CENTERBURG — If past success is a predictor of future success, then the Centerburg track & field team was well on its way to a great season. The Trojans featured a state-qualifying relay team and eight athletes that qualified for regional last year in Division III.
Add to that a group of distance runners fresh off a trip to the Division III state meet last fall.
“We were really looking forward to this season, especially our girls team,” Dodrill said. “We had returning state qualifiers back. We had lots of regional qualifiers back. Our girls did really well in the cross country state meet this year. All of those girls were going to be running. We also had a few sprinters (back). So, we had lots of talent coming back on our girls side.”
The girls team had to replace Lindsey Dore, Savannah Gammel, Halle Moreland, Dreanna Perry, Sarah Thatcher and Elise Tucker off a girls team that finished second in the Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference.
Aeryn Walters, Elise Tucker, Abigail Dickhof and Avery Tucker qualified for the Division III state meet last year in the 4×800-meter relay. The Trojans return three of those runners in Walters, who is now a senior, and Dickhof and Avery Tucker, who are both sophomores.
Walters, Dickhof, Avery Tucker and McKenna Hennell, now a junior, also qualified for regional in the 4×400-meter relay.
“I think we were going to do really well this year,” Walters said. “We lost a couple of seniors (from last year), but most of us were coming back. We knew what we had to do. I think we would have broken some records or at least set a lot of PR’s. I think we were all excited about (the season).
Sophomore Chloe Goulter returns as well. She qualified for regional in the 100-meter dash, the 4×100-meter relay and the long jump. Goulter competed in both track and softball last spring, but decided to compete in track this season.
Senior Tori Walschott was on the 4×100 relay with Goulter.
The boys team, which finished sixth in the KMAC last year, returned both of its regional qualifers in Ethan Barton and fellow junior Ben Riegel. Barton qualified in the long jump and Riegel qualified in discus and shot put.
Other regional qualifiers last year were Dickhof in the 800-meter run, junior MaKenna Hennell in the 1600-meter run and Avery Tucker in the 400-meter dash.
With all of the talent coming back, the season never got underway. The season was postponed in March before ultimately being canceled in late April.
“I talked to my teammates all the time and we were all excited,” Walters said. “When we heard that we weren’t going to be able to run, especially not be able to run together, it kind of stung because we had a lot of plans. I thought we were going to do really well.”
Senior Caila Schmitz, sophomore Ella Paul also returned from last year’s team and junior Gracie Wolford was a newcomer that would have made an impact on the girls team.
Senior Chandler Reisen; Juniors Ethan Barton, Alex Grove and Gavin Wilson and sophomore Lane Johnson were returning sprinters from last year’s team. Freshman Tyler Johnson would have also made an impact for the Trojans this season.
The Centerburg cross country team finished sixth in the state last fall and all of the girls that ran that race were going to run distance. Avery Tucker, Walters, Hannell, Abigail Dickhof, senior Emma Dickhof, junior Rebecca Scholl and senior Elizabeth Ursich.
“Looking back on it, if I knew that was going to be my last race ever, I would have run a lot harder than I did,” Walters said. “I still ran pretty well, but if I would have known that that was going to be my last race ever, I would have put a lot more into it. But I guess not a lot of people can say that they ended at a state meet.”
It was a bit of a cautionary tale when Walters talked to her younger teammates.
Walters couldn’t help but feel a little envious for the underclassmen.
“I told them, ‘I feel really jealous of you guys right now,’” she said. “‘Take advantage of the time that you do have. Work hard because you never know when it’s going to be your last race or your last game. You don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. So, try to enjoy it all.’”
“As soon as cross country had ended, she was already training for track,” Dodrill said. “We started preseason workouts in December and she was one that never missed. She really had improved and we were really looking forward to seeing (the benefits of) all of her efforts.”
Also running distance were seniors Lydia Grandstaff and Aubrey Perry.
Boys distance runners are senior Will Carlisle; juniors Blake Bland, Blake Johnson, Jacob Leber, Dylan Melick and Justin Orr and sophomores Travis Thomas and Tim Wheeler all return from last year’s team with newcomer Gavin Wright.
Senior Garrett Campos; juniors Alex Grove, Ian McKnight and John Wharton also return from last year’s team as throwers. Junior Ben Day, sophomore Mike Kaiser and freshman Nathan Langhorn were newcomers for the Trojans.
“We were really excited to see the improvements made this year by (the boys team),” Dodrill said. “We had a really good group of throwers. Our younger sprinters are stronger and more mature and our distance runners has grown. There were some additional guys added in from cross country and those guys work really hard too.”
The Trojan girls throwers will have to replace regional qualifier Halle Moreland in shot put. Junior Sarah Hibbits returned from last season and senior Hannah Crouse and freshman Amani Marshall were newcomers.
Goulter, Walshott, Schmitz and Scholl returned to jump for the girls team and Barton, Wharton and Wilson on the boys team.
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