JAMESTOWN, N.D. – A heap of optimism surrounds the Carrington High School track and field teams this spring, if only the weather would cooperate.
Another late spring has once again locked the bulk of the state’s track teams indoors for the time being, but once the sun does shine, so should the Cardinals.
The two-time defending state champion girls team is once again poised to make plenty of noise, while a young boys squad has made gains to potentially up its game.
“We’re just kind of champing at the bit to get outside,” Carrington track and field coach Greg Hoeckle said. “We still have some injury things that we are dealing with, with one of our (girls) athletes, but other than that we’re pretty healthy.”
Plenty of buzz will be surrounding senior Kayla Hochhalter all season. The standout thrower, who signed with the University of Iowa over the winter, is potentially gunning for three individual state titles in the javelin, discus and shot put.
She is the defending title holder in the discus. But she also finished second in the shot put and third in the javelin.
Hochhalter has never placed outside of the top three in the javelin, dating back to when she was an eighth-grader, and her personal best of 145 feet in the event would be a new North Dakota Class B record if she can match that mark at this year’s state meet.
“That’s her goal, and if anybody is capable of doing it, Kayla is,” Hoeckle said of Hochhalter’s potential sweep in the throwing events. “She works hard and has put the time and effort in to being in that position.”
The girls put up 113 points to win their second straight state title last season, which was 51 points better than second-place Hazen.
Another key cog returning is freshman distance runner Ashley Neumiller, who racked up three state podium visits as an eighth-grader. Neumiller finished third in the 3,200 (11 minutes, 52.78 seconds), fourth in the mile (5:23.92) and sixth in the 800 (2:24.90).
Neumiller was also a member of Carrington’s second-place winning 3,200 relay team (10:09.53), which also returns sophomore Ann Endres and senior Page Anderson.
“We have a strong nucleus of girls returning, and we have good support with our younger girls coming up,” Hoeckle said. “We try to cover all the areas. But we have four good quality throwers and they usually place high at every meet, so that’s probably where we’re the strongest.”
The Carrington boys team has upped the ante after finishing 17th at state last season, with 19 total points. The team only includes one senior, Hunter Stusynski, but the young talent is starting to rise toward the top.
The team will be looking for a strong showing from junior Seth Abaurrea. Abaurrea placed fifth at state in the 100 (11.19) and sixth in the 200 (22.65), but possibly helping Abaurrea’s cause in those events is the graduation of other athletes.
Of the four sprinters who finished ahead of Abaurrea in the 100, and the five athletes that finished ahead of him in the 200, just one returns in each race.
Abaurrea was also a member of the team’s fifth-place 400 relay team (44.84) and ninth-place 800 relay quarter (1:35.16), both of which return all its runners to the track. Also returning in the 400 relay are sophomores Walker Carr, Connor Wendel and Cole Ferguson, and back in the 800 relay are Ferguson, Carr and sophomore Riley Lura.
Carrington junior Riley Miller returns after placing fourth at state in the long jump (21-2).
“Our (boys) team is still quite young, but we have all our sprinters back and that’s where our largest group of returners are,” Hoeckle said. “We’re expecting some big things from the boys, and we feel like this year we can start moving hopefully into that top five range.”
Savaloja writes for the Jamestown Sun
Tags: high school sports, sports, track