TERRE HAUTE —
Mother Nature has not cooperated with the Vigo County and Northview high school track programs in 2013.
West Vigo’s previously scheduled season opener at Paris, Ill., today has been postponed because of snow remaining on the ground from earlier this week. A new date has not been announced.
So now all four schools (eight teams total) will start their seasons in April when the weather should be more comfortable for track meets. The first one is slated for April 4 with Northview traveling to South Putnam (with Owen Valley and Clay City also involved).
“It’s not been kind to any of us as far as getting any good, quality work in outside,” West Vigo boys coach Bill Petscher said of the cold, snowy weather.
“I’m ready to get rid of this weather and get some good outdoor practices in,” Terre Haute South girls coach Ed Jarvis echoed.
With coaches wondering how their teams will perform with so few outdoor practices under their belts, here is a look at how each school appears to stack up:
• Northview — In just his second year at the helm, Cole Schroer is pleased that he has almost everyone returning from last season’s team.
That includes junior Leanna Knight, who placed 18th in the long jump in the 2012 state finals. The best height she cleared then was 16 feet, 9 1/2 inches.
“Her very first jump for an indoor meet [in 2013], she jumped over 18 feet,” Schroer pointed out. “That’s a huge PR [personal record]. If she keeps jumping there, we’ve got good things going on.”
Knight also competes in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and 400-meter relay.
Other key returnees include senior Alexus Bex (shot put, discus), sophomore Gracie Geswein (hurdles), sophomore Ashley Kidwell (distance running) and the Knights’ formidable 400 relay foursome of Knight, Geswein, junior Natasha Barrett and senior Carrie Durregger.
“I’ve got basically the same team as last year,” Schroer noted. “I lost one pole-vaulter, but that’s it. Everybody else is returning. This year, they know what’s going on and they’ve bought into what we’re doing. That’s pretty exciting for me.”
Asked about the Western Indiana Conference [WIC], Schroer believes Brown County is probably the favorite to capture the championship.
“Brown County’s still going to be really tough,” he assessed. “I think we’ll be in the top three.”
• Terre Haute North — Eleventh-year coach Mike Dason isn’t trying hard to hide his enthusiasm for his 2013 squad.
“This is probably the best track team I’ve ever helped coach,” he told the Tribune-Star this week.
One of the Patriots’ returning standouts is sophomore Keirra Porter, who won the indoor state championship in the 55-meter hurdles March 16 at Marion.
“Obviously, we’re looking forward to having her athleticism again,” Dason mentioned. “She’s just a real, real good athlete and she’s been conditioning the whole off-season.”
Last season, Porter came in 12th in the state in the 100 hurdles (15.38 seconds), becoming the highest-placing freshman in that event. She also competes in the 300 hurdles, 400 and long jump.
Others back from 2012 state-finals performances are junior Rachel Gutish (18th in the pole vault), senior Chanli Mundy (31st in the 3,200) and the 3,200 relay (ninth) and 1,600 relay (19th).
Mundy also competes in the 1,600, in which she finished eighth in the recent indoor state championships.
“We’re looking for her to do really well this year,” Dason said.
Meanwhile, Gutish already vaulted 11-6 during the recent indoor season. In last year’s state finals, her best height was 10-6.
“Her goal this year is to break the school record, which is Kylie Hutson’s 11-9,” Dason emphasized, adding that Gutish also will do some hurdling.
Senior TaPring Goatee has returned as well. She posted the third-fastest 800 time in the state during the recent indoor season. She’s also not far behind Gutish in the pole vault, Dason said.
Goatee is expected to be part of North’s 3,200 relay team, which also consists of freshman Lindsay Welker, senior Sydney Dickerson, junior Jessi Conley and at times senior Annie Mullican. Its 3,200 relay group will be the same, minus Mullican, and sometimes including junior Jordan Kuehner.
Speaking of Welker, whom Dason has nicknamed “The Beast,” he said she could end up being among the best in the state in the 400 and 800.
“She is unbelievable,” Dason insisted, “and she never complains.”
Other significant performers include senior Alissa Turpin (shot put, discus), junior Kelsey Thomas (high jump), sophomore Carson Smith (high jump) and junior Brianna Burgess (shot put, discus), plus the 400 relay squad with Porter, junior DaShana Johnson, sophomore Spencer Grim, junior Summer Scank and senior Sarah Fears taking turns.
