Track and field: Trojans have hopeful mix of youth and experience
WORTHINGTON — To best achieve team success in track and field, it’s necessary to fill all the event slots with proven scorers. But track and field is an individual sport, too, and the Worthington Trojans will not lack individuals aiming high this spring.
WHS co-head coaches Ken Henkels and Doug Brands are looking to find more jumpers for the 2014 girls track squad, and on the boys’ side attention will be paid toward finding qualified people in the field events, as well. The team’s first indoor meet scheduled for April 1 at Minnesota State University-Mankato will be used, in part, as a try-out. Apart from that, the local team is dotted with performers who have already demonstrated an ability to score.
Here’s an early look:
“We’re young. Two seniors is all,” Henkels said this week.
Even so, there’s a good nucleus to choose from among the other grades. Thirty-four athletes, including the eighth-graders, are out for spring track and field.
The team’s two seniors are Tracy Prins and Rachel Drietz, both pole vaulters. Prins performs also in the triple jump and Drietz in the hurdles, and both could be used in the sprint relays.
If there’s a strength to this team, it may lie in the throwing events — the shot put and discus. Juniors Maer Abella, Apiew Alwal and Achan Alwal give WHS a solid threesome in that area. “They’re all pretty athletic. They get on the track, too, and run. That always helps kids who throw,” said Henkels.
The Trojans graduated solid point-getters Whitney Coriolan (hurdles) and high jumper Tara Svalland from the 2013 team and they are also unfortunate to be without versatile junior Meydee Okello, who is expected to miss most, if not all, of the 2014 season due to an ACL injury suffered during the basketball campaign. She is the defending Southwest Conference champion in the 400 meters, anchored the Trojans’ 4 by 200-meter relay and also ran some open events.
Coriolan, Okello and Svalland ranked 1-3-5 on the team in track points last season.
Another versatile athlete returns, however, in junior Allison Kremer, who will be used in several events including the sprint relays and the 200-meters.
“She’s tough,” said Brands. “She’ll fight through. She dislocated her shoulder in the hockey season and it still hurts a little bit. She’s still in there doing everything she can.”
Junior Kacey Contreras is solid in the 400 meters and has experience in cross country. Junior Brianna Kempema is a 400-meter runner who will run some shorter events, too. Juniors Alicia Darling and Olivia Ebbers, along with sophomore Meredith Moore, began their careers in cross country while in junior high school and their sound experience in distance running will make them key contributors in the 800 meters and above.
Eighth-grader Emma Thuringer was the 11th-highest scorer for the WHS girls last year as a seventh grader and will contribute in the 400 and 4 by 200-meter races. She could attempt a field event, too.
“We have some holes as far as jumpers. We’re going to have to find some girls who can do those events,” admits Henkels. “We’re going to struggle a little bit early, but I think we’ll be OK as the season goes on.”
While the girls’ roster is just a little bit uncertain at the top, there is no doubt who the leader is among the WHS boys. He is senior Will Dudley, who set a new school pole vault standard last year at the conference meet (14 feet, 1 inch) and qualified for the state Class AA meet, where he placed fourth by clearing 14-0. Dudley will continue in that event, of course, while also performing in the 4 by 100 meters, the 4 by 200 meters and the long jump.
“He’s an outstanding young man,” Henkels sums up Dudley, who has performed at high school track since the seventh grade and who is looked upon as a leader, a recruiter and a hard worker who works diligently not only at his own events but also selflessly spends time helping his teammates. An accomplished three-sport athlete and the leading point producer on the 2013 WHS boys track squad, Dudley, says Henkels, “is not really looking ahead to any sport. He’s always focused on the one he’s in.”
The Trojans will miss the services of graduate Ethan Spittle (the 2013 team MVP), who participated in the 400, relays and long jump. Other key graduation losses include Nathan Landwehr, Gordy Moore and Ian Stewart. But many fine athletes return for 2014.
One of those is senior Jessie Guerra, a speedster who will run in the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes and also the long jump, where he nearly reached 20 feet a season ago. Guerra and junior Troy Ektnitphong are both figured as team leaders. Ektnitphong worked hard in the weight room during the offseason to get stronger, and he’ll hold down spots in the triple jump and sprint relays, and he can get plugged in anywhere along the individual sprints from the 100 to the 400.
Erik Landgaard, a sophomore, surprised his coaches last year as a freshman at how fast he could run. He’ll be in the sprints and relays this spring. Another sophomore, Gbrown Ochothow, missed most of last year due to injury but comes back as a hurdler and relay runner. Very athletic, he could be used in the long jump also.
Eighth grader Obang Ojulu is described by his coaches as a “very smooth” 400-meter runner and also a good hurdler.
Solid cross country runners, juniors Matt Jirele, Oliver Wolyniec and Troy Feller, and sophomore Amanuel Fissiha, keep Worthington well stocked with fine distance runners. Also being counted on are senior pole vaulter Joey Mills (coming off a shoulder injury) and senior distance runner Desalegn Zemenfes.
Henkels and Brands believe the WHS boys can compete with the top teams in the Southwest Conference.
“We’re going to fill the track really well. And we have some really good potential in the weights. That’s our thin area, in the field,” said Brands.