Weather has posed challenges for high school athletes all winter, from canceled practices to postponed games.
That is true for spring athletes as well, who have had a difficult time beginning their preseason training thanks to the lingering cold temperatures.
Case in point are the track and field athletes, many of whom begin outdoor competition next week.
Although the forecast promises warmer days ahead, local track and field teams are off to a slow start in their training for the approaching season.
Franklin coach Mike Hall said despite having indoor facilities, it has been a challenge to make sure his athletes are getting the appropriate workouts.
“You have to be creative,” Hall said. “It’s tough to get quality work inside. Usually any time outside before March 1 is gravy. If this continues, though, it’s going to be hard on us.
“We’d like to have a couple solid workouts outside so we can take a look at kids and start evaluating them.”
Whiteland coach Brandon Bangel had a different perspective. He said he was concerned last year, when snow and frigid temperatures stretched into April. But the Warriors surprised him by being focused and eager to compete when the weather changed. He expects the same this year.
“We learned to be patient last year,” Bangel said. “But we also saw that kids were hungry to compete once it warmed up.
“I’m not worried at all.”
Here is a look at how each school’s boys squad is shaping up for the 2014 season:
Coming off a third-place finish at last year’s IHSAA Boys Track and Field State Finals, the Trojans look to build on last year’s success.
Not surprisingly, hurdles are expected to be Center Grove’s primary strength.
The top returner is senior Justin Veteto, who placed second in the 110-meter high hurdles and sixth in the 300 lows at the 2013 state meet. He is expected to compete for championships in both events this season.
Senior Evan Tandy also is a prolific scorer in both hurdles events. But the Trojans also expect to be strong in the distance races, where juniors Grant Stapleton and Griffin Miller lead the way.
Sophomore Reed Sauter specializes in the middle distances.
“I think our base points are going to come from our hurdlers,” coach Eric Moore said. “Evan Tandy is much, much improved. Our distance program is getting better every year with Grant Stapleton and Griffin Miller. And Reed Sauter is an excellent 800 runner.
“It’s strange. There are places where we’ve very, very talented, and places where we won’t compete very well. The hurdles, relays, sprints, 400 and 800 we’re going to be really good.”
As often is the case, Edinburgh will have a hard time finding enough bodies to compete in the team portion of meets. That challenge is even more difficult when you consider that the Lancers’ roster will be filled mostly by young, inexperienced athletes.
Dakota Sneed returns as the Lancers most seasoned performer. He claimed the Mid-Hoosier conference titles in both the shot put and discuss as a junior last year.
Edinburgh coach Shannon Lacey said Sneed is capable of doing even more this season.
“He has a great chance to repeat and possibly win the sectional,” Lacey said.
Sophomore Steven Bailey should be the Lancers’ best sprinter, with his specialty being the 100.
“With low numbers, we know it will be hard to win big meets,” Lacey said. “But we hope to have some individuals be very competitive in those meets.”
The Grizzly Cubs will be led by a handful of athletes who have made their mark at the state level over the past year.
Senior Reid Abney finished seventh in the discus at last year’s state finals.
And the distance races will be manned by a group of runners that captured county, conference and regional titles in cross-country last fall. That bunch includes seniors Camden MacLennan and Austin Havener, and juniors Jake Johnson, Blaine Conners and J.T. Sargent.
However, sprints could be a problem for Franklin. The team suffered several injuries last year, and the returning runners lack experience. The top returner is junior Josh Cox, who will be joined by senior Adam Shepherd and sophomore Zach Dowell.
Coach Mike Hall said he believes the Cubs learned from last year’s struggles.
“Our kids understood we were a two-year team and had to take some lumps last year, but then hopefully come back stronger this year,” Hall said. “We have an interesting mix of upperclassmen and younger people.
“And we have some football players that have come out for the first time who will help with our depth.”
The Woodmen will be led by one of the top distance runners in Indiana.
Senior David Dalton finished second at the IHSAA Cross-Country State Finals meet in November. The Purdue recruit should be a contender for state honors in both the 1,600 and 3,200 events.
Although awards in the fall do not always guarantee success in the spring, Greenwood coach Tad Frahm said Dalton has turned himself into one of the best 3,200 runners in the state.
“He’s done a really good job making the adjustment from cross-country to the track, mostly because he’s gotten stronger and faster,” Frahm said. “He’s worked hard in the offseason.
“We’re expecting great things from him.”
Beyond Dalton, though, the Woodmen do not return much experience. Twelve seniors were lost to graduation.
Among the returning athletes, Jeffrey Linder, a junior, was a regional qualifier in the discus last year. Senior Austin Montgomery should compete for points in the throwing events. And junior Joe Sheryak will be a triple threat in the high and long jumps and the hurdles events.
Frahm said at this point he is not sure how the rest of the roster will fill into the meet-day lineups.
“Our roster numbers are a little low for us,” Frahm said. We have lots of new faces, though, so it’s Track 101 most days.
“The kids work hard, they’re good to be around, and I have a great time with them. They’re just new.”
Greenwood Christian Academy
The Cougars continue to fight the battle that other sports at the school have fought in the program’s brief history: lack of facilities. They do not have a track of their own, nor have they been able to secure practice facilities at other schools.
Despite that obstacle, the Cougars still feature a runner that has a chance to advance into the state tournament. Sophomore Hunter Slater was a regional qualifier in cross-county last fall. This spring, he will run in both the 1,600 and 3,200.
Coach Joe Slater said Hunter has the ability to advance to the regional in each event.
Logan Cobb was the Mid-Hoosier Conference champion in the 110-meter hurdles last year. Sprint, throws and jumping coach Rose Moore said the junior is capable of even more this year after a fine off-season.
“He was good last year, but I think he can be great this year,” Moore said.
Other sprinters include junior Elijah Maness, who also will compete in the pole vault, and freshman Jaylin Brown.
Points in field events will be sought from junior Austin Wheeler (throws), freshman Noah Maness (throws) and freshman Tim Abel (high and long jumps).
Indian Creek has just one senior on the roster, distance runner Brady Devine, who struggled with nagging injuries during cross country season.
Distance coach Tamara Whitten said they have been reluctant to push Devine yet but are hoping he will be fully fit for the season.
“We’ve been cautious with him early, but he seems healthy now,” Whitten said.
Three young runners should add depth in the distance races. Sophomore Brandon Briggs has the potential to be an excellent mile racer. Freshmen Sean Bowman and Dalton Spruill should contribute as well.
Moore said the Braves’ roster has promise, but will require work to realize it.
“We have a good group of kids to build around,” she said. “The kids who are coming back will be fine. We may struggle with the younger kids. But they’re open and ready to learn and have good talent.”
Brandon Patterson has the potential to be one of the county’s elite athletes. The sophomore is the defending Johnson County long-jump champion and will run both the 100 and 200 sprints.
Bangel said Patterson’s freshman year was a sign of greater things to come.
“He had a breakout season last year,” Bangel said. “This year he has a chance to be even better.”
Junior Brandon Benson can handle every race from 100 to 400 meters.
In distance events, seniors Gabe O’Keefe and John Jackson return.
Whiteland’s throwers will be led by Ryder Emberton. The freshman broke county records in both the shot put and discus as a middle-schooler and appears poised to step right in at the varsity level.
The Warriors, who finished second at the 2013 Mid-State Conference meet, may have lost some top level talent, but Bangel said he believes the returning roster still is formidable.
“We lost a lot of meet points from last year,” Bangel said. “But we’re a deeper team, and I think we’re a better team this year.
“Our biggest goal is to win the conference meet. I think we have a good chance.”