Progress evident for track teams

CHAMPION — Just to be back on a track was a win for coaches at Tuesday’s quad meet at Champion High School.

But it wasn’t enough.

LaBrae and Champion saw the progress they’re looking for early in the track season. The coaches haven’t had a chance to see their respective teams develop in quite some time, so each meet is an important time to evaluate players.

Vikings coach Collin Doston likes what his throwers, Mallory Cook and Mara Kujala, are capable of as both missed out on state two years ago.

Cook finished second behind Crestview’s Krista Perry in both shot and discus on Tuesday. Kujala finished third in discus and fourth in shot.

“They’ve been competing very well,” Dotson said. “I expect them to compete well at the county, conference and district.”

LaBrae also had a good showing with its 4×100 and 4×200 relay teams finishing second behind Crestview.

“Our 4×100 relay of juniors David Blackmon, Tre’von Drake, Devin Carter and JayMarion Jethroe will have a good shot,” Dotson said. “I think Tre’von Drake in the high jump, Aidan Stephens in the 100, Devin Carter in the 100 will compete hopefully for a state bid.”

Champion was steady most of the meet, finishing second with Austin Willforth narrowly behind Ethan Powell in the 100 and 200 meter dashes.

“I love the competition,” Champion coach John Haug said. “This area’s fast. It’s awesome for us. I love seeing Crestview. Last time they ran was at state, and they won so I love having them out here. It’s been nice to work with kids, to see everybody out here, and to get a chance to compete because that’s all we want to do is give them a chance.”

Haug likes Kaylee Gania’s chances of making state at long jump. She made regionals before, and he believes Serenity Muresan has got a real good shot to go far as well.

Gania placed first with a jump of 15 feet, while Muresan finished second at 14 feet, 11 inches.

“I’m just excited because I see progress at practice and that progress translates into meets,” he said. “That’s been amazing, the work that they do on interval day. The work that they do in the weight room, all of it’s paying off. As long as I’m seeing progress and as long as we get better, then it’s a good day.”

Not many schools were as disappointed about not having a 2020 season than Crestview.

Two years ago, the Rebels finished as the Division III state runner-up in track and field, finishing just six points behind East Canton. The state championship 4×100 and 4×200 meter relay teams featured then-sophomores Brandon Yanssens and Powell.

The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out last season, but Yanssens and Powell have returned to anchor those same relay teams with Willam Hardenbrook joining both relay teams along with Spencer Cline on the 4×100 and Noah Wickline on the 4×200.

Currently, both relay teams are within those state-championship finishes in relation to time.

“The year off, it was pretty terrible,” Ethan Powell said. “I’m not gonna lie, but it definitely puts some perspective, of all the work we got to put in and it also puts in perspective, it’s our last year, like this is it. We have some work to do to make up.”

Yanssens said Crestivew missed out on irreplaceable experience in 2020, as well as a couple meets being canceled this season, but he sees improvement being close.

“I think throughout the season we’re gonna grow and get faster handoffs,” he said. “Just that year off, that really killed our experience, like, running with each other, I guess you could say. Now that we’re back in it, we just need to work better in practice with each other and get a better bond.”

Powell feels both relay teams will be some of the best in the area as the season progresses.

“We’re going to be dangerous,” he said. “I think we got some work to do, but we’re going to be very competitive when it comes to the end of the season, for sure.”

That was evident as they won the Champion quad meet with 186 points to Champion’s 143 on Tuesday. LaBrae finished with 88 points and Liberty had 50 points.

“Just seeing kids out here running, happy to be out, happy to be doing something,” Crestview coach Greg Woolman said. “That’s definitely nice, and we have a couple kids returning from going to state and winning state from a couple of years ago. Them being able to come back out and run for their senior year, they’re pretty excited.”

On the girls’ side, Crestview’s Krista Perry won the shot put (38 feet) and the discus (111 feet, 11 inches). Her shot put throw broke a school record held by Kasey Baker in 2007. Her brother, Dominic, has the same record on the boy’s side.

Two years ago, Perry missed regionals, finishing fifth at district.

“I’ve always had this goal of beating it, but I don’t really focus on that, when I’m throwing. I just focus on things like my (personal records) and stuff and then that was just something that went along with my throws,” Perry said. “It wasn’t fun having last year off, but I’m glad I still have one more year left to compete this year but I mean, everyone else is going through the same thing. So we just have to take it one step at a time and go from there.”


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