LINDSBORG – In 2023 the goal for the Smoky Valley track/field team will be to three-peat as girls state Class 3A champions while the Viking boys look to finish in the top ten for 2023.
Viking head coach Jay Myers begins his 30th season as a Viking track/field coach of which the past eight have been as the head coach while 16 of the 30 have also been as head coach among three different time frames. In 2022, coach Myers earned coach of the year honors from the Kansas Coaches Association, the KSHSAA, and NFHS as well as Sectional Coach of the Year for coaches covering Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, South and North Dakota and Minnesota.
Continuity in the coaching staff is a key to the Viking success as Kristin Nelson begins her 27th season as coach of the jumps, Ben Elliott is in his 24th season overseeing throwing events, Christine Deterding in in year 23 coaching the relays as well as the 400 and 800 meter runs while Jenica Rose has been an assistant head coach of the senior team as well as head middle school coach for 19 seasons. Deterding and Tim Lambert (pole vaults) were named 2022 assistant coaches of the year by the Kansas Track/Field Cross County Coaches Association.
Looking to three-peat as state champions, the Lady Vikings return 13 letter winners including sophomores Katja Blanchat, Sophia Fruits, Nevaeh Spitler, and Jaida Weis; juniors Anastacia Barve, Hope Duncan, Clara McElroy, Keira Mullen, and Breanne Peters; along with seniors Gabby Behanna, Jillian Fishback, Madi Oakes, and Noelle Peters.
Returnees include 12 medals from the 2022 state meet as Breanne Peters scored four medals with a gold in the 200 meters, second place in both the pole vault and 100 meters while finishing sixth in the long jump. Noelle Peters tied for fourth in the pole vault while finishing second on the 4×400 meters and sixth in the 4×800 meters. Keira Mullen had a pair of medals by running a leg on the first-place 4×800 meters and being on the second-place 4×400 meters. Blanchat ran a leg on the 4×800 meters champion team, while Clara McElroy and Gabby Behanna each had legs on the sixth place 4×100 meter relay quartet.
“Our girls won the Central Kansas League championship for the fourth year in a row while also getting a second straight state title,” noted coach Myers. We lost two key graduates in Abby Rose and Gracie Lambert, both won state titles last season with Rose running the fasted 400 meters of all classes while Lambert ran the fasted 800 meters in Class 3A. We just have not had enough girls interested in the throwing events, though we do have a large number wanting to try to throw the javelin. We hope to continue to improve in our jumping and hurdle events with both being on an upward curve this spring. We will have openings in our relays and have four to six Lady Vikings who have run them from time to time, it will be fun to see who steps up.”
For the Viking boys, coach Myers will have 15 letter winners to work with in 2023 including sophomore Gavin Stambaugh; juniors with Ki Blanchat, Brayden Eyer, and Samuel Peterson; to go along with 10 seniors in Jerome Autry, Justice Autry, Zach Gross, Justin Holt, Wyatt Johnson, Mason Morel, Vincent Pickering, Karson Pihl, Tytus Reed, and Trystan Stambaugh.
Reed is the lone returnee from the 2022 state champion 4×800 meter relay team.
In talking about the boys team, coach Myers added, “The boys finished third in the league and tied for 13th at the state meet in 2022. While the 4×100 meter relay team missed qualifying for state by .01, we used a combo of six or seven guys last season and they all return. The 4×800 meter state champions ran their best race in Wichita, unfortunately three members (Justice Gardner, Lukas Appel, and Garrett Huffman) graduated. We could be a pretty solid team but need to continue with progress in the throws and jumps. We could use some help from the incoming freshmen but I do not know how many of them we will get though there would be some potential upside. Our strength of the boys team will be the sprints and our amazing number of seniors.”
Coach Myers concluded his reflections on the upcoming 2023 season by saying, “What happens each year in track/field is letterwinners or provisional letterwinners either try another sport or opt out entirely or have carryover injuries from other things. We will be missing three boys and three girls who quite possibly would have helped us. We will have to improve on overall attendance issues to reach our goals. I really care more about how we go about our business and how we compete rather than personal records and team success. Those things will take care of themselves. In the past we have had seasons where we haven’t finished high in team standings, but our young athlete’s attitudes and performances made us just as proud of them as the years we have gotten accolades. We point at the league meet first and foremost but always like to get as many to the state meet as possible. We would always like to do well and compete well at our home meets. That being said, this year, due to renovations at Bethany Stadium, our ‘home meets’ will be held at Southeast of Saline.”
