Slow it down: Runners savor journeyMay 2, 2017
By WYATT L. STAYNER
HUNTINGBURG — For a sport generally measuring who’s the fastest, track sure does have a way of focusing on the journey.
And there’s nothing quite like senior night to bring out the nostalgia. That was the case Monday evening at Raider Field, where Forest Park and Southridge split wins. The Raider girls gathered a 93-38 victory while the Ranger boys earned an 80-52 conquest.
In Southridge senior runner Kru Allen’s last home meet, he reflected back on how he used to get so anxious before meets that he’d throw up.
“I’d be nervous all day,” Allen said. “I’d be in a cold sweat all day and I told myself, ‘Dude, stop worrying about it. Life is too short to worry about these kind of things. Just go out there and have fun. Make the best of it.’”
Or maybe listen to teammate Lauren Meyer, another senior, who is still experiencing exciting firsts with one of the biggest track teams she’s been on in her varsity career.
“It has been such a great season,” said Meyer, who sped to first place in the 800 meters (2:33), the 1,600 (5:57) and the 1,600 and 3,200 relays. “This is personally my favorite year of track so far in my high school career just because this is the first year we’ve had the depth, and I can’t even say that it’s that huge of a team, but it’s the biggest track team I’ve ever been on. I love getting to know the underclassmen and getting closer with them and just having a big, unified team.”
While Monday’s chilly winds gusted past 25 mph, Allen said the track was exactly where he wanted to be. He can recall a sleeting track meet at Tell City he once participated in during middle school, so what’s a little wind chill?
“It could be much worse,” Allen said. “It could be raining sideways. It could be snowing. It could hailing. I’m just happy to be out here at the last home meet.”
After four years on varsity, Meyer is able to offer some advice to newcomers.
“I think people look for improvement in every race and if they don’t see it they kind of get discouraged, but some people just have one really bad year,” Meyer said. “That doesn’t mean that they’re a really bad runner and that doesn’t mean give up on yourself because this is one of my best seasons and I’ve been running for almost seven years now. There’s always going to be improvement. You might not see it right away but just kind of keep your eyes on the long-term prize and it will come to you.”
Forest Park’s girls team, on the other hand, has a bunch of youngsters experiencing the beginning of their journey.
The Ranger 3,200 relay team, which finished second to Southridge, was made up of three freshmen — Josie Berg, Abby Hauser and Ali Pund — plus senior Sarah Pund. The newcomers have been racing together since about fifth or sixth grade, which has eased the varsity transition.
“I feel like we bring a lot of potential to the team, especially in the distance area because we’ve all been together so long with cross country and everything,” Hauser said.
In addition to the long-distance trio, the Rangers also have freshman Lauren Jahn, who picked up third place in the 200, and Brandee Johannemann, who deposited victories in the 100 dash (12:86) and 300 hurdles (51.71).
Forest Park coach Emily Hauser, Abby’s mother, said it’s unique to see a group of freshmen adjust to varsity track so quickly, but she added that they’ve already had experience at the high school level, whether it was with soccer or cross country.
“That there’s so many of them. That there’s so many talented ones,” Coach Hauser said. “The thing that’s unique about that is that there are several of them who contribute to the bulk of our points. That’s uncommon for freshmen. You might have one or two who stand out, but these guys are really contributing in any shape or form.”
That’s something the Rangers have taken to heart this season. Instead of always being serious, there’s been plenty of jokes for Forest Park, especially since there’s a couple family ties with the newbies. Ali and Sarah Pund take sibling liberties to give each other grief.
“Just sisterly stuff like if she messes up, I always call her out on it,” said Sarah, who scored third place in high jump. “The same thing for her. It’s something we wouldn’t call anyone else out on, but since we live together, you have to say something.’”
“I always joke with her about how she used to be — well, she is a really good runner — but she has slowed down some,” added Ali, who clocked third in the 1,600. “So I always joke with her when she has a really good race.”
That carries over to the Hausers as well.
“They usually just joke around with each other and (Coach) Hauser always tries to give Abby advice, and Abby just jokes around with her about it,” Ali said. “(Abby) will just tell her to ‘Stop yelling at me’ because (Emily) always gets on her.”
Jokes aside, the elder Hauser said it’s been fulfilling to continue guiding her daughter after coaching her middle school teams.
“I think she’s improving because she’s listening to what I’m saying and that’s hard to do when you’re the mom and the coach, but she’s a joy to be around,” said Emily, who watched Abby win the 3,200 (14:09) by nearly a minute. “I like how she works hard. You don’t always get to see that with your child in practices and things, but I think she always works hard in all that she does.”
Tightness is a big part of the early success for the Rangers, but Berg added that the group isn’t afraid either. That’s in part thanks to Jahn, whom Berg said has become a leader in her inaugural season.
“I think our confidence level is really high,” Berg said. “Lauren Jahn, who is one of my closest friends, she’ll always be the one to say, ‘We got this. It’ll be OK.’ That’s really nice to know that even she is a freshman and she can show that.”
In the middle of his journey, Ranger junior thrower Andrew Schuler is still seeking personal bests while chasing one of the best. Even when Schuler has a personal best by tossing the discus 134 feet and 1/4 inches, he still ends up situated behind teammate Zach Cline (166 feet, 11 inches), who qualified for state last season. That’s fine with Schuler, who’s found someone to model himself after.
“I’ve beat him one time in shot. Not even close in discus,” Schuler said with a chuckle. “It helps because it’s someone you always want to try to beat. It rarely happens when it does. He just keeps pushing you.”
Assisting others has been Allen’s favorite part of track, or as he puts it: “Just motivating other people, especially the younger kids. The younger kids really look up to us. That’s the best part about it. Being able to motivate kids younger than us. Being able to make an impact.”
Next up for Allen is education school at the University of Southern Indiana, where he’s pumped to start following plans he made as a freshman.
“I’m very excited for what the future holds because you never know what is right around the corner,” Allen said.
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