Girls gear up for track and field competition

Herald File Photos
Southridge's Alexis Brady, left, Forest Park's Lauren Jahn, Southridge's Kenzie Neukam and Northeast Dubois' Heidi Sander are all returning area runners for this upcoming track season. With practices now underway, meets will begin next week.

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

Hurdles, spikes and everything nice, it’s time once again for track and field season in southern Indiana. As the last of winter flees the land and the sunlight sticks around just a bit longer, so to do the area girls as they prepare their marks and take off for their respected events for the next few months. Running, jumping and throwing will be all the rage as we look ahead at what’s in store for the region’s girls track and field teams this season.

Jasper Wildcats

Last Season: Finished second overall at sectional; Amelia Ahner, Zoe Biggs, Aliyah Schwenk and Olivia Biggs (4x100 relay) went to state.

Opening Meet: March 21 vs. South Spencer and Springs Valley.

Returning Athletes: Zoe Biggs (Sr./sprints), Madison Giesler (Sr./throws), Chloe Herzog (Sr./long distance), Maddie Johnson(Sr./throws), Lexi Maute (Sr./sprints), Hannon Nixon (Sr./mid distance), Brandy Ortiz(Sr./sprints), Alyssa Skorge (Sr./long distance), Olivia Biggs (Jr./sprints), Marissa Bradley (Jr./throws), Anne Brake (Jr./long distance), Jenny Doan (Jr./long distance), Kelly Zheng (Jr./long distance), Camille Aders (So./throws), Amelia Ahner (So./sprints), Grace Helming (So./mid distance), Kalen Jochum (So./long distance), Grace Kizior (So./mid distance), Paige Lofton (So./long distance), Ashley Ortiz (So./sprints), Kylie Patterson (So./sprints), Amanda Schnell (So./long distance), Brynn Schwartz (So./mid distance), Aliyah Schwenk (So./sprints), Clara Sternberg (So./throws), Kelsea Skorge (So./long distance).
Key Newcomers: Taylor Bachman (Fr./sprints), Andi VanMeter (Fr./mid-long distance), Mya Stiles (Fr./throws).

Notable: While Jasper would loved to have made it eight straight sectional titles, Wildcats coach Dean Jerger still considers last season a success for the girls track and field team, and hopes to build on what it was able to accomplish last season, which included competing at state. So the Wildcats can find themselves back in the running for conference and sectional titles. Beyond that, the Wildcats also have hopes of sending several girls into the higher levels of competition that come with regional and state berths.

Zoe Biggs figures to be a major point scorer in the sprinting events this season, while Alyssa Skorge will lead the pack for the Wildcats distance runners. Hannon Nixon and Grace Kizior will feature prominently in the mid-distance events, and throwers Madison Gielser and Marissa Bradley will be big contributors when it comes to scoring in the field events. Some of the freshmen who could also play prominent roles for Jasper include Taylor Bachman, Andi VanMeter and Mya Stiles.

Quotable: “They definitely have the ability to be a special team,” Jerger said. “Success breeds success, so we’re hoping to feed off that and get in a positive upswing.”

Jasper's Zoe Biggs, who recently committed to compete in track and field collegiately at Saint Francis University in Fort Wayne, is one of several returning standout athletes for the Wildcats.

Southridge Raiders

Last Season: Won sectional title; Kenzie Neukam (200m dash, 4x100m relay), Sidney Bartelt (4x100m relay), Monica Steckler (4x100m relay), Alexis Brady ( 100m dash, 4x100m relay), Tori Tretter (discus), Karli Meyer (shot put), Alexis Brady (100m dash, 4x100m relay), Grace Sickbert (100m hurdles), and Anna Altstadt (400m dash) went to state. 

Opening Meet: April 2 at Tell City.

Returning Athletes:  Kenzie Neukam (Sr.), Shelby Worden (Sr.), Keysha Kieser (Sr.), Kimberly Martin (Sr.), Grace Sickbert (Jr.), Grace Meece (Jr.), Alexis Brady (Jr.), Anna Altstadt (Jr.), Kaelynn Luker (Jr.), Cheyanne Motteler (Jr.), Brooklyn Tretter (Jr.), Paige Kendall (Jr.), Kaitlyn Evans (Jr.), Monica Steckler (So.), Rose Tempel (So.), Baileigh Schneider (So.), Ansley Bicknell (So.), Leah O’Brien (So.), Laci Schwenk (So.),  Ellie Hasenour (So.),  Evie Hasenour (So.),  Kennedy Siddons (So.) 

Key Newcomers: N/A 

Notable: Last year was a historic season for Southridge, as the Raiders won the school’s second-ever sectional title for girls track and field. Raiders coach Ted O’Brien thinks the team got the benefit of sneaking up on the competition last season, an advantage the Raiders won’t be able to claim this season. But the Raiders are fine with that as they look to not only build on last season, but also duplicate the success they were able to achieve if everyone stays healthy.

Sprinter Kenzie Neukam will not only bring back her state-qualifying talents in the short distance events, but she also leads by example in terms of how hard she works in practice to prepare for competition. Anna Alstadt, who also went to state and holds the school record in the 400m run, will be back to run in the mid-distance events as well as do some high jumping. Grace Sickbert, another school record holder in the 100m hurdles, will be charging toward the hurdles once again, and also see some time in the long jump event. Alexis Brady and Monica Steckler were two legs of last season’s state 4x100m relay team, and will be a big part of point scoring during meets this season. Kennedy Siddons and Rose Tempel will be stepping up into the throwing events. 

Quotable: “We understand that those type of things just don’t happen,” O’Brien said as he recounted what the team accomplished last season. “It comes with a lot of hard work, mental focus and toughness. We have very similar expectations this year, but it’s a new year, so we have to go back to work.” 
 