The Viking boys and girls track/field teams will open the 2023 schedule on Thursday, March 30 at the McPherson Invitational before traveling to Marion of an Invitational on Thursday, April 6.
LADY VIKINGS Leaders for 2023:
Katja Blanchat – sophomore – sprints, mid-distance runs – 2022 > 4th in 400 meters at CKL; 1st in 4×800 meter relay at State.
Nevaeh Spitler – sophomore – sprints, jumps, mid-distance runs.
Jaida Weis – sophomore – throwing events.
Anastacia Barve – junior – sprints, jumping events – 2022 > 6th in high jump at CKL. Will not be able to do 2023 due to a leg injury.
Hope Duncan – junior – hurdles, jumping events – 2022 > 4th in high jump at CKL.
Clara McElroy – junior – hurdles, sprints – 2022 > 3rd in high hurdles, 4th in 4×100 meters, 1st in low hurdles at CKL; 6th in 4×100 meters, qualified in high hurdles at State.
Keira Mullen – junior – sprints, mid-distance events, javelin – 2022 > 2nd in javelin, 4th in 800 meters, 1st in 4×400 meters, 1 in 4×800 meters at CKL; 1st in 4×800 meters, 2nd in 4×400 meters, qualified for 800 meters at State – injured foot in wrestling, will be out until early April, state champion in wrestling.
Breanne Peters – junior – springs, jumping events, pole vault – 2022 > 2nd in pole vault, 2nd in long jump, 2nd in 100 meters, 2nd in 200 meters at CKL; 6th in long jump, 2nd in 100 meters, 2nd in pole vault, 1st in 200 meters at State.
Gabby Behanna – senior – sprints, jumping events – 2022 > 4th in 4×100 meters at CKL; 6th in 4×100 meters at State.
Jillian Fishback – senior – sprints, jumping events.
Madi Oakes – senior – sprints, javelin – 2022 > 4th in 4×100 meters at CKL.
Noelle Peters – senior – sprints, jumping events, pole vault – 2022 > 4th in 4×100 meters, 1st in 4×400 meters, 4th in pole vault at CKL; 6th in 4×100 meters, tied-4th in pole vault, 2nd in 4×400 meters at State.
Viking Boys Leaders for 2023:
Gavin Stambaugh – sophomore – sprints – 2022 > 5th in 200 meters, 3rd in 4×100 meters at CKL.
Ki Blanchat – junior – sprints, jumping events – 2022 > 2nd in 400 meters.
Brayden Eyer – junior – distance runs.
Samuel Peterson – mid-distance, distance runs, pole vault – 2022 > 6th in 3,200 meters at CKL.
Jerome Autry – senior – sprints – 2022 > 1st in 100 meters, 3rd in 4×100 meters, 2nd in 4×400 meters at CKL; 3rd in 4×400 meters at State.
Justice Autry – senior – sprints.
Zach Gross – senior – sprints – 2022 > 3rd in 4×100 meters at CKL.
Justin Holt – senior – throwing events.
Wyatt Johnson – senior – sprints – 2022 > 3rd in 4×100 meters, 2nd in 4×400 meters at CKL; 3rd in 4×400 meters at State.
Mason Morel – senior – throwing events.
Vincent Pickering – senior – jumping events, mid-distance runs, hurdles – 2022 > 5th in 300-meter intermediate hurdles at CKL.
Karson Pihl – senior – sprints, mid-distance runs.
Tytus Reed – senior – mid-distance and distance runs – 2022 > 1st in 1,600 meters, 1st in 4×800 meters, 2nd in 4×400 meters at CKL; 1st in 4×800 meters, 8th in 800 meters, 3rd in 4×400 meters at State.
Trystan Stambaugh – senior – throwing events.
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