Forest Park track trying to get accustomed

Photos by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Forest Park sophomore Luke Hauser works on the long jump in practice on Friday.

By COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

FERDINAND — The COVID-19 pandemic shutting spring sports down a year ago did local teams and athletes no favors, with Forest Park track being in the same boat.

Ten of the 15 athletes the Rangers have on their girls track team are underclassmen, meaning they don’t have track experience at the prep level, while the boys have 12 track athletes who have never competed in high school track.

Coach Philip Wolf noted that some of his sophomores who should be scoring points for Forest Park this year are just beginning to learn.

“I think they are going to be a year behind schedule now,” Wolf said.

However, despite this challenge, some newcomers to the high school level can be more advanced than others, and Wolf believes that to be the case with one of his sophomore girls: Rachel Mehringer.

“I think her strongest suit right now is hurdles because her father (Kerri) is my hurdle and sprint coach,” Wolf said. “So, he’s been working a lot with her. Even though the season was cancelled, they were still doing indoor meets and training and lifting. So, she has a competitive advantage over a lot of people right now.”

Still, the Ranger girls will be tasked to find others to take on a bigger role, as they graduated Lauren Jahn, who was going to lead the sprinters last year. Abby Hauser was supposed to be the go-to girl for distance events last year, and she, too, is gone.

That’s where having just 15 girls presents a challenge to Wolf. Had there been a season last year, Forest Park would’ve also only had 15 girls, but Wolf said the difference is he would’ve had more sprinters in 2020.

“I got to be very creative on how to get as many points as I can with this team,” he said. “I could see my two senior throwers try to come in and help us with some points — Lydia Erwin and Maria Cruz. Then, Rachel Mehringer is probably going to carry a majority of the workload on sprints and hurdles. Then, of course, I’ve got my cross country girls, where they’re going to all come in and do their part to help the team, and scoring wherever they can.”

Wolf will also be tested with creativity when it comes to girls relays, as he asked if it’s worth putting a girl in a relay if the team isn’t going to score, and if she could perform better in another event.

Forest Park sophomore Danielle Eckert practices pole vaulting on Friday.

Yet, even with the challenges the Rangers are dealing with, they still have a couple of athletes, both cross country runners, who made it to regionals two years ago as freshmen. Junior Ellie Hall qualified for the girls 3200 run, and fellow junior Spenser Wolf did the same thing on the boys side.

“That’s one of my expertise — distance running,” Philip said. “So, the distance kids don’t have much of a transition from having me as a coach in cross country to having another coach in track because the training plan goes hand-in-hand. I know what kind of paces and how hard I can push kids in the distance events. So, it’s very easy for me to do.”

Forest Park did graduate one boys regional qualifier in Corbin Bell, who made it there as a junior in 2019. However, when Philip spoke to the Herald on March 5, he did not know which boy(s) he was going to lean on for throwing because all of them are underclassmen. Philip did not have new information when the Herald spoke to him in practice on Friday.

The Ranger boys will return some athletes who will be used in a myriad events, like senior Ben Kluesner, fellow senior Daniel Eckert, who dealt with an injury as a sophomore in 2019, and also junior Dylan Weyer, whom Philip believes will help out the team quite a bit. Weyer was supposed to be key as a hurdler and pole vaulter in 2020.

“I can’t wait to see what he ends up doing in hurdles and pole vault, because I know he’s really committed right now,” Philip said.

He mentioned that it’s a puzzle trying to figure out his relays, but sophomore Tristan Weyer will “definitely” be on the 4x100m relay team, which will likely also feature junior Ethan Beckman.

The Pocket Athletic Conference has expanded from nine teams to 13. Philip believes his girls will probably finish somewhere in the middle in the conference, but believes his boys can be in the top third, depending on how well his underclassmen develop.

Forest Park is set to open its season April 1 at home against North Posey and Mount Vernon.




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