WALTON – Walton-Verona finished third in the Class 1A state track and field meet in the boys team standings at the end of May. The Bearcats did so with more versatility and depth than many small schools in the state.
“It was a great effort for both of our teams,” head coach Phil Amstutz said. “It came down to the 4×4 relay to get us on the podium. It was really neat, which was our best placing ever in team history. We took about 25 boys and girls to the state meet and we had about 12 state placers, so it was a great day.”
The Bearcats scored 41 points from a variety of individuals.
“The thing that’s really good about our program is we have strength and numbers,” Amstutz said. “For being a small school, our team is scattered with kids at every grade level. We only have a few paid coaches but we have several coaches come and volunteer, so the kids get extra attention in different events. It’s a great combo for us. We have more volunteers than paid coaches.”
Juniors Colin and Clark Crook were part of a big chunk of points for the Bearcats. Both ran in the 4×100 and 4×200 relays that both finished third in the state meet after winning the regional championship.
Clark also won an individual medal by finishing eighth in the long jump and also placed third in the regional. Colin was sixth in the 100 at state to win a medal and was the regional champion.
Senior Scott Smith won two individual medals, finishing fourth in the triple jump and fifth in the 400. He also ran the 4×200 relay. At regionals, he was second in triple and fourth in the 400. Smith will run the decathlon at NCAA Division I Oral Roberts University.
Noah Richardson, a junior, was sixth in the 300 hurdles and ran the 4×100 and the 4×400 that finished second in the state after placing third in the region. He was regional champ in the 300 hurdles. Junior Owen Doverspike ran the 4×100.
Senior Nicolas Johnston ran the 4×200 and 4×400 which medaled at state. Seniors Caleb Flege and Dustin Hutchinson ran both the 4×400 and the 4×800 that finished fourth in the state. Nathan Akins and Michael Humphrey were also on the 4×8, which finished fourth in the regional. Hutchinson, a senior, will run for the University of the Cumberlands.
Luke Lawson qualified for state in both hurdles events, finishing sixth in the 300 and ninth in the 110.
“We scored in a lot of events, which shows we’re good all around,” Amstutz said. “A lot of teams may have one or two studs, but one thing that is really promising is that a lot of kids have gone outside the box and maybe try the hurdles or the 400, try something different.”
The girls team had a strong meet as well. Emily Wells won three medals, finishing eighth in the 400 at state and running on the 4×200 team that finished sixth as well as the 4×800 squad that was fifth, giving her three different distances in the meet. The 4×200 team and 4×800 were third in the region. Wells was fifth in the 400.
McCall Ponzer was seventh in the 800 and ran on the 4×800. At regionals, she was third in the 800. Rachel Lehkamp finished eighth in the high jump at state and fifth in the region. Jordan Derenthal, Harden and Lauren Mulcahy were also on the 4×200, and Elissa Craig and Madison Lohr ran the 4×800.
Mulcahy qualified for state in the 100 and 200 after finishing second in the region in both. Lohr ran in the 3,200 after finishing sixth, and Megan Wells qualified in the 400.
The 4×400 was 12th in the state and fourth in the region with Emily Wells, Blanca Ortega, Olivia Harden and Nicole Hugunin. Ortega, a senior, was a key leader for the team.
“I never had a girl lead as well as she did,” Amstutz said. “She hurt her hip early in the season. She was going to be my anchor in the 4×8. She came back and fought through it and ran in the 4×4 for us. She was a rock for us. She was my only girl captain and she did a great job holding our team together through the season.”
While the Bearcats lose a few seniors, they have plenty of returning veterans coming back. Amstutz said next year’s incoming senior class, led by the Crook twins, have a lot of years of competing together. Expect next year’s schedule to be as tough if not tougher than this year, as the Bearcats traveled around the state to face bigger schools all spring.
“They’re doing what it takes to make the team better. The willingness of the kids to fill some roles has really helped us,” Amstutz said. “We beefed up the schedule. They’re used to big competition. We’ll run against teams that have 1,500 kids and we’ll compete right with them, so we’re not intimidated at the state meet.”
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