Jasper cross country hopes to build off 2020August 3, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER — Jasper cross country looks primed to make another run at things after a historical 2020 season. The boys seek their third straight trip to state, and senior Abe Eckman and juniors Jaryn Weinel and Harrison Hulsman will be back.
The girls, meanwhile, have senior Andi VanMeter leading the way for a team with a lot of depth that includes former state qualifier Jordan Schweikarth, who transferred from Northeast Dubois and is eligible to run.
So, basically, it’s good to be Wildcats coach Kevin Schipp.
“I’m excited about the season — just alone, all the returning runners we have,” Schipp said.
Schipp saw how strong of a runner Schweikarth was when she ran for the Jeeps, but didn’t know a lot about her. He said it’s been nice to get to know Schweikarth and that she’s been getting along well with her new teammates.
Yet, the Wildcat girls have numbers, and they have depth, because Schipp told The Herald on Wednesday that it was junior Ally Wigand who was probably running at No. 2 at the moment for Jasper.
“She’s just a tough person,” he said of Wigand. “She shows that when she plays tennis, too, but she trains year-round — she likes to run, she enjoys it. And she got good experience last year. A lot of times she was number three for us or number two earlier in the season. So, she definitely has that experience and is just a really strong runner.”
He knows it will be hard to replace the graduated Kelsea Skorge and Amanda Schnell, but the ones who are returning have improved quite a bit, such as sophomores Ari Wiseman, Kate Jerger and his daughter, Emma. Kevin believes junior Niya Zazzetti has looked strong, and some freshmen runners who have looked strong out of the gate are Monica Lorey and Linzi VanMeter.
Kevin let it be known there’s nine or 10 runners in competition for the varsity spots.
One girls spot that’s probably safe is Andi VanMeter’s. Andi finished first overall at sectionals for the second year in a row last year, and also finished in 16th place at state — the second-best state finish ever for a Jasper girls runner. This year, she’s looking to get top five.
“She definitely has a shot at it,” Kevin said.
The boys, meanwhile, don’t have the depth that Kevin would like — at least not at the moment. Will Gubbins is not coming back for his junior year, but he still noted the boys side is looking strong. He figured that sophomores Carter Blume and Wylee Kippenbrock probably round out the top five at this point.
“They’ve been great — really shown a lot of improvement,” he said. “And we started to see that with Carter last year into track season and Wylee, too. And this summer, they’ve had strong summers — working hard with those other three. So, we’ve seen great improvement there.”
Kevin noted, however, that there’s a gap after that — so he’s looking to other boys to step up. He mentioned some runners whom he could be turning to, such as junior Jacob Welp, sophomores Carter Stenfenagel, and Leo Eckman, while somebody who has worked hard this summer is freshman Cameron Crawford.
Abe Eckman will be looking to follow up from his 12th place finish last year at state, and Kevin said top five is attainable for him as it is for Andi. He had a big postseason last year that consisted a runner-up finish at the sectional, first place at the regional and third at semi-state before his 12th place state finish.
“He’ll probably have even a little more fire come this postseason,” Kevin said. “I don’t think track state finals (where he finished in 12th place in the 3200m run) went the way he wanted it (to). He was disappointed in how he did, but also know that’s not the end of the world. But he’ll definitely be ready for the postseason.”
Kevin outlined the goals for this year — finish first in the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference, win the sectional championships again this year and also for both teams to get back to state and improve individually and as a team. The boys came in 14th place at state last year, while the girls came in 17th place.
The season is set to begin Aug. 14 at the Valley Cross Kickoff in Terre Haute.
“Running that as our first meet, it’s just experience being on the state course of being against good competition, which will be quite a few of our meets,” he said. “We’re not doing anything special to get ready for that meet. We’re just following our plan, we’re bumping our mileage up here and there — as we do for all the weeks and throughout the season.”
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