HARTINGTON — Hartington-Newcastle track is something serious to note.
The Wildcats on both the girls and boys sides are legitimate threats to the state standings year-in and year-out and this one may have some challenges, but should anyone expect less?
Laura Noecker enters her 31st season as head coach for the program and she expects to keep sending more girls to the state meet this spring. The program finished 15th and 16th in Class C to record its best finish this past decade.
“There were a few years that we were simply blessed by speed,” Noecker said. “With speed you can develop those athletes into a lot of many different track events. We medaled in hurdles, sprints and relays and qualified many pole vaulters as well.”
“(Boys and pole vault coach) Blair Kahn commits much time and dedication to taking our kids to camps and clinics around our area. He gets kids excited about this event.”
Noecker expects her team to compete for conference and district titles and this year should be no different, although the COVID-19 pandemic did hurt for a bit.
“Last year did not do any track team any favors,” Noecker said. “We issued out uniforms, had two practices and never saw our athletes for the rest of the year. For those kids who do not love track, it was probably not a big deal: few less sunburns, a few less strained hamstrings and a few less cold wet days waiting in the track tent to warm up for their event.
“In a lot of ways this is not the glamour sport that the court sports are. We don’t have parents night, there is no kick off for our season. We just start where basketball ends off. Scoring points or no points we just want them out.”
Noecker too was adversely affected by the pandemic as the loss took its own toll on her, but she is expecting to bounce back this spring with these Lady Wildcats.
“This year is going to be a building year for us,” Noecker said. “The girls’ team returns only one senior, Keanna Korth. Keanna runs hurdles for us and looks stronger than ever on the track. She is a solid athlete, never complains and leads by example.
Noecker said depth could be an issue this year.
“We are currently lacking numbers and experience. I don’t like to say too much too early, but I like what I’m seeing on hill - this is what we refer to as the shot and discus rings. Without putting pressure on any of our younger athletes I’ll just note that I think that there will be some points scored in our throwing events this year.”
Korth said that being back on the track is something that has been needed to just add to the path toward normalcy.
“It feels good because it’s one of my favorite sports and so I am excited to be back,” Korth said. “I love track because of my coaches. I love being around and practicing around them and knowing that they love the sport so much makes me love the sport. There are not as many girls out as usual this year. Usually, most of the high school goes out. We go through all the sports together so there is a great bond.”
The senior hurdler, who got into the sport by watching her older brother, notices that there is some rust lingering from the shutdown.
“I notice a lot of the older kids helping the freshmen and sophomores so that they can be the best they can be too,” Korth said.
The coach notes the girls are taking time at the complex working hard in preparation for the season opener which took place Tuesday at the Mount Marty Indoor in Yankton and beyond.
“You can get lucky and athletes just land in your lap, but normally when you see programs that time and time again are successful it comes from the commitment of the kids who are willing to step up and take a chance on a new event,” Noecker said. “I’ve always told my teams that athletes that want to be good never take days off.”
Abby and Kendra Anderson, Karli Bruning, Kennedy Gotch, Zoey Gratzfeld, Olivia Grutsch, Alexus Hans, Lauren Howell, Mani Lange, Emma Wubben, Riley Krause, Alivia Morten, Dalie Paulsen, Kennadi Peitz, Caroline Nelson, Jessica Opfer, Anya Pick, Daily Sage and Korth make up the Lady Wilcats.
Kahn is also counting on some strong performances from his roster which includes Lane Heimes, Kobe Heitman, Kale Korth, Mayson McIntosh, Jake Peitz, Seth Pinkelman, Dalton and Ky Rice, Alan Santiago, Seth Schaecher, Parker Steffen, Carson Sudbeck and Shaye Dickes.
“We should be strong in the jump events and sprints,” Kahn said. “We have experience back in both areas. Our throwers and hurdlers should improve as season goes.
“We need to develop and improve our depth. Do not have as many participants this year. I expect us to do well this season. Our pole vaulters, jumpers, and sprinters should be strong.”
Kahn expects a potential top three finish at the conference and district meets.
“If we work hard and keep a positive attitude we can accomplish quite a bit this year,” he said.
Peitz is going to be busy running sprints and getting out in the field for throwing events. He feels the potential is there even if only four upperclassmen dot the roster.
“We’re kind of young and the sophomores didn’t get much time last year,” he said. “It will be interesting to see what they can do. Personally, I think (they can do well). We have a couple of sophomores that are working hard and pushing me pretty hard in practice.
“It makes me pretty excited to see what they can do.”
Hartington-Newcastle Track Schedule
March 30: Cedar Catholic Track Invite
April 6: HNS Track Invite
April 13: Cedar Catholic Track Invite
April 19: HNS Track Invite
April 22: Wausa Track Invite at Pierce
April 29: Norfolk Classic Track Invite
May 1: L&C Conf at Hartington
May 6: Norfolk Catholic Track Invite
May 12: Dist. Track at Hartington
May 21: State Track at Omaha Burke
May 22: State Track at Omaha Burke
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