Track meet offers glimpse of future
Despite the threat of severe weather, more than 600 athletes from five area high schools took part in the Northwest pentangular last Thursday at Shawnee Mission Northwest.
The non-scoring meet yielded few surprises to Northwest coach Mike Cooper, who was able to see most of his varsity athletes in competition for the first time this season.
"It was not a beautiful day, but it could have been worse," Cooper said. "Our performances were okay. Nobody did incredibly well or incredibly poorly."
One Cougar field athlete who did fare better than most was senior pole-vaulter Kristen Botteron, who equaled the Northwest school record in her event by clearing 12-6.
A pair of sophomores also turned in impressive performances on the girls' team. Distance runners Christine Nelson and Lisa Imgrund ran 5:26.9 and 5:20.9 in the 1,600 meters, respectively, with Imgrund's time being a personal best. Fellow sophomore Kirstie Sanders turned in her own personal record in her leg of the 4x400 relay while junior Lauren Bock ran the fastest 100 meters of all the Cougar girls.
One Cougar standout that was sick and could not participate in the meet was sophomore thrower Erica Brand, a state placer from last season. Cooper said he feels that with Botteron, Brand, Imgrund and Nelson in the mix, the Northwest girls can be in contention for team titles in any meet
"It's interesting, the bigger the meet last year, the bigger the impact those four girls had," Cooper said. "Kristen Botteron is the class of the Sunflower League in the pole vault. Those girls make a big difference. The girls were seventh last year in the Sunflower League. If we can get some of the other girls to get us some points, we'll do better. Those four can make a dent."
Among those Cooper said he expects to be contributors are Bock, Sanders, senior Cailee Kelly and junior Alicia Watson.
On the boys' side, senior Zak Kinsey tied his personal best in the pole vault with a mark of 12 feet even. While fellow senior Marty Wallace has emerged as the squad's best thrower.
Three seniors - Evan Hayes, Evan Mesh and Anthony Williams II - have locked down their spots, as have sprinters Mark Fancher, Trevor Hughes and Alex Reed. Reed was injured for the meet, but Fancher used the event to run 11.4 in the 100 meters.
Hughes has emerged as one of the leading candidates for the long jump as well as the sprints.
Junior Alex Reynolds also looks to make his mark with the sprinters after tying Fancher for the fastest Northwest 100 time on Thursday. Reynolds also ran a 51.4 seconds time in the 400, an impressive time this early in the season. Juniors Ethan Elmer and Nick Kolega, key contributors on the 2007 Sunflower League Champion Cougar football team also join the sprinters.
The Kansas 6A State Cross Country boys champion Cougars also will be represented on the track team with individual State Champion Jared Ellsworth leading the way. Ellsworth, who has earned a partial track scholarship to Kansas State University, will be moving from being a 400-meter/800-meter runner last spring to an 800-meter/1,600-meter runner this season. He recorded the fastest mile time at the meet and beat his own personal best by 9 seconds.
Fellow distance runners Daniel Munro and Kyle Schlicht also recorded personal bests at the meet Munro by 7 seconds, Schlicht by 14 while fellow cross country participants Keaton Jones, Sterling Spencer, and Aaron Thornburg also are expected to contribute.
Though the Cougar boys lost several seniors, including Northwest male athlete of the year Courtney Hines, Cooper believes another strong finish isn't out of the question for a team that finished second at State last year.
"Shawnee Mission South has their best team in a long, long time," Cooper said. "Olathe East has a lot of kids returning from their State Championship team. Shawnee Mission East is going to be fairly strong. Our goal is always to be in the top four. I think we can do that again."
The Cougars will return to action on Saturday, March 29th, when they participate at the Shawnee Mission South Relays. Events are set to begin at 9 a.m. at Shawnee Mission South District Stadium.