Prep track and field: Worthington opens indoors on Tuesday
WORTHINGTON -- Having started organized practice three weeks ago, the Worthington Trojans are ready to taste competition. That opportunity arrives this evening as WHS competes in a triangular indoor meet in Mankato at Minnesota State University's...
WORTHINGTON - Having started organized practice three weeks ago, the Worthington Trojans are ready to taste competition. That opportunity arrives this evening as WHS competes in a triangular indoor meet in Mankato at Minnesota State University’s Myers Field House.
“We’re really anxious to compete,” said veteran co-head coach Ken Henkels, who again is sharing leadership of the WHS track and field program with Doug Brands. “We had this meet scheduled long ago and now it just happened that the weather is really nice outside. But you can’t always bank on that, so we are going ahead with the indoor meet as planned.”
Joining the Trojans for this evening’s meet (7 p.m. start time) will be Waseca and Mankato West.
“It will be very good competition and we can have unlimited entries,” Brands said. “So, we will have a chance to get a look at a lot of kids in lots of events. It’s a good way to open the season.”
Both the WHS girls and boys are blessed with an abundance of numbers, including lots of top returning performers from a successful 2014 season.
“We have our top 10 scorers coming back on the girls’ team and 11 of the top 13 boys who scored points last season are back,” Henkels said. “That’s a lot of kids with experience to build around.”
The Trojans will open their outdoor season by competing in the annual Cardinal Relays in Luverne on April 7 and WHS will host two meets later this month (April 23 and April 30) before staging the always-popular Trojan Relays at Trojan Field on May 7.
Worthington will compete in the first ever Big South Conference Meet at Redwood Falls May 14.
Alwal leads deep Trojan girls’ squad
Headlining the list of Trojan girls returning is senior Achan Alwal, who scored a team-leading 117 points last season, including four meets where she racked up 20 or more. A versatile performer, Alwal excels in both the discus and the high jump, while also competing in the shot put and running sprints.
“Achan scored a lot of points in three field events,” said Brands who is in charge of the Trojan sprinters and coaches the high jumpers. “We are looking forward to good things from her again this season.”
Brands also is excited about the return of freshmen sprinters Anna Kill (97 points last year) and Emma Thuringer (88), who were Worthington’s second and third leading scorers, respectively, in 2014 as just eighth-graders. Both have great sprint speed and are also good long jumpers. Kill advanced to the Section 2AA finals in the 100-meter dash last year and Thuringer had lots of success in the 400.
Junior Meredith Moore (81) and senior Alicia Darling (73) are a pair of talented distance runners, who finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in scoring for the WHS girls last spring. Coming off of stellar cross country seasons, both Moore and Darling are expected to contribute in big ways again this season.
“In cross country, those two stick together throughout the race,” said Henkels, who coaches the distance runners. “But in track, I usually separate them. So in one meet, one may run the mile and the other the two mile. Then, it may be the other way around in the next meet. Both of them, however, will again run legs on our two-mile (4x800) relay team.”
Senior Allison Kremer, who Brands says is a “tough kid” scored 72 points last year and returns as a strong sprinter, including the 400. Coming off another fine hockey season, Kremer will likely run on several relay teams and may be asked to move up to the 800, which could give the Trojans a boost in the always-competitive meet-opening event.
Four other top Trojans returning include junior Katelyn Walters (62 points last season), along with the senior trio of Olivia Ebbers (48), Maer Abella (36) and Brianna Kempema (31).
Walters runs relays, long jumps and is also working this year as a hurdler. Ebbers, who played well for the Trojan varsity in basketball this winter, is a strong middle distance runner. Abella is the team’s top shot putter, having made it to the section finals in that event in 2014. Kempema is a versatile performer, who has had success in both the triple jump and 400-meter dash. She was selected as last season’s Most Improved Trojan.
With those 10 leading scorers back, the Trojans certainly have a fine nucleus returning. But as Henkels points out, “we have quite a few more girls who helped us last year and should contribute even more this season.”
Among them are eighth-grade sprinters Taylor Eggers (24 points last season) and Anna Meyer, along with sophomore distance runner Jessica Darling and freshmen Maria Contreras and Brianna Newman, who each gained experience as varsity cross country runners last fall. Seventh-grader Khot Juac is in her first season of track, after coming on very strong at the end of cross country season in 2014.
Eggers and Contreras are both fine gymnasts for the Trojans during the winter and are utilizing their skills this spring as they learn the pole vault.
“We have good all-around depth, on the track,” said Brands, who says that more than 30 girls have been practicing each day. “We hope we can build a little more depth in the field events.”
Ochothow returns after state-meet experience
Junior Gbrown Ochothow has enjoyed fine seasons in both football and basketball this school year for the Trojans, after scoring 137 points - second most on the squad - in track and field last spring as a sophomore.
Most impressively, Ochothow represented the Trojans at the State Class AA Meet after qualifying with a stellar second-place performance in the 110-meter high hurdles at the high-caliber Section 2AA Meet.
Ochothow actually had more overall success during the season in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles. He also may do some jumping again this year and will likely run a relay leg in addition to finishing near the front of the pack in both hurdle races.
“He’s a great track kid,” Henkels said. “Gbrown is ready to pick up from where he left off last year.”
Sprinter/long jumper Jesse Guerra (138) and pole vaulter/sprint relay runner Will Dudley (134) were big-time scorers for the Trojans before graduating last May and will be greatly missed. “Those are two huge losses,” Brands said. “Both Jesse and Will were key guys in our lineup for several seasons.”
Foreign-exchange student Lars Opoczek contributed 29 points (14th most) as a senior sprinter and relay runner last season.
But 10 boys who finished between Dudley and Opoczek (in meet points) are back this year, including junior sprinter Erik Landgaard (92 points last year, fourth best), who was especially strong in the 200.
Junior distance runner Amanuel Fissiha (85) and the senior group of Anthony Hartman (84), Caleb Kill (78), Troy Ektnitphong (71), Oliver Wolyniec (70) and Matt Jirele (61) are experienced veterans, who provide excellent practice leadership along with their ability to score points in meets.
Jirele and Fissiha lead the distance runners, while Hartman and Wolyniec are top-notch middle distance guys, Ektntiphong is a jumper and sprinter, while Kill is strong in both the shot put and discus.
“All six of those guys, along with Landgaard and Ochothow, had very good seasons for us last year,” Henkels said. “We are counting on each of them again this season.”
Freshman Obang Ojullu (hurdles, relays), sophomore Tony Lopez (middle distance) and senior Troy Feller (middle distance/distance) scored 48, 44 and 31 points, respectively, for the Trojans last season and also return as top performers this spring. Feller was named last year’s Most Improved Trojan.
Other returning lettermen who are being counted to contribute this season include senior thrower Peter Abraham, junior pole vaulters Hser Moo Pwae, Brendan Spittle (also a hurdler) and Hser Eh Pwae, junior distance runner Cameron Jenson, junior hurdler Lancho Morke, junior sprinter Ethan Phommsay and senior middle-distance runners Sam Talsma and Mitchell Schreiner, a pair of hard-working veteran leaders.
There are a total of 12 seniors and 18 juniors listed on the Trojans’ 50-member boys’ roster (grades 9-12).
“We have tremendous numbers out for boys’ track,” Brands said. “That’s a great thing for us and for each of the athletes as they strive to get better for other sports, too.”