Clare track teams eye more hardware

April 11, 2019

by Ben Murphy
Sports Writer

When Clare hosts its Jack Pine Conference tri-meet on Monday, it could be the start of yet another historic season for both Pioneer squads. Both teams were not only JPC and regional champions, but MITCA state champions as well.

The Lady Pioneers will once again be guided by eighth year head coach Kyle McKown. He should have plenty of talent to work with once again this spring.

“We have around 50 girls on this year’s team, which is one of the biggest teams in school history,” he said. “Our team is led by our seniors Kayden Barber in hurdles and sprints, Katelynn Bay in throws, Kennedy Blackburn in throws, Desiree Coe in sprints and mid-distance, Grace Gomez in pole vault, Olivia Haring in distance, Madison Potter in throws, Lainey Veenkant in distance and Regan Weeks in hurdles. We are fortunate to have strong returning athletes in many areas but we also understand that we can always work hard and get better every day.

Of course with as many athletes on their roster, the Pioneers are hoping to rely on what turns out to be diverse group.

“Our team is a mix of veterans and incoming freshmen,” McKown said. “Our team is working hard, trying new events and getting better every day. We have been using each day to get in even better shape and we have been focusing on skill development in field events. The weather is always a challenge in the early weeks of the spring season, so we have been adjusting accordingly.”

It’s no secret that the girls team is eying much of the same success as it has achieved in recent years.

“This team has the ability to continue the tradition that previous teams have established and we look forward to seeing the improvements that they will be able to make throughout the season,” McKown said. “Our team goal is to have everyone improve throughout the season, to become closer as a team and to compete for conference, regional and team state championships. We were able to get to the track earlier than we did in comparison to last season (due to weather), but we are just taking it one day at a time and making the best use of the time and space that we have available. You never quite know what the weather will do in Michigan during the spring.”

The boys, under the guidance of 16th year head coach Adam Burhans are coming off back-to-back MITCA state championships, four straight regional titles, 15 consecutive JPC crowns and they were also MHSAA state champions.

“Like every other team in the state, we are rusty and still waking up from hibernation,” he said. “So far, our work ethic is very solid and much potential is seen in a lot of areas. The expectation is for every athlete to work hard and for every athlete to hold each other accountable. If we take care of these focus areas, success will follow.”

Returning for the boys team will be seniors Brendan Sersaw (all-state sprints), Jake Hawley (all-state sprints), Jayce Miller (mid-distance state qualifier), Dylan Morrish (mid-distance state qualifier), Myles Williamson (hurdles),Mitch McDowell (high jump), Dustin VanSicklen and Michael Horbatuik.

juniors Colt Smedley (all-state sprints), Drew Schuster (state qualifying sprinter), David Good (sprints), Aidan Boyd (sprints), Alec Hoffman (throws), Shane Jenkins (pole vault), Mitch McDowell (high jump) and Kaleb Schroeder (mid-distance).

All-Conference distance runners; Myles Williamson, senior, All-Conference hurdler; Dustin VanSicklen and Michael Horbatuik, seniors, All-Conference throwers; Alec Hoffman, junior, All-Conference vaulter; Shane Jenkins, junior, All-Conference high jumper; Mitch McDowell, Senior, All-Conference high jumper; Kaleb Schroeder, Junior, All-Conference runner.

New to the team will be seniors Caleb Camp (multiple events), Nick Roe (multiple events), juniors Dylan Schalm (throws), Cristian Kunse (throws), Tiernan Gallagher (throws), sophomores Bruer Staley (pole vault), Scott Rodenbo (distance), Kaleb Brewer (hurdles) and freshmen John Marshall (high jump), Aiden Paisley (pole vault), Deven Pawlowski (multiple events), Matt Harton (sprints).

Also on the roster are Trent Cook, Ben Wood and Jack Kingsley, as they look to fill out the jumps and sprint events.

“(We are) establishing our identity and working on believable individual and team goals,” Burhans said. “We are also focused on not getting wrapped up in last year’s success. We can only be who we are with what we have. And what we have is potentially very special. We are hoping for our identity to grow and evolve as the weather improves. It’s a fun group to work with.”

Clare hosts Meridian and Gladwin in its JPC opening tri-meet on Monday and hosts Beaverton April 24.

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