It’s funny, but the city’s three high school track and field squads have a distinctly different view of depth heading into the spring.
At Lawrence High and Free State High, where each team features a roster with more than five dozen athletes, the depth simply is OK. At Veritas Christian, however, where the track team has seen its list of participants skyrocket from last season, the depth is astonishing.
“We’re much deeper this year,” Veritas coach David Roberts said. “The team has tripled from four to 12.”
That number might seem miniscule, but at Veritas it only increases the odds of having a good season.
“Veritas makes up for smaller numbers with outstanding athletes who each score points,” Roberts said. “We tend to score a lot of points per athlete. In fact, if that was the measure used, we would win many of our meets.”
Included among the Eagles’ list of 12 are three returning letter-winners, as well as a couple of experienced freshmen making the leap from junior high.
Senior Ethan Kay returns to run the 400 and also will compete in the 800 and the long jump. Cody Hoagland also is back, and he brings big-time talent to the 800-, 1,600-, and 3,200-meter runs. Shereen Fattaahi, a blazer in 2008, also returns and is capable of competing in anything from the 200 to the 1,600.
Freshmen Cameron Pratte and Preston Randall will compete with the varsity squad this season, and they will be joined by seniors Jeremiah Johnson and Neal Daniels, both of whom are new to track but will be counted on in sprinting events. Daniels also will compete in shot put and discus. Tirzah McFarland, Caleb Bond, Ellen Phillips, Brittany Rask, and Dakota Hoagland round out the Eagles’ roster, and, like their more-experienced teammates, they’ll be shooting for the same things as always this season.
“The athletes last year saw a lot of success,” Roberts said. “But most of all, they had fun. I'd like to carry on the tradition of athletic achievement, enjoyment of the sport, and sportsmanship this year.”
Tradition is a buzz word at the city’s two Class 6A schools, but this year both are in the process of creating some of their own.
Forced to juggle their schedules as well as the location of their meets and practices because of the improvements being made to each school’s athletic facilities, coaches and athletes at Free State and LHS have had to fight through a few obstacles in the early going.
“We just practice wherever we can,” LHS coach Jack Hood said. “We have had a great couple of weeks. One day we had the distance kids running all over Lawrence, the sprinters were in front of the school, they were doing pole vault in front of the pool, we were throwing the discus and javelin in the old football practice field, then the jumpers came to the field and did drills and then the distance kids came back and did their cool-down running around all of this. The coaches said it was one of our best practices.”
That says something about the nature of Hood’s athletes this season.
The strength of this year’s squad lies in the distance races and throwing events for the boys and the middle distance events for the girls.
Hood said seniors Ben Wilson (distance), Chebon Dawes (shot put and discus), Chris Smith (javelin) and Will Pendelton (pole vault) all were in position for big seasons and that the rest of the team would be a work in progress.
“There is only one goal at Lawrence High,” Hood said. “I hope that we continue to work hard and that we are a better team in late May than we are in April.”
Free State coach Steve Heffernan also has had to juggle locations for practices, but, in recent days, has seen things begin to come together.
“These first few weeks have been challenging with the field events,” Heffernan said. “But we are now at a point where we can practice all throws and vault. The running has been working out well.”
Heffernan returns several talented athletes with experience in 2009. At the top of the list is senior distance runner Kyra Kilwein, who is poised to make a run at state titles in both the mile and the two-mile runs. Sophomore Drue Davis returns for the girls, as well, and she’ll look to turn in a stellar season in the pole vault.
On the boys side, J.D. Wiebe and Nash Riggins are two of the best middle-distance runners in Kansas and they’ll be joined by distance runners Logan Sloan and Kain Anderson in challenging for some serious hardware. Senior Colter Scott also returns in the shot put, fresh off earning a medal at state in 2008.
Those athletes, and many, many more, have Heffernan thinking big this season.
“For the girls, our goal is to prepare ourselves all season to win our regional and make a run at a trophy at state,” Heffernan said. “For the boys, I want them to work hard at improving with each meet. If we do this we can make some noise at the end of the season.”