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TROJAN TRACK: WHS ready to run, jump and throw

Jordan Willi/Daily Globe Worthington letter winners from last year's track season pose for a photo at the Worthington High School football field Wednesday. Front row (from left): Kacey Contreras, Brandi Williams, Tracy Prins, Tara Svalland, Olivia Ebbers, Alicia Darling, Quinn Bents, Meredith Moore and Ariana Lopez. Second row: Jacob Prins, Achan Awal, Zalea Hamblin, Sade Potter, Stephanie Jaycox, Carsen Wetzel, Emma Gerber, Troy Ektnitphong, Joey Mills and Troy Feller. Back row: Will Dudley, Peter Scho...1 / 2
Jordan Willi/Daily Globe Worthington runners (from left) Luis Dieguez, Dario Bartelmass, Matt Jirele, Amanuel Fissiha, Ian Stewart and Oliver Wolyniec take a practice lap around the track at the football field during practice Wednesday in Worthington.2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- Having put in more than three weeks of practice (since March 13) and having turned in numerous impressive early-season performances at an indoor meet (April 1) earlier this week, members of the depth-filled Worthington High School track and field teams are anxious for the outdoor season to begin at Slayton this afternoon.

Today's annual Murray County Central Early Bird Invitational starts at 4:30 p.m. with field events (but, no pole vault) and the running of the girls' 4x800-meter relay.

The standard order of events follows, as teams from Canby/Minneota, Fulda, Ellsworth, Russell-Tyler-Ruthon, Southwest Christian/Edgerton and Windom will join the Trojans and host Rebels in an eight-team meet.

"It's a good early-season meet and gives most of our kids a chance to compete outside, like they will doing over the next eight weeks or more," said WHS co-head coach Ken Henkels, who again is teaming up with Doug Brands in charge of both the Trojan girls and boys. "We have a great group of kids who have been practicing well and are ready for the competition of meets."

At Monday's indoor meet at Minnesota State University in Mankato, the Trojans earned five first-place finishes -- four in the boys' meet and a winning performance from sophomore Maer Abella in the girls' shot put with a distance of 33 feet, nine inches - competing in a high-caliber triangular meet with Waseca and Mankato West.

Worthington freshman Robert Lovan sprinted to victory in the 200-meter dash (24.35), senior Ethan Spittle won the 400 (59.09) and freshman Gbrown Ochothow finished first in the 60-meter intermediate hurdles (9.14).

Worthington's most impressive performance was turned in by junior Will Dudley who cleared the pole vault bar at an even 13 feet to win that event.

With an abundance of depth, the Trojans ran multiple teams in several of the relays and clocked some fine early-season times.

"It was a good start," summed up Henkels. "We were able to put lots of kids on the track and were really pleased with lots of times, distances and heights. We competed very well in lots of the events."

Girls have sprinting depth, return 17 letterwinners

Senior Whitney Coriolan, a strong sprinter and hurdler -- both 100 highs and 300 lows -- returns to lead the Worthington girls. She was the Trojans leading scorer in 2012 as a junior.

"She's good in both hurdle races," praised Brands about the all-around Trojan athlete. "We just have to decide which relay will be her third event on the track. Whitney's strength as a runner makes her a good candidate for the mile (4x400) relay."

Distance runner Megan Juber, Worthington's second-leading scorer, graduated last spring.

But the Trojans return senior high jumper Tara Svalland, sophomore sprinter-hurdler-jumper Carsen Wetzel and freshman Meredith Moore -- an experienced middle distance runner -- as four of the top five point-getters are back.

Svalland, who won her event in most meets last season, capped an outstanding campaign by qualifying to compete in the high jump at last year's state track and field meet at Hamline University in St. Paul.

"We have a good nucleus coming back," declared Henkels, who noted that Coach Brands has a unique situation with an abundance of depth among the girls' sprinters, making competition for relays a "good thing" to have.

"We do have quite a few girls with some speed," summed up Brands. "This gives us the potential to run a couple of competitive relays in most meets."

Among those letter-winning returning sprinters are senior Brandi Williams, junior Tracy Prins, sophomores Achan Alwal, Zalea Hamblin, Kacey Contreras and Brianna Kempema (triple jumper), along with freshman Quinn Bents.

First-year sophomores Allison Kremer, Meydee Okello and Anastasia Boever, along with first-time junior Rachel Drietz give Brands even more depth in 2013.