Dason mentioned that his team won the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference indoor championship recently.
“There’s a chance we could get the MIC [outdoor title],” he cautiously noted.
Dason added that Carmel from the MIC is ranked No. 1 in the state, while North (No. 5), Warren Central (No. 9), Indianapolis North Central (No. 11) and Ben Davis (No. 12) also are highly regarded.
• Terre Haute South — Now in his sixth season of guiding the Braves, Jarvis admits he is concerned about the condition of his junior distance runner Nikki Thiede, who placed 20th in the 1,600 and 30th in the 3,200 in the 2012 state finals.
Jarvis said Thiede, who has been bothered by a foot injury, may not compete in the 1,600 to reduce the wear-and-tear on her foot this season.
“We practice every day,” he explained. “We just hope it gets better. We’re doing everything the doctor tells us to do.”
Jarvis has four seniors whom he anticipates scoring plenty of points — Tasia Brewer (hurdles, 1,600 relay), Brittney Pink (high jump), Rachel Stephens (3,200) and first-time high school trackster Emily Bell (400, 1,600 relay).
The Braves’ 1,600 and 3,200 relays each qualified for the indoor state finals this year and big things are expected from them in the outdoor season. Jarvis said the 1,600 group should consist of Brewer, juniors Kylie Fendrick and Maddie Tetzlass and sophomore Cassidy Wood, while the 3,200 group should consist of Thiede, junior Katie Schmidt, freshman Aydee Dalina and junior Nicole Howe.
Several of these athletes also compete in other events — for example, Fendrick in the throws, Schmidt in the 800 and 1,600, Dalina in the 800 and Howe (also a tennis player) in the 800.
“The first meet against Edgewood and Mooresville [on April 9 at South] is where we’ll find out where we’re at,” Jarvis predicted. “As for the MIC, it’s pretty solid. I think [Terre Haute] North can give Carmel a good run for it.”
• West Vigo — Second-year coach Scott McClain thinks his team is more “complete” than last season, which should mean it is more competitive as well.
“I feel like, if we get any injuries, we’ve got people we can fall back on now,” he explained. “I think this year, we’re looking really good. We’ve got some good options. This is the first time since I’ve been here that we’ve had two relay teams [4 by 100 and 4 by 400].”
McClain said his key returnees include junior Shaelynn White (100, 200, 400 relay, 1,600 relay), junior Taylor Bunch (1,600, 3,200 relay), senior Kayla Lindsay (100 hurdles, 400 relay, 300 hurdles, high jump), senior Acetha Tolerson (3,200 relay, 800, 3,200), senior Carlie Eldredge (shot put, discus), sophomore Sophie Owens (400 relay, high jump) and sophomore Keisha Spillers (200, 400 relay, high jump).
• Northview — Beginning his sixth season in charge, Chad Smith revealed that junior distance runner Nic Yocom is battling a stress fracture and may miss the first couple weeks of the season.
But the Knights shouldn’t be lacking in talent in other events.
Smith named junior Ian Haffner — “a multi-purpose guy” — as someone who should score points in the 800, 300 low hurdles and relays.
Smith also is high on his 3,200 relay team that will eventually consist of senior Devin Cooksey, freshman Cam Trout, Yocom and Haffner. Trout also should do well in distance events.
“I think we have a legitimate chance of getting our team out [to the state finals] in the 4 by 800, as long as everybody stays healthy,” the Knights’ coach assessed.
Another key returnee is junior Travis Beil in the 800, 1,600, 3,200 and pole vault.
“It’s going to be a meet-at-a-time kind of team,” Smith said of this group. “It just depends on who’s able to run. We’ve had some kids hurt, injured and sick … Hopefully, we have a shot at contending for the WIC.”
Smith admitted that Edgewood is favored to win the conference crown, with Brown County not far behind.
“When we get in shape and know where we’re at, I think we can contend with them,” he added.
• Terre Haute North — Fifth-year coach Craig Gillaspy will depend on senior hurdler Cole Seward to provide a boat load of points.
