Surging Cats bag his-and-hers crowns

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper’s Zach Wood churned to the finish line and a first-place finish in the 400-meter dash during Thursday’s Dubois-Pike Invitational at Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium in Jasper. The Wildcat boys won the event for the first time since 2002 to join the Jasper girls, who cruised to their third consecutive title at the meet. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

JASPER — You’ll have to excuse the Jasper boys track team’s late-meet blunder.

All this winning stuff is still a bit new.

It’s an exciting feeling, so much so that as senior Zach Wood powered across the finish line in first — by a considerable margin — as the anchor on the Wildcats’ 1,600-meter relay team, he couldn’t help but scream, while at the same time dropping the baton. That’s known in the track world as spiking, and it’s a no-no.


That it earned the relay team a disqualification was a small blemish on a momentous evening for the Wildcats, as Jasper grabbed its first win at the Dubois-Pike Invitational for the first time since 2002 on Thursday at Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium, scoring 120 points to take first ahead of Northeast Dubois (99) and Pike Central (51). Forest Park (50) and Southridge (27) rounded out the five-team field.

“I could just tell seeing everybody’s reaction (after the 1,600 relay), we were all just so happy and we work together so well,” Jasper junior Reid Milligan said. “We haven’t beaten Forest Park or Dubois in the last 10 years, haven’t won this (meet) in more than 10 years and it just feels great.”

For the Jasper girls team, though, it was more of the same, as the Cats captured their third straight title with little drama. The Cats’ 149 points were more than 70 points ahead of second-place Forest Park (75) and third-place Northeast Dubois (68). Southridge (57) finished fourth and Pike Central (2) took fifth.

Jasper boys coach Kevin Schipp called the final relay disqualification a “learning experience,” and while the relay didn’t make the final book, Schipp chose to revel in its positive achievement — an unofficial time of 3:32.46, well ahead of the Cats’ best mark this season.

In fact, the times Jasper recorded were reflective of its outing. The Wildcats grabbed seven first-place finishes — all in running events. Brayden Betz, Milligan and Wood each earned their fifth straight blue ribbons in the 100, 200 and 400 sprints, respectively. Milligan was also a winner in the 300 hurdles. The junior set personal-bests in all his events.

Forest Park’s Taylor Tretter hoisted herself to a second-place finish in the pole vault to finish behind Northeast Dubois senior Kateland Bailey. The Ranger girls team swiped second place behind Jasper.

Other top finishes came from Wood, Betz, Elliot Prange and Milligan in 400 relay and Cale Kilian, Henry Love, Joe Kemker and Connor Giesler in the 3,200 relay. Kilian also paced the field in the 3,200 as the freshman dropped 37 seconds from his best time while out-kicking Forest Park stud Cody Flamion in the final two laps.

“As a freshman, running a 10:13 (in the 3,200) this early in the year, that’s amazing,” Schipp said. “He’s a hard-working kid and just ran a smart race.”

The Cats sprinkled in a host of second-, third- and fourth-place finishes, which Schipp said is the biggest difference in the larger meets. Landon Jeffers finished third in the high jump with a season-best leap of 5 feet, 10 inches, behind Southridge’s Cody Thompson (6-2) and Northeast Dubois’ Tyler Haas (6-0), and Jasper’s Pablo Santos threw a personal-best 42 feet in the shot put for third.

It was the same kind of contributions Jasper girls coach Dean Jerger received from his squad. While two freshmen garnered three first-place finishes apiece — Annie Stout in the 200 and 400 and as part of the 1,600 relay, and Tara Cassidy in the 1,600 and 3,200 plus the 3,200 relay — senior Laura Renner took first in the 300 hurdles and chipped in on a pair of relay teams. Jerger heralded Renner, who he said “consistently does well,” along with classmate Sydney Berger, who ran a personal-best on her way to second place in the 3,200.

“The tradition (of winning) has been here and it’s been here for a while,” Jerger added. “I don’t think these kids take it for granted.”

“It’s awesome,” Stout said of the win. “It’s a little pressure, but it’s not to bad. Just run.”

It was also tradition that had Jeep boys coach Vic Betz panting nearly as much as his athletes. The 62-year-old Betz celebrated the Jeeps’ 29 personal-bests on the day with 29 push-ups.

“We feel very good where we are because from three weeks to now we improved tremendously,” Betz said. “And we’re going to continue that process.”

