Blue Jays set for indoor seasonWho says you can’t run track and field when there’s still snow on the ground? The specks of snow still remaining and sub 50-degree temperatures don’t bother the Blue Jay track and field team; they will just take the competition indoors. The girls start today with the West Region girls’ indoor meet in Bismarck, while the boys open competition Monday in Minot with the West Region boys’ indoor meet.
Who says you can’t run track and field when there’s still snow on the ground?
The specks of snow still remaining and sub 50-degree temperatures don’t bother the Blue Jay track and field team; they will just take the competition indoors.
The girls start today with the West Region girls’ indoor meet in Bismarck, while the boys open competition Monday in Minot with the West Region boys’ indoor meet.
“They used to run the boys and girls together all in one meet,” said Jays boys coach Ken Gardner. “A couple years ago they tried to get them all in Minot and we didn’t get back (to Jamestown) until almost 2:30 in the morning because the meet took forever.”
The Jays have been limited with their practicing facilities thus far, so Gardner said the opener will not only test the athlete’s skill but also give them a better feel prior to heading outdoors.
“For most of our indoor meets it’s going to be more of a glorified practice,” he said. “We don’t have the full indoor facility to do a lot, so it will be nice to get to be able to go to some of these places — like Minot and Bismarck — and get on an actual 1,600-meter track. We’re just trying to build right now to get ready for the outdoor season.”
The boys have a few voids to fill this season, especially with the loss of Andy Lillejord.
Lillejord won the long jump and triple jump at the state meet last season as a senior, while also finishing second in the pole vault and third in the high jump.
Justin Slusser, who was also a senior last year with the Jays, finished sixth in both the 1600-meter run and seventh in the 3200-meter run. He also helped the 4x800-meter relay team to a runner-up finish.
Joining him on the relay team was brother Jordan Slusser, who also finished sixth in the 800-meter run and eighth in the 1600-meter run.
“It hurts to lose some of those guys, but I think we’ll be pretty well rounded,” he said. “We’ll be able to score points in quite a few different events.”
Gardner added that he believes the high jump could be the team’s best event, especially at this juncture of the season.
“Right now we’ve got probably four guys who are at the 5-8 or higher point,” said Gardner. “Maybe as the season goes on they will have the capability of 5-10 or better.”
Brian Sinner, who finished fifth last season as a junior at state, is leading the pack heading into the season opener.
“He already cleared 6-2 in practice the other day,” Gardner said. “We’re expecting some big things out of him.”
Junior Matt Johnson should be a strong candidate for the Jays this season in the horizontal jumps.
“He was a place-winner at the state meet in the triple jump last year,” Gardner said. “He should do pretty well again this year.”
Johnson finished fifth at state in the triple jump, five spots behind teammate and champion Lillejord.
Senior sprinter Ryan Benke was one of the leading scorers as a freshman, but then midway through his sophomore season he suffered a hamstring injury that hindered his performance throughout the remainder of his sophomore year and well into his junior campaign.
“He’s been working out all year,” said Gardner. “Now he seems to be getting ready to go for this year.”
William Swanson also returns for his senior year as a sprinter.
“We’re looking for some big things from those guys,” Gardner said of the two seniors.
Tyler Meilke placed fourth in the shot put last season as a junior, so he brings a lot to the table, while Spencer Kamoni, Rob Moseng and Dave Reimers will head the distance events after coming off solid cross country season’s last fall.
“Our major goals will probably be our major meets of the outdoor season,” Gardner said. “Right now, we’re just working on conditioning.”
The girls are entering today’s competition with a similar philosophy.
“We don’t look at (this meet) to see who’s first, second and third,” said girls’ coach Arnie Falk. “We look at it more individually. It’s our starting points and then we start setting some goals.”
The girls’ squad is lacking numbers this season, with only four freshmen out for the team, but the Jays return one of their standout athletes from last season in Nikki Iverson.
The senior jumper returns after finishing first in the triple jump at the state meet last season. She also placed third in the long jump.
“I think this is probably the best shape she’s been in at this point. We’re excited to see her jump,” Falk said. “It’s always nice to have a state champ coming back.”
Kara Nygaard will be the leading high jumper for the Jays as sixth-place finisher last year at state.
“She’s been to the state meet the last few years,” Falk said. “She’s always been consistent for us. … She is coming off an excellent season with the basketball team, so we’re hoping that success carries over on the track.”
Ashley Mueller returns for her junior year after placing at state the last two seasons in the hurdles. She finished sixth in the 300 hurdles and eighth in the 100 hurdles last season.
Alison Allmer, will be joining the Jays again this year after competing on varsity towards the tail-end of the season last year. Allmer, a freshman distance runner, finished eighth in the 800 last season as an eighth-grader, so Falk said her potential is limitless heading into this season.
“She ended up third this fall in cross country,” said Falk of the young runner. “We’re excited to see her run the track and see what she’s capable of doing.”
Charity Miller, who finished seventh in the pole vault last season, will be another senior leader for Jays this season.
Jamestown, however, will have to do without state-qualifying distance runner Lindsay Kautzmann. As a senior last season, Kautzmann finished 10th in the 3200, so the Jays will be looking for a candidate to fill her role. So let the search begin as the Jays open the season today.
“The freshman crew has looked good,” Falk said. “You never know who will surprise you until you get going.”
Sun sports writer David Griswold can be reached at (701) 952-8462 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org