PRETTY PRAIRIE, Kan.—It may just be a 1A school, but Pretty Prairie has drawn a hefty portion of its student body onto the track this spring.
With 30 boys and 13 girls competing, head coach Jon Johnson is expecting the Bulldog squads to score many points and bring home lots of medals.
Johnson isn’t just happy with the number of athletes he has this spring, he’s excited about the talent and potential they have. The boys are three-time defending Heart of the Plains League champions.
For the boys, Johnson returns a slew of state qualifiers, including seniors Justin Haflich and Alex Mains, who have earned trips to the state meet in each of their three previous seasons. Another senior, Trey Tallant, qualified for state his freshman and sophomore seasons, but an injury sustained during his junior track season prevented a likely third consecutive state berth. Senior Stetson Broce, junior Connor Haury and sophomores Keifer George and Austin Coulter are also returning state qualifiers and letter winners.
“Our strength has always been on the track, but we’ll score a lot of points in every event. That’s always been our motto: Score a point in every event, on the track and in the field,” said Johnson.
Johnson has high hopes for all three relays, but especially the 4X800, which finished second at state when Haflich, Mains and Tallant were sophomores. Johnson says he sees several people on the team who could fill out that fourth spot.
“I think we can have four guys who can run a 2:05. Most schools would like to have one who can do that, much less four,” said Johnson.
Tallant, who has signed to run for Hutchinson Community College next year, will also do well in the 800 and 1600-meter runs. But Tallant won’t be the only Bulldog threat in the distances. Coulter, Ian Williams, Paul Crum and Corwin Williams were all part of the PPHS cross country team that qualified for state in the fall. With such depth in the distance events, Johnson said there will be some cases where they have certain athletes concentrate on only one race.
Haflich and Broce will be relied on to earn points in the sprints. Senior Jacob Welker, who has focused on golf and hasn’t competed in track since his freshman year, has returned and is showing a lot of promise as a middle distance runner and hurdler.
“Jacob’s really been working hard. He’s really developed his speed in football and basketball and I think we’ll see that on the track,” said Johnson.
Johnson also looks for George to continue his success in the long and triple jumps; Haury and possibly Broce to score well in the high jump, and Welker and Michael Mains to see some success in the pole vault.
The throws will be a bit more of a question mark, but Johnson does look for Broce to be competitive in the javelin and Greg Schlickau to score points in the discus.
The boys team will feature 11 freshmen. And while some may not make a big impact right away, Johnson is excited about the future those 11 have.
“That’s very good for the future. We want to keep the success rolling,” Johnson said.
The girls team’s hopes begin with junior Selena Wapelhorst, who for the past two seasons has punched her ticket to the state meet in the 1600 meter run. She also qualified for the 3200 meter run as a freshman, and has become a fixture at the state cross country meet.
She will be joined by senior Emily Moore and freshman Cassie Panek, who also represented the Bulldogs at the state cross country meet.
“Those three have really been pushing each other in the long runs. Emily Moore has been out all four years for track, cross country and basketball. She’s one of those rare cases where a girl has gotten faster every year. She’s been improving her times since she was a freshman,” said Johnson.
Johnson expects to see Wapelhorst continue to run some of the longer races, while Moore will be working the middle distance events. Panek will be effective in any of the distances ranging from the 400 to the 1600.
Johnson also returns junior Shaylee Wewe, whose specialty is the pole vault. She holds the school record at 7-6 and finished just one slot away from a state qualification in 2012. Johnson said he believes she could clear 8 feet in 2013.
Other returning letter winners include senior Reanna Goetz and junior Maria Panek.
With a total of seven freshmen on the team, Johnson looks for several to be a threat. Amber Krehbiel and Cassidy Howell are expected to do well in the long jump, and Krehbiel and Maria Baughman show promise in the hurdles. Johnson said Baughman can equally be a threat in the sprints.
“We have the quality to have some decent sprinters. We should be competitive in not just the 4X100, but in all of the relays,” Johnson said.
The Bulldog track squads open their season on March 28 at Stafford.