Punch from veterans has Rangers up to speed

Photos by Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Forest Park’s Victor Weyer, who smiled after winning the 400-meter dash at last year’s Dubois-Pike Invitational, is back to assist a Ranger team that placed second at last year’s sectional. Several other defending champs return to lead other local teams: Southridge’s Cody Thompson (high jump), Northeast Dubois’ Lucas Schulthies (300 hurdles and pole vault) and Heritage Hills’ Ben Woolems (3,200).

Herald Sports Writer

Mirroring his colleagues, Forest Park boys track and field coach Karl Hinson said it’s a little more difficult to have a handle on what to expect from his team given that the preseason weather has been a factor. Last year’s clear skies and sunshine have given way to much colder temperatures and occasional snow.

“It’s been kind of a crazy season,” said Hinson, whose team finished second at last year’s sectional.

Still, Hinson knows on whom he’ll be counting. Senior Victor Weyer captured the sectional title in the 200-meter dash last year, and this season, he’ll compete in the 400 as well as the 400 and 1,600 relays and the discus. Weyer leads a senior class that includes four other contributors: Sam Beckman will run hurdles and pole vault, Austin Fisher will also run hurdles, Trent Weyer will run sprints and jump and Keith Hurst, who didn’t run track last year, will help in middle-distance events.

Jason Brier will run the 400 and Cody Flamion will compete in the 1,600 and 3,200. Both are juniors. Three sophomores are also expected to accrue points: Trey Dooley will run the 1,600 and 3,200, Matt Weyer will high jump and run the 400 and Noah Braunecker is the team’s leading shot putter.

It’s a little early to know what to expect from the freshmen, Hinson said, but he did note Clayton Meyer (1,600 relay) and Dylan Buechler (hurdles, long jump) should help out.

“They’ve been practicing a while now so they’re anxious to see; it’s always different in competition,” Hinson said. “I want to see what they can do against other guys so right now it’ll be shipping guys around to see if our preseason assessment is matching up to what we thought we have.”

The Wildcats return four regional qualifiers from a year ago, when Jasper finished fifth at sectional.

“The kids have been working hard,” Jasper coach Kevin Schipp said. “We have a lot of kids returning from last year that are hungry to improve upon what they did last year and we’ve definitely been seeing that in practice.”


Senior and regional qualifier Jacob Turner (pole vault) returns, as do seniors Cory Hoffman and Adam Klem, both throwers. Senior Kirk Stenftenagel will run hurdles and the 400 and 1,600 relays and junior Zach Wood will compete in the 200 and 1,600 relay. Sophomore Clayton Traylor leads the team in distance races, while sophomore Austin Schmidt will focus on sprints and sophomore Reid Milligan is back after winning the Big Eight Conference title last year in the 300 hurdles. Milligan, Schmidt and Traylor are three of 35 freshmen and sophomores on the team, and Schipp sees the youngsters’ input as vital.

“Those younger guys are definitely going to have to step up and make a big impact on the team for us to be successful and that’s something we’ve been talking about,” he said.

Junior Cody Thompson, who qualified for the state finals in the high jump last spring, leads a roster of 20 that coach Leslie Denu said is meshing newcomers with experienced athletes.

Seniors Brandon King and Kade Mundy return in the shot put and discus, which is where junior and newcomer Ethan Schwoeppe will also compete. Schwoeppe, a wrestler who qualified for semistate this past season in the heavyweight division, is executing some good throws, Denu said. Sophomore Derek Neuhoff rounds out the team’s throwers.

Senior Paul Reller will run in the sprints and middle distance and may see action in other events as Denu said he’ll “help us wherever we need him.” Junior exchange student Emanuele Dolfi and sophomore Justin King are also expected to see time in the sprints and middle distance.

Freshman Chase Bland, who was the Raiders’ No. 1 runner in cross country last fall, “will help us out a lot” Denu said, and sophomore Henry Steckler returns in the sprinting events as well as the pole vault.

Freshmen Brandon Bayer and Jayden Montgomery will each compete in the long jump and high jump.

“The underclassmen are stepping up and showing improvement and the seniors have really stepped it up and had good leadership so far,” Denu said. “I think we’ll be ready come first meet.”

Southridge will once again rely on junior Cody Thompson, a two-time sectional champ in the high jump.

Senior Lucas Schulthies, who won the 300 hurdles and pole vault at last year’s sectional, has earned a defining label this spring.

“He will be our big gun,” Northeast Dubois coach Vic Betz said.

In addition to his usual events, Schulthies will also run the 100 hurdles and throw the discus and possibly long jump, too. Two other seniors, Jalen Seger (middle distance) and Jacob Hemmerlein (400, long jump) are also expected to contribute.

Junior Tyler Haas will see time in the shot put, high jump and sprints, and classmate Justin Kahle will compete in the 800 and 1,600 as well as the 1,600 and 3,200 relays. Junior Tommy Kelly will help out in the sprints, 400 relay and long jump.

Two sophomores, Jace Kahle and Luke Kerstiens, can be used in the middle-distance events as well as the 1,600 and 3,200 relays. Fellow sophomore Calvin Sander will participate in the 200, 400 and long jump. Junior and foreign exchange student Ty Peek will help in the hurdles and possibly the 1,600 relay.

“It’s going to be an interesting year, in terms of what we can do, and I really expect the youth to step up,” Betz said.

The Patriots still haven’t reached the point where they can be a force in the postseason, coach Nick Waninger said, but they’re getting there.

“I think our biggest thing right now is what we’ve faced in the past with not having enough depth to be competitive in sectional or conference, but we have some good returners and some good guys who have stepped up,” said Waninger, whose team placed eighth in last year’s sectional.

Waninger figures he can count on consistent points in the field events, where brothers Jared Boehm, a senior, and Aaron Boehm, a junior, will push one another. Senior Ben Woolems, who has signed to run at the University of Evansville, leads the team in the 1,600 and 3,200 and may also run some relays. Gabe Konerding, a junior who Waninger called a “straight-up workhorse,” will be key in the 400 and 1,600 relays and may also run the open 400 occasionally. Sophomore Caleb Sabelhaus, a newcomer who missed last year because of a knee injury, will run the 400 and 1,600 and also high jump. Junior Caleb Busler will sprint the 100 and high jump and sophomore Sean Schaefer, who is pulling double duty this spring while also competing for the Patriot golf team, will run the 1,600 and 3,200 relays and the 800.

Waninger said the biggest thing for his team is to focus on a sense of unity, pointing out it’s a lot harder to give up when you’re invested in the team concept because you’d be giving up on not just yourself but also your teammates.

“I think if they can bring that around and put that on the forefront, it’ll help them out in the long run this year,” Waninger said.

Contact John Patishnock at jpatishnock@dcherald.com.

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