by nathan oster
For athletes from Greybull and the surrounding area, the opening act of the 2013 track season will play out Saturday when the Buffs host their annual early bird meet, the Bill Gerrard Memorial Invitational.
Action is set to begin at 10 a.m. — weather permitting of course. And as of Tuesday afternoon, that was a big “if.” At that time, the National Weather Service website was predicting snow flurries and highs in the 30s.
Coach Jeff Sukut said he’s as eager as anyone to get his first glimpse of his athletes in action.
As he sat down to preview the season earlier this week, Sukut admitted that not even he knows what to expect from this year’s team, which enters the year with only one athlete, McKenna Powers, who qualified for the state meet a season ago.
Powers, a junior, is the team’s most accomplished returnee. She placed in the top seven in all four of her individual events at the regional meet, then built on that in the state competition in Casper, finishing fifth in the triple jump, fifth in the 800, eighth in the 400 and 15th in the long jump.
This year, Powers will again have something to overcome. She suffered a concussion midway through the girls’ basketball season and didn’t return. But Sukut said she’s been looking good thus far in practice, returning to the form that she showed in her sophomore season.
“I’m expecting good things from McKenna,” he said, adding that she’ll likely continue on in her specialty events — the 400, 800, triple jump and long jump. Sukut said he thinks her best events are the 400 and the 800.
The other returnee this year is Kenzie Bollig. Like Powers, she’s a dual threat, specializing in the sprints (100 and 200) and the triple jump. Last year as a freshman, she placed 9th in the 200, 12th in the 100 and 15th in the triple jump at the regional meet.
Rounding out the girls team this year are newcomers Brittany Cheatham, a senior; juniors Alex Preis and Anne McBride; sophomores Chai Durfee and Lynae McBride and freshmen Aftin DeRosa, Jessica Dowling, Sydney Eckman, Brittany Fink and Florina Villegas.
Sukut said he’s hopeful of forming 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams from the ranks of those girls.
The boys team has no returning state qualifiers, but several with previous track experience, including senior Dylan Brenner (a sprinter), Wyatt Good and Wyatt Nielson (hurdlers), Logan Jensen (discus) and Calder Forcella (discus and sprints).
“They’re all a year older and a year stronger,” Sukut said of his returnees. “I’m looking for good things from all of them this year.”
Chris Ogg technically falls under the category of “returnee,” but will be shelved this year due to a knee injury he sustained in football.
Kyler Flock, a junior who is in his first year at GHS, also has previous track experience, Sukut said, adding that he looks like a good runner.
The rest of the boys’ roster includes senior Herme Mendez; juniors Paul Stewart (also injured at the present time), Payton Gonzalez, Alex Hebb and Jarrod Johnson; sophomores Keegan Jenness, Gerald Fulkerson, Ryan Sylvester, Daniel Kinsman and Nicky Murdoch; and freshmen Cesar Sosa, Treston Tracy, Jake LaFollette and Kyle Collingwood.
As with the girls, Sukut said he’s hopeful of forming several boys relay teams this season.
“I’m excited about the season,” said Sukut.
As for the Class 2A Northwest Conference, Sukut said there’s no dispute. Lovell is loaded on both the boys and girls sides and should be among the favorites to capture 2A titles at the state meet in Casper.
“Hopefully we’ll be somewhere in the middle of the pack in the conference,” said Sukut. “We’ll know more after the rubber meets the road during competition. It’s early in the season. It will take us a little while to get in shape and get to where we want to be as individuals and as a team.”
Saturday’s meet will give Sukut a good indication of his team’s potential this season.
“We’ll establish some base times and distances, when possible compare them to where kids left off last year, and then start building a good training regimen based on that information,” he said.
The meet should be a small one on Saturday. Lovell, for example, is attending a larger meet in Cody. But several area teams will join the Buffs in Greybull, including conferences foes Rocky Mountain and Riverside, as well as 1A powerhouse Burlington.