Sprinter is latest find in Jasper recruiting sweep

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

JASPER — Zach Wood planted the idea in Brayden Betz’s head back in middle school.

Come out for track, Wood suggested. Please?

Now a senior, Betz finally consented to his best friend’s perpetual nudging this spring and signed on with the Jasper track team.

Betz
Emmert

“I wanted something to do,” said Betz, who played baseball his freshman and sophomore year before quitting last spring. “So I came out.”

Just like that, the Wildcats have a new star sprinter.

Betz claimed first in the 100-meter dash, second in the 200 and led off both the 400 and 1,600 relays in Jasper’s skirmish with rival Forest Park on Thursday at Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium, where the Wildcat boys outpaced the Rangers 92-40 to stay undefeated through three dual meets this season. And following suit, Jasper’s girls squad zipped past Forest Park 98-34 to maintain its own perfect record.

The Betz story. Sound familiar? It should.

It was just last spring Aaron Schuler, a senior at the time, finally gave in to his friends’ pleas and joined Forest Park’s track squad. A few months later, Schuler punched his ticket to the state finals in both the 100 and 200.

Wood thinks his buddy is capable of a similar postseason surge.

Thursday, Betz and Wood fastened first and second in the 100, respectively, while freshman Jacob Small rounded out the Wildcat sweep. The Cats also grabbed the top three spots in the 800 and high jump against the Rangers, who are still in the process of patching up a lineup that lost so much from a year ago when they topped Jasper 86-46.

Much of the Cats’ climb can be attributed to the recruiting efforts of Wood and the squad’s 10 other seniors. They sought out guys like freshman Elliot Prange, who finished third in 400 and ran with Betz in the 400 and 1,600 relays; classmate Cale Kilian, who led off the Cats’ 3,200 relay win and placed second in the 3,200; and sophomore Henry Love, who took second in the 1,600 and third in the 3,200. The results from their persuasion are beginning to show.

And then there are the guys who have been there all along. Senior Landon Jeffers plucked wins in the long jump, 110 hurdles and high jump, in which he tied teammate Austin Young at 5-foot-8; fellow senior Connor Giesler topped the field in the 800 and anchored the 3,200 relay; Wood swiped top points in the 400 and also assisted with the 400 and 1,600 relays; junior Reid Milligan swiped a pair of individual victories as well (200 and 300 hurdles); and senior Cole Mehringer soared to first in pole vault.

“Just overall, the whole team, they’re attitude is great,” Jasper boys coach Kevin Schipp said. “They’re not afraid to work hard.”

The Rangers, meanwhile, relied again on a collection of guys for the bulk of their point production as they keep searching for newcomers to supplement their effort.

Ranger senior Cody Flamion competed in four events and grabbed top times in the 1,600 and 3,200, while teammate Blake Emmert soared to a season-best height of 10-6 in the pole vault and Noah Braunecker muscled to first place in the shot put and discus.

Now, Hinson will look to push the less experienced with hopes of more balanced scoring as the season progresses.

“Track is hard. You will hurt, if you’re working. And right now, I think the guys are still putting in the time, putting in the effort ... they’ve just got to get stronger,” Hinson said. “It’s going to happen. We’ve just got to keep their mindset right.”

Pushing further. It’s exactly what Jasper coach Dean Jerger implored his girls to do Thursday as well.

Sibrel
Lange

Sophomores Hannah Sibrel and Luci Hulsman and freshmen Tara Cassidy and Annie Stout all competed in more events than they typically would, with Sibrel soldiering through four.

“They stepped up,” Jerger said. “And that’s what you’ve got to have. You never want to dump too much on any kid, but the competitors grind it out and they did a great job with that.”

The Cats exhibited their balance once again, too, as Cassidy (first in the 1,600 and 3,200 and anchor of the first-place 3,200 relay team) paced the deep Wildcat distance brigade that’s “just fun to watch,” Jerger said.

Sophomore Kirby Ruhe grabbed first place in the 100 and second behind Laura Renner in the 300 hurdles while also launching 14-111⁄2 to lead a Wildcat sweep in long jump — one of Jasper’s six sweeps in the girls meet. Sasha Heeren took first  in discus and Stout won the high jump.

While the Rangers girls continue to try and mesh their stash of seniors with a freshman contingent, one of Thursday’s bright spots for the Rangers will likely be key in that unifying process.

After battling a persistent hip injury the past three seasons, Ranger senior Tori Lange is finally healthy, evidenced by a second-place finish in the 100 and a third-place mark in the 200 behind freshman teammate Madisyn Hunt, who won both events.

“It’s just exciting to see her back on the track. This is the first time she’s been healthy since her freshman year,” Forest Park girls coach Rachel Hinson said. “It’s just great to see her out there.”

The partnership with Hunt has been nice as well for Lange, who said she relishes the mentor role. As a freshman, 2012 graduate Adi Dilger and 2011 grad Athena Haake served in the fostering role with her. Now, Lange looks to pay it forward.

“They were like my role models and it’s kind of cool to know that I’m the big girl now and that, hopefully, someone looks up to me like I did to them,” Lange said.

Rachel Hinson sees fellow senior Chloe Dilger occupying a similar role of service and support, as she captured second in the 100 hurdles and third in the 300 hurdles. Teammate Lydia Schnieders collared first in the shot put and Taylor Tretter offered points and promise as well. The junior’s effort of 8 feet, 6 inches in the pole vault — a personal best — came just 3 inches shy of the school record.

“Right now, that’s probably our biggest (priority): getting those girls to work together and realize if we all work together, we can be a much better team,” Rachel Hinson said.

For the last few seasions, Jasper’s Wood has taken the notion of collaboration to heart, as well.

“In the past, Jasper track … people would call it a joke. I joined my sophomore year and I was determined to turn it around. And ever since then, we’ve been recruiting people,” Wood said. “Now, it turns out we’re undefeated … and we’ve got the best program we’ve had in a decade, probably.”

Contact Joe Jasinski




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