by nathan oster
Greybull High School athletes are scheduled to see their first competitive action of the spring on Saturday when they host the annual Bill Gerrard Invitational. Field events start at 10 a.m., with running events to follow at approximately 11:30 a.m.
Coach Jeff Sukut has 23 athletes — 18 boys and five girls — and it’s once again a young group, with 11 freshmen, three sophomores, five juniors and five seniors.
McKenna Powers, Aftin DeRosa and Sydney Eckman are the three returning letter-winners on the girls’ side.
Powers, the only senior of the bunch, placed fourth in the open 800 and sixth in the triple jump at last year’s state meet. She reported to camp in good condition after spending the winter running indoor track with the Worland Warriors.
Sukut said that in addition to the 800 and the triple jump, Powers will also probably run the 400 meters and possibly even the 300-meter hurdles, “which I think she’ll be very good at,” he said. Powers hasn’t run the 300 in the past, but her stamina and speed should more than make up for any flaws in her technique, said Sukut.
Eckman, a sophomore, placed ninth — one spot out of qualifying for state — in the 400 meters last year at the regional meet. She was also a jumper, but a broken finger will likely prevent her from doing much of that early this season.
“I’m looking for her to probably find a place in the 400,” he said. “She missed qualifying last year by just a half second.”
Sukut said he is also looking for improvement from Aftin DeRosa, another sophomore who showed good potential last year in the sprints.
Joining those three returning letterwinners are a pair of freshmen in Hannah Good and Alexandria Foster.
The boys team figures to be stronger, thanks to a “very talented and deep” freshman class who will supplement an already solid core of letterwinners that includes Cesar Sosa, Nick Murdoch, Daniel Kinsman, Ryan Sylvester, Calder Forcella, Alex Hebb, Kyler Flock and Logan Jensen.
Jensen is the top returnee, having placed fifth in the discus last year as a junior.
“I’m to see more good things from him this year,” said Sukut.
Hebb was on cusp of placing at the state meet, but finished 10th — two spots out of medaling — in the long jump. “A year older and stronger,” Hebb “should do well this season,” according to Sukut, who added that he figures to run the 100, the 200 and on the 400-meter relay team.
Hebb was a part of the foursome that captured fourth place at the state meet last season. Joining him on that squad were Kyler Flock and Calder Forcella, both of whom return, and Dylan Brenner, who graduated in the spring.
“We need to find one replacement,” said Sukut. “We were happy with our placing — and we were competitive throughout the season. But at state, we ran in the slowest heat. We didn’t get to run in the fast heat, and that makes a difference.”
Sukut said a number of kids, including several freshmen, are auditioning for that fourth spot on the relay.
Another returnee with quality experience is Forcella, who placed 10th in the discus at state despite having one of the best 2A throws of the regular season. A year older and stronger, and with the newness of the state meet out of the way, he should fare better this year, said Sukut, adding that Forcella will also run in the sprints.
Kyler Flock, who like Powers ran indoor track for Worland, will be a contender in the 400 meters, as well as a member of the 400-meter relay squad. He didn’t qualify to run the 400 at the state meet, but is “looking good, both in terms of form and conditioning” through the first two weeks of practice.
“Kyler should be in the ballpark for making some noise at regionals, and maybe at state, too,” said Sukut.
Wyatt Nielson, a hurdler, should also be a contributor for the Buffs, as should Ryan Sylvester. A junior, Sylvester missed a lot of time last year due to other activities, including Science Fair, but is good to go this year. He’s primarily a jumper, but will also do some running for the Buffs.
The complete list of boys includes seniors Hebb and Jensen, juniors Forcella, Kinsman, Murdoch and Nielson, sophomores Sosa and Mason Stebner and freshmen Cade Dooley, Elias Ewen, Dustin Fox, Jacob Harrold, Dawson McEwan, Dylan McEwan, Clancy Stoffers and Dante Sylvester.
“I’m really happy with that group of freshmen … to have as many of them as I have,” said Sukut. “I always tell the kids, track may not have to be their No. 1 sport, but my role as track coach is to improve their athleticism, their speed, their coordination and their flexibility, all of which should pay off in their other sports — whether it be volleyball, basketball and football.”
Sukut said his goal, as always, is to get as many athletes as possible qualified for the state meet. “Looking at the numbers, we’ve got a young squad again,” said Sukut. “The talent pool, especially with the freshman boys, is good. And with the assets we already have in place, I’m hoping we can put together a boys team that is a little more competitive this year.
“For the girls, the numbers dictate that the focus is going to have to be on seeing their times and distances improve as the season progresses.”
The Bill Gerrard Invitational has its usual place on the spring schedule, going first and on the same weekend as a larger meet in Cody that is expected to attract the larger 2A and 3A schools of the area.
The Greybull meet will be “primarily a 1A and 2A meet,” said Sukut, noting that the field is likely to include Burlington, Ten Sleep, Meeteetse, Rocky Mountain, Riverside and possibly some athletes from Lovell.
“We like smaller meets, particularly at this early stage of the season,” said Sukut. “Some of our younger kids will have opportunities to place — and that will in turn give them more confidence in their abilities.”