Ty Peek and Evan Betz enjoyed a 1-2 sweep in the 110 hurdles. Haas launched a 50-foot, 23⁄4-inch throw for first in the shot put and Justin Kahle delivered first and second in a brutal double: the 800 and 400, a pair of races separated by just one event.

“I told the kids we’re going to be the top 1A school here tonight because we’re the only one here,” Betz joked.

Members of the Northeast Dubois track team did the wave to cheer on their teammates in the 3,200 meter run during Thursday’s Dubois-Pike Invitational in Jasper. The Jeep boys finished 21 points behind first-place Jasper, while the Jeep girls secured third place.

The Jeeps’ female counterparts were similarly successful as coach Tammy Schulthies called their four event victories “pretty impressive for the small school on the block.”

The first-place finishes all came from seniors as Rachel Breitwieser outran the 800 field and Alicia Betz claimed first in the 100 hurdles. Kateland Bailey won the long jump and pole vault; her vault of 9 feet, 6 inches was a meet record. The 400 relay group of Bailey, Betz, Ashton Knies and Brynn Hoffman also bested Forest Park in the final stretch of the 400 relay.

“That was a (relay) team that we (put) together last year. I thought, ”˜That’s one less relay I’ll have to worry about this season.’ They’re so consistent,” Schulthies said.

That Ranger 400 relay team nipping on Bailey’s heels was anchored by Madisyn Hunt, one of two Forest Park first-place finishers. Hunt highlighted a strong sprint contingent with a top finish in the 100 and second place in the 200. Senior teammate Tori Lange went third and fourth, respectively, in the same races.

“My girls were a very different team than what we saw last week (at Jasper) so that’s very exciting to see,” Ranger coach Rachel Hinson said. “Last week we came in unconfident, not sure of what to expect. They were very hesitant and tonight they actually got off the bus ready to compete.”

Lydia Schnieders won the shot put (321⁄4), and Hinson was also impressed with the performances of two youngsters. Sophomore Emma Fraze competed in four events and placed in all four while taking six seconds off her 800 time. Freshman Shelby Louden also set a personal-best on her way to fifth place in the high jump and dropped a second off her best 400 time.

“I just didn’t want to let my teammates down,” Louden said. “I just wanted to help us get the (win).”

For Ranger boys coach Karl Hinson, he saw the dichotomy of his young but talented team. Forest Park’s two wins came from stalwarts Cody Flamion (1,600) and Noah Braunecker (discus), but Hinson said the team is struggling to find the right guys at each event. Blake Emmert tied for second in the pole vault, followed by teammate Collin Bell in fourth. Riley Denning, who Hinson said has improved his throws from a year ago by as much five feet already, finished second in the shot put.

But for now, Hinson is fine with the results, especially for his distance guys who are competing in some grueling meets.

“They’re running on tired legs almost every meet because their practices are hard and then some guys are running the relay, the mile and the two-mile,” he said. “They’re putting a lot of miles in meets and at practice and when we start the bigger season ... and they’re running on some fresher legs, we hope the time will drop.”

Chase Bland landed a fourth-place finish in the 3,200-meter run for Southridge, which took fifth place in the boys meet and fourth in the girls meet.

The Southridge boys team had a similar learning experience. Thompson was the only winner in a meet that coach Leslie Denu said was more about her youngsters witnessing what real competition looks like.

“We got to see where we stand, and it was good for the freshmen and the sophomores, the new runners, to see where they stand and what they have to do to compete with the best of the big boys,” Denu said.

That’s the prognosis Raider freshman Lauren Meyer took away from her first big meet of the season: tough competition, but better results.

“I personally like these kind of meets because they push you more,” Meyer said. “You’re going to have to push yourself more to keep up with the pack.”

Meyer accepted second place in the 1,600 and third in the 3,200. Aubrey Main, who was all over the track, paced the Raiders with a win in the high jump — finishing ahead of three Jasper girls in Stout, Alex Hurm and Priscilla Olson — and two second-place finishes in the 100 and 400. Taylor Neukam finished third in the 300 hurdles and Haley Barnett was third in the shot put.

For all of the teams, Thursday was the first chance to compete against a large field in an environment more in tune with the one squads can expect at the sectional. And the results were more than pleasing, especially for the Jasper boys, who are basking in a stellar start to the season.

“This is definitely what we’ve been waiting for,” Milligan said. “This is just our breakout this year, I feel like. My first year we were all right and last year we got a lot better, but this year we’re just at a whole new level.”

Contact Joseph Fanelli

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