Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
The Calvary Lutheran track and field team’s season begins today at the Wentworth Military Academy Indoor Invitational, but the Lions have already set one mark.
“(I) had to get more uniforms,” coach Kerri Morris said. “I had to use my equipment budget for that. That’s always kind of my goal. I say, ‘I want to run out of uniforms.’”
Despite graduating six seniors including shot-putter Kara Wehmeyer, the school’s first-ever state medalist after taking seventh at the Class 1 championships, Calvary has 20 members on the track and field team, the most in the Lions’ three years of varsity competition.
“We are going to fill more events, which is exciting for us,” Morris said, “because as a small team, we just struggle to get enough numbers to have enough people in the relays, enough people in the throws. … We used to kind of go to a meet and have about half the entries, because I just didn’t have enough people.”
Morris believes distance running will be a strong suit for the Lions. Good distance numbers in the past encouraged Morris to start a cross country team, and the relationship has been mutually beneficial, as all but two of the cross country runners are competing in track.
“The nice thing is, too, that a lot of those distance relays are steps ahead of the sprint relays,” Morris said, “just because they’ve got the camaraderie and the team, and they’ve worked together. They know each other. A lot of it is, you have to — especially in those distance events — be able to judge your teammate and how they’re coming in, what speed they’re coming in. Well, a lot of them have run together through the summer, through the fall season, and so they know who’s going to be where.”
Leading the distance runners is senior John Meyer, who qualified for sectionals the past two seasons and just missed reaching state in last year’s 1,600-meter run. Morris is expecting sophomore Silas Luetkemeyer and Tipton transfer Robert Ashbaugh to be strong distance competitors on the boys side, and the team also has its first-ever girls distance runner.
Meyer is coming off a leg fracture suffered during the state cross country race, where he finished 41st. Morris said he is still feeling some pain and will compete in just two events today, but she plans for him to eventually compete in a maximum of four events: the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs, and the 4×400- and the 4×800-meter relays.
“We’re a little cautious not to pound too many miles, and we want to just keep him competing his senior year,” she said. “We really want to keep him healthy and keep him able to compete at the level he wants to be at.”
Meyer isn’t the only one dealing with an injury. Morris said the team has been plagued with shin splints and hip pains.
“Our biggest challenge is that we don’t have a facility to practice on,” she said. “They’ve been on the track maybe twice, so we end up on parking lots out at Calvary or in the field.
“… And it’s been raining, so we’ve been inside like (Wednesday), and gym floors are not good on sprinters. They can’t really build up their speed, can’t get up on their toes, work on their form a lot. So we’ve got a lot of nagging injuries, which, no coach wants to start the season that way, but we’re going to go with what we’ve got.”
Morris also has high hopes for the boys jumpers. Daniel Bolinger reached district finals last season and added the triple jump during the summer. Sophomore Luke Allen is new to track but brings the natural athleticism he displays playing basketball and soccer.
Sophomore Samantha Gunn will be a leading competitor for the Lady Lions. Gunn, a starter on Calvary’s basketball team, qualified for sectionals last season and narrowly missed competing for state last season. She competes in the 100-meter hurdles, the 300-meter hurdles and the 100-meter dash.
“She’s just got a lot of straight speed to her,” Morris said.
Freshman Allison Proctor, who also plays basketball for the Lady Lions, brings experience from high jumping and triple jumping at Trinity Lutheran middle school. She is currently dealing with a hip flexor.
The team had a group spaghetti dinner last weekend to discuss team and individual goals.
“A lot of them just want to see everybody healthy and everybody at a meet,” Morris said. “That is a big accomplishment.”
Though the Lions find themselves in a difficult district, Morris hopes for the boys — who have the edge of 13 competitors to the girls’ seven — can pull out some top-10 team finishes. As for individudals, Morris believes Gunn can make the leap to state and Meyer can “get that sectional monkey off his back” and do the same.
Today’s meet begins at 4 p.m.