NORTH CRAWFORD - While the North Crawford girls track coaches, Jesse Swenson and Liz Bransky, might be new to the team this year, they are coaching a lot of experienced and talented athletes. Last year’s girls track coach Ed Heisz was named Ridge & Valley Conference ‘Coach of the Year.’
Swenson, the team’s head coach and a member of the North Crawford School Board, has been an assistant coach for the last four years. As a North Crawford student, she competed in track herself and brings a lot of positivity and enthusiasm to her role.
“My goal as coach is to promote positive behaviors, a strong work ethic, and self confidence,” Swenson said.
Assistant coach Liz Bransky is in her first year as a coach with the track team, and has been the assistant coach with the girls cross-country team for the last five years. A distance runner, Bransky competed in both high school and at college.
“I would like to support what coach Swenson and boys track coach Mike Allbaugh envision for the teams,” Bransky said. “I assist both coaches in working with the distance runners, and coach Swenson lends her expertise to both teams with the sprinters.”
Bransky points out that one of the assets that will support the team’s effort is the ‘Shed,’ a weight training facility, which provides state of the art cardio and strength training equipment.
In 2017, the team was the Ridge & Valley Conference champion, scoring 136 points to Ithaca/Weston’s 122; Wauzeka-Steuben’s 98; Kickapoo-LaFarge’s 89; DeSoto’s 87; Seneca’s 4.
Eight athletes and four relay teams advanced to sectional competition in 2017. Those athletes were Rebecca Spencer (100-meter dash); Marina Molto (200- and 400-meter dash); Martha Bransky (3200-meter); Kylie Heisz (110-meter hurdles); Rachael Peterson (high jump); Maggie Schellhorn (pole vault); Brianna Mack (long and triple jumps); and Jasmine File (discus).
Schellhorn took first place in the pole vault in sectional competition with a career-best of 9’3”, and was one of the team’s state qualifiers. Spencer competed in the 100-meter dash in sectional competition, and finished 12th. Halverson competed in the 200-meter dash; and Ingle and O’Brien in the 400-, 800- and 1600-meter events.
Relay team members competing in 2017 sectional competition were 4x100-meter team: Rebecca Spencer, Rachael Peterson, Brianna Mack and Kari Sanchez (7th); 4x200-meter team: also Spencer, Peterson and Mack, as well as Laura Galvez (10th); 4x800-meter: Nora O’Brien, Bernadette O’Brien, Katie Schellhorn and Ashley Ingle (15th)
Of the three athletes that went on to compete at the state level, jumper Brianna Mack and distance runner Martha Bransky are returning in 2018, while pole vaulter Maggie Schellhorn graduated. In addition, home-school student Helen Carstens, who went to state in cross country in 2017 as a freshman, is running with the track team in 2018 as a sophomore.
Schellhorn finished 15th in state competition in the pole vault with a vault of 8’6”. Sophomore Brianna Mack finished 10th in the long jump with a career best jump of 16’6.5”. Sophomore Martha Bransky, fighting an injured foot, persevered through the 1600-meter run to finish 16th with a time of 5:55.09.
Lost to graduation were Maggie Schellhorn, Rebecca Spencer, Paige Halverson Bernadette O’Brien, and Ashley Ingle. Schellhorn, Spencer, O’Brien and Ingle were all named to the Ridge & Valley All Conference First Team.
Strong 2018 prospects
Fortunately for the team, many talented athletes are returning, positioning the team for another strong performance this year.
The team captains are seniors Macenzie Hanson, Kylie Heisz, Alexus (Lexi) Mack, and Lyrica Marks.
“We have several versatile athletes to fill the positions vacated by graduating seniors this year,” Swenson said. “Helen Carstens is a stand out sophomore who can perform in any race, from the 400-meter to the 3200-meter. Freshman Kloee Chamberlain is showing promise in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter events. Senior Lexi Mack is a nice addition to the team who excels wherever you put her, and is working especially hard at the triple jump event. Last, but not least, our relay teams are off to a successful start and we continue to fine-tune them. Sophomores Rachael Peterson and Kloee Chamberlain, and junior Brianna Mack excel in the 400-, 800- and 1600-meter relays.”
At the team’s first outdoor meet in Cassville recently, senior Lexi Mack was off to a good start, coming in sixth in the 400-meter dash with a time of 1:14.
At the same meet Kylie Heisz, the team’s lone hurdler, battled in her 110-meter high hurdle event, and was able to hold onto third place with a time of 19.62. She didn’t run her best race in the 300-meter low hurdles later on, but she still managed to grab four points for the team with a time of 1:01. She continued her efforts in the pole vault with a fifth place finish and four more points for the team.
“What a champ,” Swenson said of Heisz’s efforts. “Hurdles is a tough event, especially 300-meter hurdles. You don’t have much for legs left after that event, and she works very hard to collect as many points as she can for her team.”
Senior thrower Macenzie Hanson took fourth in shot put at the Cassville meet, with a 28’.5”. Senior Lyrica Marks hung in there with a 19’11” throw.