"We have lots of familiar faces and some very competitive newcomers on the scene who having been running very well in practices," Brands said. "We are hoping to develop some good relays from among this large group of sprinters."

Another top-notch sprinting prospect may be seventh-grader Emma Thuringer who ran Worthington's fastest times Monday (9.02 in the 60-meter dash and a fine fourth-place time of 31.21 in the 200).

Abella and Alwal return as the Trojans' top throwers, while Williams, Prins and Bents each have pole vaulting experience.

Moore, senior Stephanie Jaycox, junior Ariana Lopez, sophomores Alicia Darling, Olivia Ebbers and Sade Potter, along with freshman Emma Gerber are returning distance-running letterwinners for the Trojans.

"We have a good group of middle and long distance runners," declared Henkels. "We're looking to compete well in the 4x800 relay, as well as individually in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200."

Seventh-graders Maria Contreras and Brianna Darling lead a fine young and upcoming group of distance runners, giving Henkels plenty of depth in the longer races, too.

Dudley, Spittle, Guerra return to lead WHS boys

Dudley, one of Worthington's best all-around athletes, is a premier pole vaulter and also runs on the sprint relay teams.

The Trojans' top scorer in 2012, Dudley may compete in the long jump or high jump in meets this spring.

"We're looking at having Will do one other jumping event, besides vaulting and running a couple of relays," declared Henkels. "He's a very good all-around track athlete."

Spittle, who had a great cross country season last fall, returns with all kinds of experience on the track, running especially strong in the middle distance races - the 400 and 800. He was Worthington's second leading point scorer last year.

Junior Jesse Guerra, who leaped 19'2"in the long jump (second place) at Mankato and clocked a 25.35 in the 200 (third place), returns as the Trojans top sprinter and finished third on the team in scoring in 2012.

Sprinter-jumper Danny Rodriguez and jumper-thrower Mitch Weg finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in scoring for the Trojans last spring and have each graduated, along with premier distance runner Mubarik Musa.

But, Henkels and Brands have adequate replacements - especially on the track where Worthington has excellent depth in both the sprints and distance races.

Sophomore sprinter-jumper Troy Ektnitphong was a top point-producer a year ago, as was Ochothow.

Seniors Peter Scholtes and Jacob Prins, along with junior Joey Mills are returning lettermen with sprinting experience, while Mills also scores points in the pole vault.

Freshman Amanuel Fissiha, a state-meet individual qualifier in cross country and a Hershey's track age-group state champion, returns to lead a solid distance-running corps.

Sophomore Matthew Jirele, along with seniors Nathan Landwehr, Gordy Moore, Ian Stewart and Caleb Wede are also back with their leadership and team-oriented attitudes.

"Some of these guys have been outside running most of the winter," praised Henkels. "It's great to have that kind of leadership among our distance kids."

Junior Desalegn Zemenfes, along with sophomores Oliver Wolyniec and Troy Feller give the Trojans three more veteran middle distance runners.

Sophomore Peter Abraham is Worthington's only returning thrower, competing in both the shot put and discus. Eighth-grader J.R. Arnt is also looking good in the weights so far this spring.

"We have a good bunch of experienced guys in the upper grades and our freshmen class is loaded," summed up Henkels, who has 13 freshmen, along with 10 sophomores, four juniors and eight seniors on a 35-member roster among the top four grades.

In addition to the speed shown by Lovan in Monday's opener, Brands was impressed with the speed shown by freshman Erik Landgaard, who is also a pole vaulter.

Landgaard clocked a time of 25.61 in the 200, as the Trojans finished an impressive 1-3-4 in that event.

Seventh-grader Obang Ojulu also had an outstanding debut for the Trojans, leaping 17'6" in the long jump and running a third-place time of 59.25 in the 400.

"We graduated Rodriguez, but return Guerra as our top speed guy," Brands said. "But, it was exciting for us to see how fast guys like Lovan, Landgaard and Ojulu ran in the indoor meet.

"We hope that we can nurture the talents of these young kids and help them progress through this season and their careers as Trojans."

Henkels and Brands are again being assisted by throwing coach Gene Lais, jumping coach Derek Schmitz and hurdling expert Cory Smidt.

After participating at Slayton today, the Trojans compete at Luverne Tuesday.

Worthington hosts meets on three consecutive Thursdays later in the season (April 25, May 2), finishing with the annual Trojan Relays May 9.