Four qualifiers return in track
With the exception of relays, track and field is an individual sport. That individuality applies to athlete training and expectations.
“The way we train Emily Sechrist and Shaq Thiessen may be different than the young kids trying to get points early,” head coach Dennis Boldt said.
The training for Sechrist, Thiessen, Tyler Proffitt, and Josh Richert is geared so each athlete will peak during the regional meet May 17. Times and placements will take a backseat to gradual improvement.
As a sophomore, Sechrist is a returning state champion in the 3200-meter run. She was a runner up in the 1600 last year at state. She holds school record in both events, 5 minutes, 24 seconds in the 1600 and 11:42.35 in the 3200.
Although Boldt said female distance runners have a tendency to peak in the first two years of high school, he expects Sechrist to continue to improve this season. At this point, Sechrist is out of things to prove. She is battling to meet her own high expectations. Boldt said her work ethic is unmatched.
“The only pressure comes from the expectations of the community,” Boldt said. “Her times will just continue to drop.”
Sechrist also ran the 4x800 and 4x400 relays for Hillsboro last season. The Trojans lost 800 runner Callie Serene to graduation this season. Sechrist could still run both relays if some combination of young runners could form a competitive team in either race. Boldt said Sechrist will run the 800 at different times this season.
Senior Thiessen is still working to secure a state championship. He has come very close the previous two seasons, placing third and second respectively in the long jump at the state meet in Wichita.
Boldt has some worry about the strain of three consecutive athletic seasons on Thiessen, but he believes Thiessen’s talent and work ethic will spur him to great performances. Jerry Harder set the school record in the long jump in 1956, 23 feet, 2.5 inches.
“He comes out and does what he needs to do in practice,” Boldt said.
Thiessen improved greatly as a sprinter, dropping the high jump last season to compete in the 200-meter run, 4x100 and 4x400 relays. Boldt could see Thiessen competing in all three of those events this season. A qualification in the 200 is not out of the realm of possibility.
“Belief in yourself matters,” Boldt said. “Guys gain confidence between sophomore and junior years. They naturally gain muscle.”
Another athlete likely to punch a ticket back to the state meet is senior Tyler Proffitt in the pole vault. Proffitt set a new personal best of 13-6 in the state competition to place fifth. The top three jumpers all cleared 14 feet.
“It was the best pole vault competition I’ve ever seen,” Boldt said.
Good news for Proffitt is three of the jumpers ahead of him and one jumper behind him in that field were seniors. Only Austin Jones of Wellsville is back for his senior season.
Boldt said Proffitt improved his marks last season by adding upper body strength and by nailing multiple repetitions of the complicated event. Pole vault coach Jeff Haslett said Proffitt switched poles starting at the league meet, which allowed Proffitt to clear greater heights.
There were high hopes for junior high jumper Jesse Brown, who qualified for the state meet last season. However, he will not be participating this season because of injury, Boldt said.
The Trojans 4x800 relay team qualified for the state meet last season, finishing eighth out of 16 teams. Senior Josh Richert, junior Avery Franz, and sophomore Grant Knoll return for the squad. Senior Jordan Bezdek was an alternate on the team last season and will take over for graduate Bret Mueller.
Boldt expects the 4x800 team to perform well, but Richert holds the greatest chance for individual success. Richert ran 1600 for Hillsboro last season. He just missed a state qualification, placing fifth in regionals.
Franz was also just outside of a state qualification in the triple jump, placing fifth. Franz is an intriguing jumps prospect for Hillsboro, possessing nearly flawless airborne form. As a runner, Boldt said he is more of a 400 runner than an 800 runner. It is a possiblity he could run the 4x400 relay with Richert and Thiessen or run the individual 400.
Knoll was Hillsboro’s competitor in the 3200 last season and should reprise that role. Bezdek was a 300-meter hurdler last season.
Another Hillsboro competitor who finished just outside of a state berth was senior pole vaulter Ashley Bartel. She finished fifth for the second consecutive year at regionals. She also runs hurdles for the Trojans.
Boldt is expecting a breakout season from sophomore Karyn Leihy. Along with running middle distances this season, he said he believes Leihy’s best runner event is the 800, Leihy will also pole vault for Hillsboro.
“She’s a strong girl, acrobatic,” Boldt said.
The Trojans also have several athletes Boldt expects to show improvement and score points in meets.
Sophomore Cody Craney and freshman Franklin Jost are the Trojans top throwers this season. Craney specializes in the discus while Jost plans to throw discuss, shot put, and javelin. Craney ran sprints last season and may again this year.
Juniors Taylor Vogt and Morganne Hamm and sophomore Darcy Heinrichs are the girls’ throwers. Boldt expects Vogt and Hamm to throw all four implements.
Along with Bartel, seniors Erika Just, Heather Mayfield, and Rhonda Rogers and sophomore Tara Proffitt and Dallas Jost should all run sprints for Hillsboro.
The Trojans first meet is a Central Kansas Track League affair April 2 in Hillsboro. Boldt said he should know the progress of his team by the Conrad Nightingale Invitational April 19 in Hesston. Hillsboro’s meet, the James Thomas Invitational is April 26.