Southridge track trying to gather pieces

Photos by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Southridge junior Aidan Jochem could contribute to the boys track team this year as a sprinter, in the long jump and in the 4x400m relay. 

By COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG — All sports teams are in the same boat this spring since they didn't get a season last year, and therefore, will have the challenge of trying to transition into their upcoming season. It'll certainly an obstacle for Southridge track, who not only has the task of phasing in freshmen and sophomores to the sport at the high school level, but also has to fill the spots of a prominent senior class it graduated.

Gone is Grace Sickbert, who won two hurdling sectional championships as a junior, and also made it to state as a hurdler and in the 4x100m relay. Anna Alstadt made it to state in the sophomore in the 400m dash as a sophomore in 2018. Southridge also graduated Brooklyn Tretter, who was going to lead the way in girls distance, and Alexis Brady, who was going to be key as a sprinter.

The boys also lost some quality, too, when Garrett Voegerl did not get to play out his senior season in his quest for a state championship in the high jump, and Jude Songer was going to be the top boys sprinter after a back injury put him out of action his junior year.

Coach Ted O'Brien still likes the way things have been going along, however.

"Both sides have probably been some of our hardest working groups," O'Brien said. "Just our school in general, when you see successes with many of our sports teams, we've really bought into the process here at Southridge. Our coaching staffs have bought in, our athletes have bought in. There's not as many of those growing pains anymore of when we get new athletes coming into our program of, 'This is what we do.'

"It's kind of known," he continued. "We've had success with it. So, I think the kids are confident in it."

On the girls side, Southridge will turn to senior Baileigh Schneider in the high jump — who has experience in the event, but also had other teammates in front of her, and she figures to also play a part in the long jump. He noted that senior Ansley Bicknell has past experience in the long jump, and freshman Kelsey Wibbeler is looking to high jump.

Junior Dori Sherer can hurdle for the team, and O'Brien noted that sophomore Bailey Keusch has hurdling experience, though she's being trained in multiple events.

Southridge junior Dori Sherer practices hurdling Thursday at Raider Field. 

O'Brien anticipates a solid 4x800m relay group, touting names like Wibbeler, fellow freshman Emma Blessinger, and seniors Laci Schwenk and Evie Hasenour. He thinks Keusch will likely factor into the 4x400m relay, but noted Schwenk and Blessinger could also play a part.

However, the 4x100m relay is more of an unknown than it was in the past, and it'll take time getting handoffs down pat and which group to go with.

Senior Kennedy Siddons was supposed to do the discus in 2020, while junior Karla Algeria was supposed to do the same for shot put. Senior Rose Tempel also looks to factor in as a thrower.

"I think we'll take a step up in that area from where we've been the last two years," O'Brien said. "The year that we did get to compete two years ago, we struggled a little bit. Those girls had some ability, some talent, just probably not as mentally strong as they needed to be, but they're there now as seniors and upperclassmen. So, we'll lean heavily on them guys early on in throws on the girls side."

O'Brien doesn't think any of his boys will do what Voegerl did and get 20-to-30 points in a meet, but he does like the depth that his boys possess. He believes the boys team is trending in the right direction, and they'll have some leadership from athletes who are prominent in certain events.

He sees the 4x800m relay being strong this year, with seniors Dylan Bland, Ricky Pflanz, Cameron Giles and Tanner Kane factoring into that. O'Brien also thinks the 4x400m relay team can be solid, envisioning sophomore Joe Witte, senior Parker Kippenbrock and junior Aidan Jochem playing a part in that, as could senior Matt Springer. However, he saw the 4x100m relay as more of an unknown when he spoke to the Herald March 5.

O'Brien also mentioned Jochem and Witte as possibilities to have good years as sprinters and in the long jump, while Springer and Kippenbrock are names to watch in the boys hurdles. The Raiders will also lean heavily on Bland and Pflanz, not just for points, but also for leadership.

"Dylan has been a highly, highly successful runner here at Southridge, and we're expecting big things out of him heading into his senior year," O'Brien said. "Ricky Pflanz is kind of a diamond in the rough - just (an) absolute hard worker, the kid that you'd love to coach. He just goes out and does whatever you need. He's going to have a really big senior year if he stays healthy."

Voegerl finished fifth at state in the high jump as a junior, and O'Brien knows the Raiders aren't going to have somebody like that this year, and the challenge is going to be finding another jumper. He mentioned juniors Kaden Neukam and Allesandro De Rosa as potential high jumpers for 2021. Pole vaulting is also an area of need, as many with no experience are trying out.

Southridge's boys don't have a lot of experience with throwing, so the Raiders will rely heavily on senior Leyton Lauderdale to be a key cog in both the shot put and discus.

The Raider girls have established themselves as one of the top teams in the sectional in recent years. Southridge won its second girls sectional championship ever in 2018 after winning its first in 1982, but fell just shy of a repeat in 2019 when Jasper edged the Raiders by 12 points.

"We feel confident in our group, I think we have a really hard working group," O'Brien said. "We're obviously not going to be at the level we were with talent, but I still think we have the pieces to compete."

The Raider boys, meanwhile, have never won a track sectional. O'Brien knows that Jasper is always going to be in contention at the end of the day, despite this year's Jasper team not returning a lot of experience. He also noted that Forest Park, Heritage Hills and Tell City have strong boys track teams, too.

He believes it'll be important to develop athletes by conference time, as the Rangers, Patriots and Marksmen provide formidable Pocket Athletic Conference competition, not to mention that the PAC has expanded this year, too.

The Raiders will no time getting a look at one of their PAC opponents, with season scheduled to open April 6 at Tell City.

"Once April gets here, it goes fast," O'Brien said. "So, it's just a matter of taking care of our bodies and making sure we're in a good spot mentally and physically when April hits."




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