Heritage Hills optimistic for return

Herald File Photo
Heritage Hills' Grant Gogel is part of the depth the Patriots have at the pole vault.


LINCOLN CITY — There’s a lot of nervous energy in the air as the COVID-19 pandemic casts doubts on the chances for spring sports. But both coaches for the Heritage Hills track and field program choose to be optimistic about the possibility of seeing some form of a season.

“I am a (glass)-half-full guy,” said boys head coach Pete Lashley. “If by the middle or third week of April we’ve got this thing turned and headed in the right direction, I’m very optimistic about it. It’s very fluid. We should let more people get tested (and) see where everyone is at.”

“I remain hopeful we’ll be able to come back and compete,” added Josh Wilson, who is taking over the girls team after former coach Dawn Mix decided to step away last season. “We’re hopeful we can get back at it.”

Both coaches are also grateful their sport allows most of its athletes to train on their own and stay prepared for when school reopens. Field event athletes and hurdlers are a bit more limited without access to their required field equipment, but they can still strength train and perfect bits of technique to keep sharp. If nothing else, it helps break the monotony of life post-social distancing.

But even with the fluid conditions, the Patriots are still fixed on their season goals. Both teams are looking for Pocket Athletic Conference titles as they hope to make their way back to the sectional meet, where they each finished in third place last season. They also sent three athletes (Grant Lashley, Jenna Burns, Rebekah Gordon) to state last season and hope to increase that delegation’s number this year.

Wilson will miss Burns, but he returns a number of girls he’s confident can step up and produce for the Patriots. He points to Burns as an example they can use as a guide to become the best version of themselves.

“I think the underclassmen watched and learned from (Burns) in terms of work ethic, focus (and) what it takes to be successful,” said Wilson. “I hope some of the underclassmen can step in and fill that void.”

Juniors Elizabeth Williams and Claire Lange are back to tackle the hurdles where both qualified for regionals last year. Sophomore Abigail Wilson is another regional qualifier who will participate in the sprint events. Junior Katherine Winkler will be a big fixture in the distance races. Sophomore twins Karrie and Kenna Marvin will contribute in the sprints and middle distance races, respectively. Karrie will also see action in the pole vault event. Gordon is back for her third year as a thrower along with senior Abby Kern, junior Sarah Mangan and sophomore Grace Mangan. Wilson also thinks freshman Xia Peters can make an immediate impact for the team. She ran sprints in middle school, but Wilson feels she’s a better fit at middle distances.

On the boys side, Lashley told the sophomores and freshmen that they’ll be looked at for a lot of scoring, but he has faith their middle school success can translate to the high school level.

“We were going to be deeper in the freshman and sophomore classes than we had been recently,” said Lashley. “We knew that was coming. They were dominant as a group together throughout their middle school career. I already let them know they’re going to have to grow up quick.”

Senior Alex Hasty has a strong chance to qualify for state in the pole vault. Lashley is also excited about junior Grant Gogel and freshman Sheldon Smith adding depth to the vaulter group. Junior Elliott Buechlein is a versatile athlete who can run both mid and long distance events. Juniors Wyatt Koenig and Owen Rahman are another pair of cross country runners that will strengthen the distance pool. Freshmen Pierce Lashley and Charlie Brentlinger could also make immediate impacts.

Gavin Vaal and Kaden Feldpausch aren’t returning for their senior seasons, so Lashley feels the sprint group will be the team’s biggest development need. That said, Lashley is a big believer in the Patriots’ speed development program, and the effects it’s had on the likes of seniors Jacob Wetzel and Charlie Webb, sophomores Kort Schaefer and Owen Schaad, and freshmen Brenden Chew and Sheldon Smith. Senior Cody Moffitt will take up shot put, and senior Isaac Maddox will hurl the discus. Sophomore Eli Wilson and freshman Shane Staples will face the hurdles.

The Pats’ echo all of the other teams in hoping that they’ll be able to participate in meets and show off the athletic talents they’ve been honing the entire offseason. Lashley noted that performance expectations might have to be measured, but both men will take anything that signals a return back to the regularly scheduled program for the community.

“For these kids, I think it would mean everything,” said Lashley. “These kids that put everything on the line, we’re going to come out of this not taking things for granted.”

“We’re all longing for some type of return to normalcy,” added Wilson. “Regardless of what the season might look like, just being able to compete in some fashion would be important. We’ll make the most of it, regardless of whatever it is we’re given.”

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