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Prescott track teams ready to compete in 2014 season, begin Saturday

Prescott's Jack geiger and Pat Ballosh return to run relay races for the Cardinal boys' track team this spring.

PRESCOTT - From a team standpoint, there seems to be a role reversal in the Prescott High School track and field program this spring.

This year the girls’ team has more numbers and more returning letter winners than the boys’ team, who are coming off a sectional championship in 2013.

“We still hope to be competitive but we lost a lot of athletes from last season due to graduation who helped make us a strong team,” PHS head coach Luke Kjelland said. “We only have three seniors compared to 15 sophomores and freshmen.”

Those losses were hard ones: state qualifiers Cole Hauenstein and Sam Smith, who are now competing collegiately at UW-La Crosse, Nick Jacobsen, Alex Brunner, Harry Cutler and Zach Sobolewski to graduation and other lettermen who declined to come out for the sport this spring.

The girls’ team took some graduation losses too, such as Kate Kroska, Emily Bayer and one of the winningest runners PHS girls’ track history Victoria Simones, who is now running at St. Thomas. But the Prescott girls’ team has 12 seniors and juniors on this year’s squad plus 14 returning letter winners.

“We really good about our team this year,” PHS long-time head coach Tania Thatcher said. “We have a lot of experience but also a lot of talent in our freshman and sophomore classes as well.”

Prescott begins its season Saturday in the Northern Badger Invitational at UW-Stout.

The Cardinal boys will still have a good group of sprinters, middle distance runners and jumpers like senior Jack Geiger, junior Pat Ballosh, senior Taylor Miller, junior Jack Farrell and sophomore Jared Brantner. Junior Garrett Ryan is back for the throwing events and sophomore letterman Nolan Schock will run distance events.

But the remaining events will have to be filled by less experienced athletes, leaving Prescott with fewer opportunities for high places individually or as a team in either the state meet or the conference (PHS finished second), regional (third) and sectional meets as well.

“Pat and Jack both have good chances to qualify individually and I think we might have a relay or two like the 4x200 and 4x400,” Kjelland said. “We have a lot of 400-meter runners who have: 53 second and :54 second times right now and we can get them down to under :52 by the end of May we can achieve those goals.”

Speaking of relay qualifiers to state, Prescott’s girls once again had an entry at the state meet in the 3200-meter relay. Letter winners junior Amanda Murphy and sophomore Annika Carlson return from last year’s 3200 state qualifying quartet and other returning runners who can fill the two open spots in the relay and in the other distance events include sophomores Savanna Stuhl and Molly Sweet. 

But the Redbirds aren’t just top heavy with distance runners this season. Also back are letter winners like sophomore Jennifer Kleinschmidt in the hurdles, senior Maddie Brunner and junior Autumn Schlecht in the throwing events, junior Olivia Rohl and seniors Samantha Schock and Rebecca Shirley in the jumps and senior Alicia Carlson in the sprints.

“We’ll have more kids for the sprints and be able to fill the sprint relays,” Thatcher said. “We’re going to have a lot of balance on this team in many different events. We’re looking for leadership on our team and usually it’s come from our distance runners. But with more events being filled by experienced athletes, the leadership will be spread out as well.”

Other returning letter winners for Prescott are Lauren Hintz, Cheyenne Freud sophomore Jennifer Burmood.  Besides the letterwinners, Thatcher believes there’s enough talent among the team’s newcomers to provide more support and depth to lift the Cardinals beyond a fifth place finish in the conference meet, a sixth place in the regional and 13th place in the sectional meet which were all recorded last season.

“It’s hard to say what they can accomplish because so many of those kids are out for track for the first time,” Thatcher said. “But they give us the numbers which will allow us to be competitive with the usual group of good teams who always seem to have the talent and numbers every year. If we combined numbers with hard work and leadership, then we’ll do fine.”