SEASON PREVIEW: Clay City looking to continue climb up conference mountain

Tuesday, March 26, 2024
In back-to-back seasons, Clay City’s Megan Jackson (pictured) represented the Lady Eels in the state championship meet. Now a senior, the thrower is one of a few upperclassmen on the Clay City roster that is eager to continue its climb up the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference standings.
Nathan Pace photo

Similar to what Clay City’s cross country teams looked like – in terms of experience – in the fall, the school’s track and field teams are vastly different coming into the spring.

Clay City’s boys team returns most of its top scorers from last year, which puts the Eels in a strong position to contend at the top of the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference with some of the SWIAC’s best competition, said head coach Cole Schroer.

“We are returning a lot of experience on the boys’ side. A lot of our scoring is back,” said Schroer. “Our distance group is coming off a strong cross country season, and I’m looking for them to continue with that momentum. Jayden Hickenbotham, Brady Hauer, and Luke Swearingen will be a big part of our scoring on the distance end. Ethan Edwards led us in points last season as a sophomore. He was the high points scorer in our conference meet as well. He will be competing in the throwing and hurdle events again for his junior season. Senior Caden Bettenbrock has also been a great hurdler for us over the years. His role is always critical to our success. Sprinters Cameron Little and Dalton Hill will be big contributors. Cameron’s freshman year he was at the bottom of our sprinter group. He has improved dramatically each year since. Last year, he finished third in the 200m at our conference championship, so I am looking forward to what he can accomplish in his final season. Dalton emerged as a solid 400m guy toward the end of his freshman season. He finished fourth at SWIAC last year and I’m expecting a jump in his performance for his second year.”

The experience – outside of Megan Jackson, who represented the Lady Eels in back-to-back state finals as a sophomore and junior – isn’t the same on the girls’ side. However, Schroer likes the young talent he has on the roster and envisions them coming together as the season progresses, which should give them an opportunity to continue their seasons past the sectional round of the postseason.

“The girls’ team, overall, is very young. Half of our athletes are freshmen. They have a lot to learn, but there is some good talent in that freshmen group,” said Schroer. “Ashley Martinez-Morales had a great first year in cross country and we will look to her to replace some of the scoring that we lost after graduating a very good group of distance runners last season. Mallori Bettenbrock had a great high jump career in junior high and we are looking forward to what she can do in high school. Of course, we have some great returning upperclassmen, too.

“Megan Jackson has been a back-to-back state qualifier in discus, and she is looking to finish off a great career on a high note,” Schroer continued. “Ady McQueen is our top returning sprinter. Last year she finished 3rd in the 100m dash at the SWIAC Championship meet and she will look to build on that in her senior year. She has looked very fast during preseason workouts. Going into her junior season, Emma Baumgartner has really become a Swiss army knife. She is one of the most athletic girls we have and can help us almost anywhere. I expect her to do very well in long jump this season.”

So, with one team being full of veterans that have been put through the varsity ringer and one team that is mostly made up of underclassmen, the goals for them have to be different, right?

Wrong.

Schroer said they’re looking to compete at the conference championship with the mindset of finishing higher than they did last year.

“We have a few gaps in places, and we will need some guys to step up and fill those gaps as well as provide the depth we need to succeed. We were kind of a surprise last year and finished second in the SWIAC,” said Schroer of the boys’ team. “The goal is always to be in a position to win a conference championship. I think we have the guys to be right there in the mix again this season. The experience that we gained last year will be invaluable.”

“For the past couple of seasons, we have had to rely heavily on our distance group and Megan. This year, I feel like we have a much more balanced team. We will need to see some development from our younger athletes and get consistent performances from our veterans to have the success we hope to have,” said Schroer of the girls’ team. “We would love to improve on our third-place finish at SWIAC last season. It will be tough. The girls SWIAC is going to be very strong again this year. It was strong last year and most of the top athletes are returning.”

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