Times Sports Editor
The Northview track and field teams have their sights set on competing for individual and team championships this season.
Girls' coach Ryand Tucker and boys' coach Chad Smith, return strong core groups of athletes that are being counted on to score in multiple events, but also have some talented newcomers who should add depth and add to the team point totals.
Tucker can count on a talented group of distance runners that have had great postseason success in cross country and are hoping to continue that in spring competition.
Three girls have signed letter-of-intents to run in college as Casandra Barnett and Allie True will run for the inaugural Saint Mary-of-the-Woods cross country team and Kylee Thacker will compete for Indiana State.
Tucker is bringing Thacker along slowly while she recovers from a back injury, but hopes she can be ready for the first dual meet.
"I would like to see Kylee run in the first meet of the year versus Owen Valley and South Putnam, that is what we are shooting towards," Tucker said. "She will likely be limited in the number of races she runs early in the season, so she can ease herself back into racing.
Shelby Sands anchors the middle distance after reaching the regional in the 800 meters last season and she'll likely be joined by Corey Laue and Jennifer Junker.
Tucker has set the bar high for Sands as he has seen her steadily improve over her career.
"I would like to see Shelby compete for both the WIC, Big 4, and sectional championships in the 800," Tucker said. "She knows she can be really good in the 800, and just needs to learn how to run the race a little more efficiently. Both her and Corey made large strides during the indoor season and are looking stronger and faster in early season workouts."
Junker is still new to the event, but showed signs during the indoor season of adding a third talented runner to the distance.
In the sprinting events, Tucker is looking to a pair of experienced runners in seniors Sara Niehaus and Elle Kleiber along with sophomore Annie Smiley, who'll see action in a variety of events.
With the Knights distance depth and rising sprinters, Tucker believes his relay teams will also have success this year as well. The 4x100 and 4x800 relay teams each qualified for the regional last season.
"The lineups for all three relays will likely change during the season, as newcomers come into their own," Tucker said. "I am looking for all three relays to make it to regional and hopefully get a state-qualifier out of the three."
The Knights' field events will also be led by talented upperclassmen, but preseason injuries have slowed Samantha Solomon (shot, discus) and Shandi Travis (high jump).
Solomon is a regional qualifier and won the sectional in the discus last season. Travis also reached the regional last season.
Smiley will also be a top vaulter for the Knights and also ran in the hurdle events last season.
Tucker also mentioned Tara Summers and Krista Stearley as freshmen, who will step in and compete for significant points along with Jessica Thacker, who is a sophomore.
Smith also sees his distance crew as one of their top point scorers this season after a strong cross country season.
Conor Strain placed third in the 3,200 meters last season at the sectional and Ryan Lutes also returns after a seventh-place in the sectional 1,600.
Smith is hoping to maximize the pair's abilities throughout the distance events this season.
"I am not for sure what events Conor will be running this season," Smith added. "I am sure I will have him running the 800, 1600, and the 3200 meters but at
this point I am uncertain what his specialty will be. Ryan will be running predominantly the 3200 meters and 3200-meter relay."
Freshman Damon Hyatt was the winner in both the 800 and 1,600 meters in the WIC Junior High Meet last season.
Jordan Keller and Mitch Haviland anchor the throwing events after successful junior years and Smith is anxiously looking forward to adding to their accomplishments in their senior season.
"I am hoping they can get a WIC Championship in either event, the shot or the discus," said Smith. "If they continue to work hard, I don't see why they wouldn't be able to qualify for the state finals."
Both competitors were regional qualifiers last season, placing third and fourth in the shotput.
In the sprinting events, Zach Boetjer, Corey Crowder, Bjarne Snipsoyr and Damon Smith are the expected leaders with big things also expected from sophomore Joel Whittington.
"I am extremely impressed with Joel Whittington in the hurdles, he has the chance to turn some heads at the
end of the year," Smith said.
Whittington placed third in the 300 hurdles at the sectional last season and was fifth in the 110-meter event.
Jared Royer, a senior, is also being counted on to score big points in the pole vault for the Knights after placing third in the WIC meet last season.
There are some questions regarding who will fit into some of the other field events for the Knights.
"We have a lot of learning to do in the other (field) events," Smith said. "We will be strong in the pole vault thanks to the services of Senior Jared Royer. I am hoping he will also be able to move on in the state tournament."
The Knights open the track season on April 9 when they travel to Owen Valley in a three-way meet that includes South Putnam.