More than half rookies, track team’s work in progress

Scott Swanson

Sweet Home track and field Coach Billy Snow and his staff are surrounded this year by … youth.

Rookies.

“Over 50 percent of our team has never been in a high school track meet,” Snow said.

But that doesn’t mean his team, which numbered 92 late last week, is inexperienced.

Thanks in part to the coaching efforts of Lela Danforth, who headed the Sweet Home Junior High program for the last three years before moving to Eugene last summer to take a new job, the Huskies have welcomed 34 freshmen, many of whom ran, jumped or threw for Danforth and her assistants.

“They know what track and field is about and they take it seriously, Snow said.

“I think what Lela’s done with these kids has made a big difference,” he said. “We don’t have kids dragging their feet during warm-ups. They already know it’s important. They’re used to being held accountable. Lela was stricter in that area.”

Gone by graduation are seniors such as Nick Hall (400, 300 hurdles) and Jake Johnson (discus) for the boys, and Devyn Makin (long jump) and Annie Whitfield (javelin) and the 4×100 relay team of seniors Makin, Whitfield, Jessika Stewart and sophomore Courtney Kent for the girls, all of whom won district titles and scored points at state last year.

But back are a core group of last year’s underclassmen who also made an impact for the Huskies: sophomore Jakob Hiett, who was the district boys 3000 titlist and second in the 1500 last year; junior Jade Corliss, who was second at district but finished third at state in the shot put after throwing a 3-foot PR; junior Nicole Rasmussen, who won the girls 3000 district title and was third in the 1500; junior Ashton Stutzman, who was third in the district 110 high hurdles; Zane Jackson, who was fifth in the district shot put last year as a junior (behind three seniors); and pole-vaulter Nick Mattson, who was fifth at district, also behind three seniors; and Crystal Crites (sixth in the triple jump as a junior last year after coming off an injury).

In the sprints, returning lettermen Spencer Knight, Kyler Gaskey and Alex Seitz provide a core for the boys, while Sabrina Davis, Courtney and Haley Kent and India Porter do so for the girls.

“We’re trying some new things with them,” Snow said. “We’re trying to learn from our past mistakes. They’re great kids and they’re doing awesome jobs.”

He said he expects Mattson, for one, to be a leader in the jumps, while in the throws, David Skeen and Kyle Rose will join Jackson to lead the boys, while Sadie Gordon and Kaitlyn Watts will help provide leadership for the girls. Paige Sanders, in the distances, will also provide leadership for the younger runners.

“Those kids have done it before and we want them to do it again,” Snow said. “They’re replacing a lot of seniors we’ve lost in the last four years. It’s their program now. They don’t need to be state studs or anything. They just need to do what they’re capable of and be good leaders.”

Besides the veterans, likely sprinters last week included Makenna Ashton, Alex Bruce, Taylor Bouse, Courtney Cross, Kayla Daniels, Maria Daniels, Matt Davis, Shelby Dinsfriend, Sarah Dunkley, Eric Flierl, Moriah Gingerich, Kiesha Goble, Robert Gourley, Wyatt Hayes, Joe Hefty, Julian Hesberg, Chace Hutchins, Alexis Johnson, Kayleen Keeney, Josie Knight, Karlee Long, Tyrel Miller, Alex Olin, Trever Olson, Lilly Parker, Nick Rodgers, Faith Swaney, Kyle Thomas, Isaac Wall and Bailey Wicker.

Jumpers include Abram Legg, Adriana Perez, Alex Rice, Nick Richard and Parke Young.

JUMPERS this year include, in front, from left, Ashton Stutzman, David St. Onge, Patric Dishaw, Alex Olin, Courtney Cross, Abram Legg, Christian Porter and Joe Hefty. In rear, from left, are Spencer Knight, Bailey Wicker, Kaitlyn Watts and Hannah Mather.

Distance runners include Jake Bangot, Tanner Goble, Jordan Miller, Sierrah Owen, Joseph Rasmussen, Sierra Swanson, Justin Webb and Ian Wingo.

DISTANCE RUNNERS this year include, in front, from left, Paige Sanders, Sierra Swanson, Nichole Rasmussen, Jake Bangot, and Jordan Miller. In rear, from left, are Tanner Goble, Nick Richard, Joseph Rasmussen, Robert Gourley, Ian Wingo, Jakob Hiett, Nick Rodgers, Adam Barber and Justin Webb.

