Wildcat teams looking to build on past gloryMarch 13, 2020
By JONATHAN SAXON
JASPER — Last spring was very good to the Jasper Wildcats on the track. Both the boys and girls teams picked up conference and sectional titles, and they sent a combined nine athletes (seven boys, two girls) all the way to state. Both teams will get their first action in Wednesday’s indoor meet against Bloomington North, and their first outdoor meet will be March 19 at home against South Spencer and Springs Valley. Both the coaches can’t wait to test their respective stables.
“The kids are working really hard,” boys coach Kevin Schipp said. “They’ve really bought into what we’re doing. A lot of kids have put a ton of hard work into the weight room. A big core group ran a bunch of mileage this winter and came in looking strong. The effort has been great.”
“The best thing about the offseason is we had a more-than-normal number of girls competing on the basketball and swim teams,” girls coach Dean Jerger said, “which is excellent for our conditioning.”
The Wildcats, who always field one of the larger teams in the area, will have plenty of returning athletes to help win the last-ever Big Eight Confrence title and further sectional glory. The depth both teams have is a comfort for Schipp and Jerger, as they’ll be able to field points at almost any meet event. Jerger believes the middle-distance runners will be the strength of the girls team. He’s envisioning a group of runners he can use interchangeably in sprinting or long distance events throughout the season. Add in the runners who can also jump, and the Wildcats could see their scoresheet tally points quickly. Schipp thinks the experience gives the distance runners the edge on the boys side, but also believes the sprints and hurdles will emerge as the season moves forward.
On the boys team, seniors Jackson Miller and Drew O’Neil will lead the distance runners. Both Miller and O’Neil ran on 4x800m relay teams that won conference and sectional titles and placed 22nd at state. O’Neil also qualified for state in the 3200m run, where he finished 26th overall. Seniors Mitch Kaiser and Joe Wood will both be splitting time between sprints and pole vault events. Kaiser was part of last season’s conference and sectional champion 4x400m relay team. He also won a conference title and placed second at sectional in pole vault. Senior Sam Kluemper will also sprint in individual events and as part of the 4x100m relay team, which placed first at the conference meet. He’ll be throwing in discus events also, where he placed second in sectional. Schipp is still working out some of the details in the field events. He hasn’t settled on long jump, but he’ll have sophomore Sam Leonard at high jump and getting some mid-distance work as well. Leonard was part of the conference and state 4x800m relay teams. Juniors Carson Chanley and Tanner Schroering will anchor the throwing events.
The girls return sophomore Andi VanMeter, who won conference titles in the 3200m run and 4x800m relay. She also placed first in the 3200m run at sectional and finished 25th in the same event at state. Juniors Kelsea Skorge and Amanda Schnell will also add depth in the distance events. Junior Brynn Schwartz and sophomore Taylor Bachman will split time among sprints, long jump and high jump. Schwartz won a conference title in high jump. Senior Marissa Bradley is looking to capitalize on three solid years in the throwing events. Senior Olivia Biggs is back in the pole vault, where she won a conference title.
The Wildcats are hungry for more titles, especially with this season being the final spring under the Big Eight banner. Jerger, in particular, thinks winning the last-ever Big Eight championship would be a special moment in school history.
“Our schedule is going to change with the realignment,” he said. “That’s something that’s a little bittersweet. I’m looking forward to running against some new competition, but you form those bonds with the other coaches over the years. You have that goal every year, but it means a little more this year being the last one.”
Each team also wants to send more representatives to state than they did last season, but the immediate goals are to stay healthy and keep improving as the calendar moves closer to sectional. It’s hard to tell how it will all play out, but the Wildcats are confident they’ll be in contention for titles, and maybe more, by the time it’s said and done.
“We’re ready to go,” Schipp said. “Time to see what you have, because it’s hard to tell in practice. What they’re looking forward to the most is to see some of that work pay off.”
“We’re looking forward to warm weather and competing,” Jerger added.
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