Forest Park Rangers 

Last Season: Finished third overall at sectional.

Opening Meet: March 21 vs. North Posey. 

Returning Athletes: Claire Mehling (Sr./mid, long distance), Katelyn Englert (Sr./mid distance), Josie  Berg (Jr./mid distance), Abby Hauser(Jr./mid, long distance), Lauren Jahn (Jr./sprints, long jump), Brandee Johannemann (Jr./sprints, mid distance, hurdles, high jump), Emily Schwartz (Jr./ mid distance, hurdles, discus), Ali Pund (Jr./ mid distance), Brayln Boehm (So./sprints, long jump), Zoe Colson (So./sprints, pole vault), Maria Crusz (So./throws), Lydia Erwin (So./throws), Sara Kitten (So./mid distance).

Key Newcomers: Ellie Hall (Fr./mid, long distance) 

Notable: Forest Park will be going through some changes at the top this season, with Kacie Klem replacing Emily Hauser as the Rangers’ head coach. Klem was a volunteer coach last season, so she has some familiarity with the team already and is excited to get to work with this year’s team, which is rich with youth. Klem sees this year as a fertile season for growth, but the Rangers are also looking to get back to where they were toward the end of last season as they compete for the PAC title and shoot for another top-three finish during sectional.

The Rangers will be led by their two seniors, Claire Mehling and Katelyn Englert. Lauren Jahn will be slotted for the 100m and 200m dashes. Brandee Johannemann is looking strong in the 300 hurdles. Freshman Ellie Hall was a state qualifier in cross country, so she will also bring those skills to the distance events for the Rangers this season. Klem will use the first couple of weeks to move different girls around to figure out where they fit best according to team needs. 

Quotable: “These girls have come out with an attitude, ready to work hard,” Klem said. “Last year we were contending for a PAC title, and if these girls apply themselves, we can do the same, as well as be in a similar position at sectional. Those are very doable goals.”
 

Northeast Dubois Jeeps 

Last Season: Finished sixth overall at sectional.

Opening Meet: April 2 vs. Loogootee, Springs Valley and Crawford County. 

Returning Athletes: Lisette Moya (Sr.), Adalie Prok (Sr.), Heidi Sander (Sr.), Hannah Schepers (Sr.), Shelby Livingston (Jr.), Maggie Stephenson (Jr.), Payton Bowles (So.), Angel Dill (So.), Adelle Fravell (So.), Tali Love (So.), Hali Nesbitt (So.), Morgan Schepers (So.), Abby Uebelhor (So.)

Key Newcomers: N/A

Notable: Northeast Dubois is another team that is looking at welcoming a new coach at the helm, as Leslie Denu takes over for the retiring Tammy Schulthies. The Jeeps alum brings 15 years of combined coaching experience from her time with the Southridge cross country and track teams, so she is looking forward to getting to know her runners and working with them throughout the spring. Denu will also be inheriting a team with a lot of youth, but she is shooting for a higher placement at sectional, as well as sending some girls into regional and beyond. 

Heidi Sander has already stepped into her role as a leader amongst the runners, and she will compete in the sprinting and long jumping events this season. Hannah Schepers will be scoring points for the Jeeps in the pole vaulting and long distance events. Shelby Livingston will be another athlete who will be featured in the mid- to long-distance races this year. Maggie Stephenson has been dealing with injuries the last couple of seasons, but she’s looking to bounce back and come on strong in hurdling events.

Quotable: “I really think we have potential to have some good individual and relay finishes at sectional,” Denu said. “That’s what we’re shooting for, and I think we’ll see great things from these young girls.”

Madison Hagedorn is one of several returning runners for the Heritage Hills girls track team this season. Head coach Dawn Mix expects Hagedorn to help the Patriots earn a lot of points in the mid-distance events.


 

Heritage Hills Patriots

Last Season: Finished fourth overall at sectional; Jenna Burns (200m dash) went to state.

Opening Meet: April 2 at Forest Park. 

Returning Athletes: Jenna Burns (Sr./sprints), Madison Hagedorn, (Sr./distance), Marie Dieterich, (Jr./sprints), Julia Garland (Jr./shot put,discus),Abby Kern (Jr./shot put, discus), Sigrid Nielsen (Jr./sprints), Hayleigh Weigand (Jr./shot put, discus), Irene Yang (Jr./sprints), Rebekah Gordon (So./mid distance, shot put, high jump), Maddy Klem (So./distance), Sarah Mangan (So./shot put, discus), Jenna Norrick (So./hurdles,long jump), Serena Robinson (So./shot put, discus), Lindsey Roos (So./shot put, discus), Lauren Sanders (So./shot put, discus), Madison Smith (So./hurdles, pole vault), Emma Wagler (So./shot put, discus), Elizabeth Williams (So./sprints, hurdles), Katie Winkler (So./distance).

Key Newcomers: Claire Lange (Fr./hurdles, high jump), Abi Wilson (Fr./sprints, long jump) 

Notable: Heritage Hills coach Dawn Mix has high hopes for the Patriots, as she sees a lot of talent returning to the fold for another year on the track. In addition to depth amongst the runners, Mix believes the latest batch of athletes will provide solid candidates to fill in some of the field events where the team has been lacking in the past. 

Jenna Burns and Madison Hagedorn are a couple of talented seniors who will be scoring a lot of points for the Patriots in the sprinting and mid-distance events, respectively. Rebekah Gordon will return to mid-distance in the 4x800 relay, but will also be filling in as a shot putter to add a few more points to Heritage Hills’ score sheet. Elizabeth Williams will be valuable as a relay team member and individual hurdler.

Quotable: “Looking at some of the new members and the successes that we’re having so far, I think we’re going to be very comparable to where we were last year,” Mix said.




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