“Macenzie will be a shot put athlete to watch this year,” Swenson said. “Lyrica Marks has also been working extremely hard to meet her discus goals.”
North Crawford’s exchange student Nagore Bermeosolo was able to secure a point for her team in Cassville, with an eighth place finish in the 800-meter event, and a time of 3:25. In addition, she was part of a great effort from the 4x800-meter relay team. Exchange student Sara Martinez had a strong finish in the 400-meter dash at the Cassville meet, with a time of 1:15. Also competing with the team are exchange students Lucia Sagredo and Araya Kornwong.
Junior Brianna Mack, Mack was named Ridge & Valley Field Athlete of the Year in 2017, and shows every signs of having another successful year competing in field events.
“Brianna is off to a great start in the triple and long jump events,” Swenson said. “Elena Esparza also continues to improve at every meet in shot put event.”
Junior middle and distance runners Grace Corlis and Alayna Brownie had times of 3:31 and 3:48, respectively in the 800-meter event at the recent Cassville meet. Junior distance and cross-country runner Martha Bransky has suffered ongoing problems with a foot injury and did not compete at the Cassville meet. Junior Brennah Ghormley also competes with the team.
At the Cassville meet, junior Jasmine File brought it home again in the discus, capturing second place and eight points with a 86’9” throw. “First place was 88’8”, so she was right there,” Coach Swenson said. “Jasmine is outstanding in the throwing events, and is definitely an athlete to watch.”
Sophomore Rachael Peterson competes in the long jump. At the Cassville meet, she set a personal record in the high jump.
“Rachael was ecstatic to win her event and hit her personal best of 4’11”,” coach Swenson reported. “We are very excited to watch our jumpers progress this season!” Peterson was also part of the 4x200-meter relay team that ran a personal best time of 2:01, securing a third place finish and six points at the Cassville meet.
“Rachael Peterson, freshman Kloee Chamberlain, junior Brianna Mack and senior Lexi Mack fought for position the entire race. It was an excellent effort,” Swenson said.
Coach Swenson pointed to sophomore Helen Carstens as an athlete to watch this year.
“Helen had a very successful year in cross county last year, qualifying for the state meet and finishing 12th,” Swenson said. “Helen is a distance runner extraordinaire, and her favorite race is the 3200-meter, but she does well in the 1600-, 800- and 400-meter as well.”
At the Cassville meet, Helen Carstens dominated the mile and two-mile races. Her 5:42 mile brought home 10 points for the team. Not to be left out, sophomore Elissa Erickson ran a 9:32 with an impressive finish, securing another two points.
“Carstens was tasked with a specific lap schedule during the two-mile race at the recent meet in Cassville,” Swenson explained. “Her winning run was almost two minutes slower than normal, because she was saving herself for her leg of the 4x400-meter relay.”
At the same meet, sophomore Katie Schellhorn ran a strong race in the 3200-meter, snagging a third place finish with a time of 15:38, and grabbing 16 points for the team.
According to Coach Swenson, freshman Kloee Chamberlain has been “an awesome addition to the team this year.” Swenson describes her as “strong, fast, and most importantly, coachable.”
Chamberlain has already improved her 400-meter time by eight seconds in just three meets, with her current personal record at 1:08. She is also very competitive in the 800-meter relay, and the 100-meter dash, and is also working hard to reach her long jump goals.
Strengths and challenges
No question the number and quality of returning and experienced athletes is a major strength of the team heading into the 2018 season. The team has athletes such as Brianna Mack, Martha Bransky and Helen Carstens who competed at the state level in 2017 as freshmen and sophomores, and could stay with the team another one to two years yet.
Coach Swenson sees an additional strength of the team relating to its character and internal dynamics.
“Our main strength is our supportive nature,” Swenson said. “The kids are a tight knit family, and have each other’s back.
Weather, according to Swenson, is the only thing holding this young, dynamic, experienced team back.
“Our current challenge is conditioning, with the weather having proved a big set back,” Swenson observed. “Because of the lingering winter weather, our conditioning is not where it should be at this time in the season, but we’ll get there.”
On the North Crawford Girls Track Team, each athlete submits a written version of her season goals. Individual athlete goals are combined with goals from the coaching staff to develop a well-rounded set of targets for individual and team performance for the season.
“The general theme of goals submitted by the individual athletes of our team was to be the best athlete they could be,” Swenson said. “As coaches, our goal is to help them achieve their goals.
Swenson reports that strength training is a key component to the team’s preparation this year.
“We’re utilizing more strength training this year,” Swenson said. “If they want to run faster and jump further, we’re going to help them get stronger so they can do all of that.
Swenson stated that the coaching staff also stresses the importance of self-confidence and resilience.
“It’s not enough that we believe in them,” Swenson said. “Most importantly, the athletes have to believe in themselves.”
As far as other teams to watch in the conference, this year, Swenson named Ithaca/Weston, who she said, “seems to have a pretty strong program.”
“Frankly, every team is a team to watch,” Swenson said. “If you pay attention, someone is doing something better than you are, and you can learn from that.”