Seward finished 19th in the 300 hurdles in the 2012 state championships. In addition, he was a member of the 1,600 relay team that placed 21st in the state last season.
“He’s just a workhorse,” Gillaspy said of Seward, who also competes in the 100 hurdles. “He’s one of those guys you can just plug in where ever you need him.”
Senior Cameron Stewart, who competes in both hurdles as well, is another returning member of that 1,600 relay team.
Senior Lee Davis is back after finishing 16th in the state in the shot put and discus last year.
Other key returnees include sophomores Zach Potter (pole vault), Peter Davis (distance events) and Jordan Moothery (sprints).
“My sophomore class is pretty strong,” Gillaspy noted.
Overall, Gillaspy sees his team as a mixed bag.
“We’re not as strong in spots, but we’ll definitely make up in other places,” he stressed. “We’ve been great in distance the last few years, but this year it’s going to be one of the places where we’ll struggle. … Pole vault, we’ll be strong in again. Throws, I look to be really good there with Lee Davis.”
Gillaspy sees Ben Davis as one of the top opponents in the MIC.
“I see us being one of those teams that can fight for one of those middle spots,” he continued. “We’ve got some potential.”
• Terre Haute South — Former Indiana State runner Kyle Walsh, who has been the Braves’ boys cross country coach for two seasons and boys assistant track coach in 2012, is now their head coach for boys track. He replaced Mark Raetz, who will become football coach at Northview later this year.
Walsh, 27, has been on the job for less than a month while continuing to work as a health and physical-education teacher at North.
“It’s been kind of a roller-coaster,” he admitted. “When I found out, I was very excited to step in as coach.”
Three of Walsh’s major contributors should be senior Tyler Seibert (10th in the state in the 400 last year with a time of 49.56), junior Jackson Bertoli (eighth in the state in the 3,200 last year with a time of 9:09.81) and senior Logan Hambrock (25th in the state in the 1,600 last year with a time of 4:29.83).
Walsh said Bertoli, who also competes in the 1,600, had been hampered by a nagging knee injury but is reportedly pain-free now.
“Hopefully at the end of the year, he’ll be competing at the highest level,” the new coach added.
In addition to the 400, the ISU-bound Seibert should help in the long jump, high jump, 1,600 relay and 400 relay.
“He’s incredibly athletic,” Walsh said of Seibert. “We know we can put him in almost any event and do well for us.”
Hambrock, another future Sycamore track athlete, should be competitive in the 800 as well.
Other key returnees are seniors Jeremy Patterson (hurdles), Nic Keller (discus, shot put) and Jonathan Weakley (sprints, long jump).
“A lot of our points are going to come from seniors,” Walsh maintained. “I want them to enjoy this senior year and I want them to enjoy the success and fun we’re going to have.”
One key newcomer is Riverton Parke transfer and junior Riley Stohler, who placed 26th in the state in the 800 last year. He’ll also be a key component of the Braves’ 3,200 relay foursome.
Walsh mentioned that pole-vaulters Derik Whalen, a senior, and Will Howard, a junior, are capable of reaching the state finals in their specialty this year.
Regarding the MIC, Walsh said his squad’s preliminary goal was “to finish in the top half for the first time in school history.”
• West Vigo — The most veteran coach of Vigo County track, Petscher is starting his 32nd season of leading the Vikings.
He rattled off a slew of names for key returnees — seniors Derek Braun (distance), Jacob Creasey (sprints), Danny Creasey (sprints, pole vault), Daniel Mackey (sprints), Andy Velazquez (sprints), Clayton Minger (sprints, pole vault, high jump), Alex May (throws), Nate Owens (throws) and Caleb Anderson (throws); juniors Blake Benefiel (distance), Tyson Tolerson (distance), Sam Bowden (sprints) and Austin VanGilder (sprints); and sophomores Jonah Eckert (distance) and Austin Romanelly (distance).
Petscher isn’t ready to specify any outstanding newcomers yet, but he thinks a few will make names for themselves soon.
“I expect some of them to step up and make an immediate impact in scoring for us,” he said.
Petscher named Edgewood, Brown County and Northview as favorites to finish at or near the top of the WIC championships in May.
“We’d like to think we can edge up and be in that mix,” he added.
The Vikings finished 8-3 in dual meets last year.