by nathan oster
Apparently no one told Mother Nature that the track and field season in Wyoming was going to begin on Monday, March 5.
Practices began with a blanket of snow covering the Greybull High School track, which forced Coach Jeff Sukut to keep his athletes inside for most of the week, until a warming trend brought some much needed relief.
The GHS athletes spent part of their practice on Friday clearing the remaining snow off the track with shovels.
“First time we’ve ever had to do that,” said Jeff Sukut, who is in his 21st season as the head track and field coach at GHS.
The Buffs have reasons to be eager to get to work.
Sukut begins the season with seven returning letter winners, all of them on the girls’ side.
McKenzie Mazur is the most accomplished, earning all-conference honors last year as a sophomore. She placed first in the long jump and second in the high jump at regionals before taking fourth in both events at the state meet.
Seniors Brittany Ogg and Paige Flock and junior Sydney Tschiffely are also returning regional placers, although none of them placed at state.
Sukut said he’s also eager to see what a talented group of freshmen can do, citing the success at the middle school level of distance runner Brooke Flock, shot put and discus thrower Shayla Cheatham and sprinter/jumper Monique Velasquez, to name just a few. Other girls on this year’s squad include freshman Kaylyn Burns, sophomore Angel Moon, and juniors Heidi Araiza, Ivette Gutierrez and Eden Hanson.
There are fewer proven athletes on the boys’ side. Of the 21 athletes on the GHS roster, just nine are boys, a list headed by junior James Robertson. Because he was a transfer, he was ineligible to compete last year. So he spent the season working out with the team and going to meets.
“I’d look for him to score some points for us this year in the sprints,” said Sukut.
The other boys on the team include freshmen Caleb Bottom, Jesus Hernandez, Dale McBride, Gaven McColloch and Paul Shelly; sophomore Branden Welsh and juniors Zack Keisel and Ian Vannasdale.
Speaking of that grouping, Sukut said he believes McColloch will contribute as a distance runner, Bottom in the jumps, Keisel in the shot and discus and Vannasdale in the sprints.
“Overall, we’ve got a talented group of boys and girls,” he said. “What’s really nice this year is that I’ll have some speed and distance runners, so we should be able to fill our relay teams.”
Athletes who have logged at least nine practices will be eligible to compete at the Cougar Invitational Saturday in Pavillion. Start time is 10 p.m. For the rest, the target might be the annual Bill Gerrard Memorial Invitational Saturday, March 24 on the GHS track.
Sukut said he plans to use the first couple of meets to get to know his athletes and their strengths a little better. It’s a crucial step on the way to maximizing their talents, he said.
“With the upperclassmen, we know which direction they’ll probably be going,” he said. “It’ll just be nice to get everyone on the track this week.”