by nathan oster
If the weatherman can be trusted, area track and field athletes will see sunny skies and highs approaching 70 degrees when they open their season Saturday on the newly-resurfaced oval at Greybull High School.
The Bill Gerrard Invitational is expected to attract the usual eight or nine teams, most of them from the 1A and 2A ranks. Field events start at 10 a.m., with the running events to follow at approximately 11 a.m.
Coach Jeff Sukut begins the season with decent numbers — the roster stood at 26 Monday morning and was expected to grow by one or two by week’s end — but says his GHS team lacks experience.
He’s banking on his five returning state qualifiers to set the tone for this year’s squad. The list includes junior Sydney Eckman on the girls side and seniors Ryan Sylvester, Calder Forcella, Wyatt Nielson and sophomore Cade Dooley.
Eckman finished last season on a high note, running her best time of the season and finishing one spot out of the medals in the 800 meters. Sukut said he’s looking for more good things from her this season.
Sylvester and Forcella formed two of the four legs of the Greybull 400-meter relay team, which placed second in 2A in a time of 45.36 seconds, one of the fastest efforts in GHS history. They’ll run on relay teams this year too.
Forcella will also be a factor in the throwing events — he placed at state in the discus and is also strong in the shot put — while Sylvester figures to be entered in some jumping events in addition to his baton-toting duty.
Nielson is going to throw the discus — he qualified for state in the event last year — and run the hurdles.
Dooley qualified for state in the 300 hurdles and in the high jump. He didn’t place in either of them, but gained valuable experience that should pay dividends this year and beyond.
Sukut’s roster, as of Monday morning, featured seven seniors, seven juniors, seven sophomores and five freshmen.
The other seniors, in addition to Forcella, Nielson and Sylvester, include Chris Ogg (a standout hurdler as a freshman, he’s returning to the sport after battling injuries the past two seasons), Nick Murdoch (throwing events), Emma Nelson (a distance runner, now battling an ankle injury) and Justin Bacus (throwing events, sprints).
The junior team members, in addition to Eckman, include letter winners Aftin DeRosa (sprints, jumping events), who came within a place of qualifying for state last year in the long jump, and Cesar Sosa, who begins the season in good shape after running indoor track with Worland; as well as newcomers to the program Karla Corral, Diamond Bolton, Zack Zeller and Lane Nielsen.
Elias Ewen, Hanna Good, Dylan McEwan, Mason Stebner, Dante Sylvester, Jake Harrold and Dooley are the sophomores on the team, while the freshmen include Joslyn Alonzo, Kadence Kinsman, Paige Flock, Serenity Kinswoman and Brittany Ogg.”
From those ranks, Sukut said he hopes to form competitive relay teams in both the boys and girls divisions. With Forcella and Sylvester back in the mix, the boys 400-meter crew should be particularly formidable.
It all starts Saturday.
“This is what I call a baseline meet,” said Sukut. “Generally the kids who are coming back are in most of the events they were in last year. For the incoming freshmen, we’ve talked about what they did at the middle school level. I’ve given them some leeway about what they want to run for this first meet. As time goes on, and I see them in practice and in meets, I’ll have a better sense of where they are going to fit in.”
Sukut said his goal for the year is “the same as it is every year — to get as many to regionals, and then on to state, as we possibly can. I always tell the kids, my job as coach is to make you as proficient in your events as I possibly can. The ribbons, the medals, the placings are all wonderful, but I just want them to be successful … and have a lot of fun along the way.”
Volunteers are still needed to run Saturday’s track meet. If you’d like to help, contact either Sukut or GHS activities director Nolan Tracy at 765-2537.