Hendershot (hurdles), senior Prisca Sakeuh (sprinter) and sophomore Plenseh-tay Sakeuh (sprinter) are newcomers that Clarkson said he plans to rely heavily on for scoring during the season.
Seniors Adrian Jones (hurdles) and Morgan Carlson, last season’s team MVP, will be looked to as the team’s leaders. The latter is the school record holder for distance in the shot and discus.
“Morgan and Adrian have been with us forever,” Clarkson said. “They know all the drill and stretches, I don’t even need to coach. I just show up and they do all the work.”
“This year there is not a huge drop off from our first runner to our third runner,” Clarkson said. “Now maybe we get a second and fourth (place finish) instead of just the second. Those extra points are going to help us climb the ladder.”
Liberty Christian is set to embark on its third track season. The program has grown substantially from a team total of nine (combined boys and girls) to this season where the girl’s team has cracked double digits with 11.
“Last year we had nothing but growth,” coach Paul Jessup said. “The team was basically unfamiliar on how to run a track meet. By the end of the season, we had some athletes close to making it out of sectionals.”
Freshman for the girls Michaela McCurdy, a distance runner that advanced to the semi-state cross-country meet during the 2012-13 season.
Shaylie Rayl and Layla Hughel-Deeds, a pair of sprinters that Jessup will look at to get points early in meets to set the tone for rest of the team.
Madison-Grant, like many other smaller schools, faces an uphill battle when trying to fill a track and field team. This season is no different for the Brook Justus coached Argylls
“We don’t have a lot of numbers at Madison-Grant,” Brooke Justus said. “With small numbers it is hard to be competitive as a team.”
Justus said shot and discus thrower Bethani Herniak will likely be a top-point scorer for the 17-member team. The junior, who advanced to regionals a year ago, will be joined in the throwing events by freshman Rachel Coppess.
Erin Peacock, a senior mid-distance runner looks to continue her success with the Argylls in the 800-meter after setting a school record in that event during last season’s Warsaw regional event.
Freshman Tori Galloway and junior Haniah Stansberry lead the list of hopefuls looking to make an impact during this season.
First-year coach Melissa Hagerman hopes to build on the Pendleton Heights High School girls’ track team success from last season that produced county tournament, conference and sectional championship.
“With the coaching change there were a few girls that decided they did not want to come out (for the team),” Hagerman said. “We lost some of our upperclassmen when that happened. In ways we are kind of rebuilding. There are a lot of new faces that I have not seen in years past.”
One newcomer is freshman distance runner Alex Buck. Her preparation for this season has been slowed as she recovered from a foot fracture that occurred during her 40th place finish during the cross-country semi-state meet.
Seniors Anna Dudley and Emma Manchess will guide the teams distance and long relay groups. Dudley is one of the team captains while Manchess has accepted a scholarship offer from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, according to Hagerman.
Junior Kiawna Cottrell will help lead during the short distance events as well as her newest event the long jump
In the field events, the lone returning thrower is junior Elaine Stephenson, who will lead a group of freshmen.
“Our big focus is on the regional this year,” Hagerman said. “I really think there are some girls on the team that have the ability to go to state. As a coach I want to do everything I can to make that happen.”
Like many other small schools, Shenandoah suffered last season due to open roster spots. Coach Adam Leach said he hope a large freshman class will help combat that same problem this year.
“We are looking to compete,” Leach said. “We have people in every spot that can put up some good numbers.”
Freshmen Shelby Cross (sprinter) and Kate Graddy (distance) are expected to make an impact on boosting the scoring in their respective events.
Leach said he has a good mix of student-athletes with the leadership coming from seniors Geordyn Hudson (hurdles) and Allison Crowe (thrower), who transferred from Pike High School this school year.
Junior Madison Hensley joins Cross as the anchors for the sprinters while junior Roquel Welch looks to continue her growth in the throwing events.
“I think we have a good balanced team,” Leach said. “We have some good distance girls.