Throwers include TJ Baham, Adam Barber, Gavin Baskin, Mikaela Batchelor, Natasha Benson, Austin Coy, Patric Dishaw, Keegan Downs, Zach Gill, Jarrid Harris, Troy Hazelton, Joel Holman, Josh Holman, Amanda Hubbard, Travis Hult, Colton Kirkland, Hannah Mather, Makalha Mederos, Brycen Mitten, Ryan Richards, Tahali Robbins, Ashley Stewart, Ben Terry, Will Warren, Eric Whitlow, Kyle Wodtli, Shawn Worthen and Kelsie Zartman.

THROWERS this year include, in front, from left, Kelsie Zartman, Natasha Benson and Felicia McCallister. In second row, from left, are Shelby Dinsfriend, Tahali Robbins and Adriana Perez. In third row, from left, are Amanda Hubbard, Kaitlyn Watts, Sadie Gordon and Hannah Mather. In fourth row, from left, are Kayleen Keeney, Jade Corliss, Makalha Mederos, Ashley Stewart and Mikaela Batchelor. In fifth row, from left, are Alex Rice, Austin Coy, Ben Terry, Travis Holt, Ryan Richards, Tyrel Miller and Tanner Goble. In sixth row, from left, are Kyle Wodtli, Kyle Rose, Isaac Wall, Zach Gill, Bailey Wicker, Gavin Baskin and Nikolas Dishaw. In rear, from left, are Erick Whitlow, Brycen Mitten, Josh Holman and Patric Dishaw.

So is the influx of fresh youngsters the beginning of a next wave, similar to the wave of athletes who teamed up to deliver three straight boys state titles and some significant performances at the state level by the girls over the past five years?

Nobody knows, Snow said.

“Having a bunch of new people out there is awesome,” he said. “It’s kind of like the box of chocolates in “Forest Gump.” You don’t know what you’ve got until you open them. Here we are, in the second week of practice, still learning names.”

He said the youngsters are “working hard” and they have sufficient coaching that they can get individual attention when they need it.

“We have a great coaching staff in terms of numbers,” Snow said. “We have a person in every area.”

With Andrew Allen helping in the distance, Snow and Jim Kistner and Ramiro Santana can focus on sprinters and jumpers, he said.

“They’re not on their own as much.”

The Huskies also have individual coaches for the throws:

The incoming rookies provide some interesting challenges for the staff, he said.

“We have a lot of kids who have never been on a high school track. I think I say this every year, but for me, more than I’ve ever been here, it’s one of those years when we don’t know what we’ve got. As I told the kids, we’re going to be a work in progress from now until we’re done. This is going to be season-long.

“It’s going to be one of those years when we have to try some kids and encourage them to try different things.

“It would be great to find an Amanda Basham out there,” he said, referring to a Husky volleyball player and hurdler who tried cross-country as a senior and developed into a star distance runner.

“We’re shifting people around. Maybe someone is throwing the shot right now and we try them somewhere else and we say, ‘Wow, they can do that.’”

Similarly, Snow said he has little idea what to expect from the rest of the conference. He expects Sisters and Cottage Grove to have “a ton of speed” along with the Junction City girls, and La Pine may not be as dominant after graduating many of the athletes that took them to the boys district and state titles last year.

Sweet Home will open its 2013 campaign at 4 p.m. Friday, March 15, in an “ice-breaker” three-way meet with 2A Division Monroe, and Blanchet Catholic and Creswell, both talented 3A teams, Snow said.

“It will be a good meet to get the kids’ feet wet,” he said. “It will also be a way for some of our better kids to get a good mark, maybe for the Meet of Champions.”

The MOC, for which athletes from the 1A through 4A divisions must qualify to compete, will be held earlier than normal this year due to the limited availability of the Willamette University stadium in which it is held, on Saturday, April 13.

Another meet that Snow said he is excited about is the second one, the Darrell Deedon Invitational, named after a legendary Cascade High School coach, which will be held at Sweet Home this year, bringing together Cascade, Philomath, Scappoose and 3A power Scio on March 21.

“Those teams are loaded,” Snow said. “There’s going to be some good stuff.”

He’s expecting some big things from his team.

“We have some kids coming back who haven’t even lettered who might be leaders,” he said. “They’ll do pretty well on the big stage.”

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