The winter offseason is one of the hardest seasons to train in, but under head coach Joe Porter, the athletes are bound to work out in some way to get in shape, whether it be other sports, weights, or just running.
“I’ve been running almost every day since last season ended and that’s really helped me to stay in shape,” said senior captain Chuck Perry. “Cross country went really well for me, and I found running with my teammates has really helped me focus on running.”
At the beginning of the season, more students came out than expected.
“We’re excited. This is our largest team in a couple of years,” said Porter. “We’re at 101 athletes right now, and we’re excited about the depth that we have in a lot of the different events.”
The standout of the season is easily the 4 x 800 relay, which got third at state with a time of 7:51.40. Even with an amazing team last year, this year seems to be more promising with some incredible times at a time trial.
“A year ago we were excited because our fouth guy was 2:07, and this time we had five guys at 2:02 or faster,” said Porter. “Lazarus (Williams) at 1:58, Patrick (Hetlage) at 1:59, Lucas (Rackers) 2:00, Charlie (Perry) and Noah (Scott) 2:02. We’re coming in a lot fitter than a year ago we’re a lot faster we’re ready to roll.”
Despite losing Paul Burka ’18, the relay team is finding comfort in Burka’s replacement.
“I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a bummer to be losing Paul,” said senior captain Patrick Hetlage. “But fortunately, we have Noah Scott and Lucas Rackers both coming up the chute to help fill in this hole in the relay with the two opening in 2:02 and 2:00 at our time trial, which Paul ran 2:01 in last season.”
As for both distance and mid-distance, the addition of new runners has helped both teams considerably.
“Freshman Baker Pashea finished really well in our 800 time trial, and I know he’s got some speed from running XC with him,” said Perry. “We also have some new soccer kids who I know have speed like sophomores Cas and T.”
On the speedy side of things, the sprints team has had its own way of getting ready for the season. The sprinters are luckily returning many runners from last year, including their best two—senior Jay Duda and junior Noah Hayes. Though they haven’t been as strong since champion sprinter Jayson Ashford, ’17, graduated, the sprinters feel confident in what they can accomplish.
“I worked a lot of strength over the off season,” said Duda. “I feel significantly more confident coming into this season, especially now having a year under my belt and a few more pounds on me.”
The sprinters added some great new personalities to the team that bring every sprinter closer together, especially since they have an incredibly diverse group of guys.
“It’s great to see the energy Junior Ben Thomas brings and many of the freshmen and sophomores bring smiles and positive attitudes, and the returning athletes are being leaders,” said Duda. “It’s also extremely exciting because we have more teammates to root for and diverse personalities to help create a community. To top it off, some of the talent is phenomenal.”
The jumpers took a hard hit this year after graduating Dee McMurran, ’18, and Evan Kilgore, ’18, who both have competed at State. However, they hope to improve with returners such as Noah Hayes, junior Solomon Elliot, and senior Christian Wallace-Hughes.
“We still have Christian and Solomon as our dynamic duo in the triple jump this year,” said Hetlage.
On the pole vaulting side, the Pitti twins are coming out stronger than ever, recruiting more freshmen to join their band of vaulters. Senior Carlo Pitti was the conference champion last year and made it to Sectionals. Along with him and his brother, Lucas, star returners such as seniors Tyler Kanady and Anthony Rizzo who have all done a lot to prepare for the season.
“We did a lot this offseason, especially in the XC season,” said senior captain Carlo Pitti. “We tried to hit the weights more. During XC, I’d join the top guys who did weights and I’d work out with them to get my upper body ready for track.”
The throwers also lost some good talent, especially with Trevor Jones, ’18, who competed at state last year in the javelin. The javelin program is still new for SLUH, but they have picked up some quality throwers. The shot put looks promising with junior captain Patrick Hayden.
“The throwers are looking extremely excited to be practicing again,” said Hetlage.
Overall, the large team is favorable for the Jr. Bills. The depth gives high hopes for meets, especially their first one—the Festus Early Bird meet on March 20.
“Festus is our first meet, and it’s to see where were at, it’s been so cold, and we haven’t really been able to do a lot of time trials for our sprint guys, so it’s much more important that we can get a time on them and see where guys are,” said Porter. “If you’re coming out the gate running your best then there’s a problem. We’re probably gonna make a few mistakes which is great so we can come out and learn from and get better for the next one.”