Skys the limit for Clare track

March 30, 2017

By Ben Murphy
Sports Correspondent

The Clare track teams have never been strangers to success. Last spring was no different as the Lady Pioneers won the Division III MITCA Team State Championships, was regional champion, won the Jack Pine Conference and placed fourth in the division three state finals. This spring looks to be much the same as the girls have a roster brimming with all-state talent.

“We have an experienced, strong and balanced group of returning athletes and an awesome group of incoming freshmen that make this a very exciting group to work with,” sixth year head coach Kyle McKown said. “We will be working hard to continue to improve in all areas and will be looking to make steady gains throughout the entire season.”

Returning from last year’s team are seniors Kasey Staley (two-time all-state, 2016 state champion in pole vault), Jasmine Harper (six time-all state, 1600, 3200), Lexy Harton (two time all-state, 800 relay, 1600 relay), Lexy Lowe (state qualifier in 400 meter relay), Madi Warner (high jump, hurdles), Holly Pummell (distance), Jordyn Bradley (distance), Selena Dole (pole vault), Carea Mullin (throws), Ashley Boulis (distance), juniors Ellie Johnson (two time all-state, 800 meter relay, 1600 meter relay), Natalle Kunse (state qualifier in discus and 3200 meter relay), Erin Weeks (state qualifier, 400 meter relay), Emily Austin (throws), Leah Canel (throws), Montana Blain (distance), Ellie Kaechele (distance), sophomores Lainey Veenkant (three time all-state, 1600, 3200, 1600 relay), Olivia Haring (state qualifier in 3200 meter relay), Kayden Barber (hurdles), Katelyn Bay (sprints, throws, jumps), Makenzie Bryans (sprints), Desiree Cole (distance), Grace Gomez (pole vault, jumps), Kyle Hoffman (distance, throws), Sophia Paez (sprints), Danielle Vanksicklen (mid-distance), Regan Weeks (hurdles) and Tarryn Winter (mid-distance).

“We are thankful to have as many hard working girls on the team that we do and we hope to be strong in as many events as possible,” McKown said. “Vaults, sprints and distance are all events that feature returning athletes who earned all-state honors last season. Harper, Staley, Harton, Johnson, Weeks and Lowe have all earned all-state honors in previous years of track and field and along with many other leaders on the team, they will be looked upon to help guide the team this season.”

New to the team are seniors Kathryn Longton (throws), Julie Lyu (distance) and Julia Wetzer (sprints, jumps), juniors Kaitlyn Heatley (sprints) and Katie Rahl (distance), sophomores Klara Krumey (hurdles) and Kennedy Blackburn (throws) and freshmen Jenna Betts (jumps) McKinzee Stinson (throws), Emmah Coker (jumps), Alana Stickler (throws), Olivia Cook (sprints), Hailey Curtis (throws), Gwen Sherwood (sprints), Briyanna Smith (distance), Emma Davison (distance), McKenzie Grant (throws), Kameron Haag (distance), Grace Parsons (throws), Payton Pace (jumps) and Madisen McNeilly (sprints).

“We are hoping that our younger athletes can help to provide depth in all events and to make their mark,” McKown said. “We are looking to get stronger and add more depth in long jump, high jump, hurdles and throws.”

It should come as no surprise that their goals are as high as ever. “We want to be able to compete with the best teams in the conference, regional and throughout the state, to grow throughout the entire season as a team and to continue to make big improvements so that we are at our best at the end of the season,” McKown said. “We have been working hard, becoming closer as a team and hope to progressively improve as the season goes on. Our experienced coaching staff continues to bring out the best in all of our athletes as we appreciate all that they do. Our team wouldn’t be where they are without their help. Coach Doug Haggart, Coach Jeanie Canel (throws), Coach TJ Staley (pole vault), Dr. Kurt Keppner (high jump), Alexis Elliott (distance), Mallory McDowell (sprints), Taylor Ensley (long jump) and Kaitlyn White (hurdles) are essential to the success of this team.”

The boys are coming off an extremely successful 2016 campaign as well. They won their 13th straight JPC title, won their second straight regional title and placed third at the state meet.

“So far, this is the biggest team I’ve ever coached,” 14th year head coach Adam Burhans said. “We are loaded with potential and this will make for some very long days and nights, for good reason.”

Seniors returning to the team are Ben Haupt (all-conference, state qualifier, 3200), Jake Stickler (all-conference, shot put), Christian Kuhns (all-conference, 300 hurdles, vault), Hunter Schaaf (all-conference, sprint relay, pole vault), Brandon Zinser (state qualifier, sprint relay), juniors Zac Stickler (all-conference, state qualifier, shot put), Noah Nivison (all-conference, state qualifier, discus), Justin Tickle (all-conference, state qualifier, sprint relay), Xavier Martin (state qualifier, sprint relay), Bryce Dangler (all-conference, mid-distance), Tad Matiza (all-conference, sprint relay) and sophomores David Good (all-conference, state qualifier, 3200), Brenden Seraw (state qualifier, sprint relay) and Jayce Miller (all-conference, 3200).

“We are more sprint heavy than normal, which is a good problem to have, but we are about as balanced across every event as we have been in some time. Our mid-distance will get a boost as well. We are looking for obvious improvement in the jumps and hurdles this year.”

New to the team is senior Nick Wenk (mid-distance), juniors Ross Benchley (pole vault), Ryan Pummell (hurdles), Amante Young (jumps), sophomore Mitch McDowell (jumps) and freshmen Brody Allbee (mid-distance), Shane Jenkins (jumps), Christian Kunse (jumps), Matt Thompson (jumps), Colt Smedley (sprints), Alec Hauffmann (sprints), Jacob Kingsley (sprints), Brecken Corp (sprints), Tony Cowles (throws), Skyler Sundayd (pole vault) and Kaleb Schroeder (distance).

“We want to retain the conference and regional title and go for a trophy in the MITCA (team state finals),” Burhans said. “Last year we were down a few key players, plus we were a little flat at last year’s state championship. We are once again hosting the team state championship and placing higher than third is our ultimate goal.”

So as the days get warmer, the Pioneers hope to heat up too as they aim for another banner year. “Working together as a collective family is always our strong suit and these guys are pretty close,” Burhans said. “They are very self-sufficient and trustworthy. We have lots of youth and they follow directions well. We have good leaders and a smart workout plan for all. There’s an early vibe with this team that is pretty special. They are all working hard.”

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