NORTH CRAWFORD - There’s no question that North Crawford is a tough competitor in the running sports, and always a team to keep a close eye on. Experienced boys track coach Mike Allbaugh is entering his 22nd year as head coach of the program. He is assisted this year by Joe Doty, who has coached cross country and track for Richland Center for the last three years.
Allbaugh has led his team of talented athletes to a conference championship for the last four years, and has his team’s sights set on a five-peat in 2018. In addition, in 2017, the team was third in sectional competition and 13th in state competition.
Last year, the Trojans lost seniors Jack Polensky, Dallas Hershberger and Pierre de Beul, foreign exchange student from Belgium to graduation in 2017. Polensky and Hershberger were the 2017-team captains. The three seniors were all part of the ‘best-in-the-state’ 4x400-meter relay team, along with then junior Skylar Olson. De Beul also took fourth in the state competition in the 400-meter event.
While the unseasonable lingering winter weather has slowed down the start of the 2018 season, the Trojans have been burning up the track and field in early-season indoor competition. Team captains, seniors Kenny Spencer, Skylar Olson and Cameron Steyer led the team to a second place finish last week at the first outdoor meet of the season in Cassville.
Trojan senior Skylar Ol-son had a perfect night by winning four individual events. He started by win-ning the 100-meter dash in a time of 11.71, followed by the long jump with a jump of 20’3”, the triple jump with 40’2”, and ended by winning the 200-meter dash in a time of 23.93.
“Skylar is both a tremendous runner and jumper for us,” Allbaugh said. “He is the best sprinter in the area in the 100- and 200-meter events, and good at 400-meters too.”
Allbaugh explained that Olson set a career record at the team’s first indoor meet in the long jump, jumping 21 feet, four inches.
“He could go on to win at state,” Allbaugh said. “I have seen him jump 22 feet in that event.
Kenny Spencer also did well at the Casssville meet, by placing second in the triple jump with a leap of 39’2.25”, third in the shot put with a throw of 39’6”, and fourth in the long jump with 17’1.25”. He also finished in seventh place in the 100-meter dash in a time of 12.72.
“Kenny is probably the best triple jumper in the state,” Allbaugh said. “In 2017, he took third at state, and he could easily be the champion this year. He’s very focused right now.”
Allbaugh said he also plans to expand Spencer’s competition into other events such as hurdles and shot put.
To round out the team captains’ early season results, senior Cameron Steyer took second in the 400-meter dash at the Cassville outdoor meet with a time of 58.37, and fifth in the Pole Vault, jumping 8’0”.
“Cameron has done a lot for the team over the years, and also runs cross country for North Crawford,” Allbaugh said. “He’s a great middle distance runner in the 400-meter event, and also a pole vaulter. We’re going to try him out in the 800-meter event this year and see how he does with that.”
The team has a total of six seniors competing this year. In addition to the three captains, seniors Thomas Turben, Moritz Reichelt, and Trea Steele are competing in 2018.
Thomas Turben has gone out for cross country at North Crawford for, as coach Allbaugh puts it, “one-and-one-half years,” and is a middle distance runner on the track team. At the Cassville outdoor meet, Turben took third place in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:30, and competed in the 4x400-meter relay-along with Dylan Heisz, Marco Esparaza, and Jace Roys, taking fourth place with a time of 4:32.84.
“Thomas is very committed to the track team this year,” Allbaugh said. “In addition, he has a great work ethic and will be a great asset to the team.”
German foreign exchange student Moritz Reichelt is what coach Allbaugh refers to as ‘the team’s X-factor this season. In Germany, sports are not offered in the schools, and a student would have to pay to belong to a private sports club in order to compete like American students do.
“Moritz is a natural athlete,” Allbaugh said. “We’re exploring his abilities, and in addition to competing in the high hurdles, and triple and long jumps, we may also see how he does in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles.”
Allbaugh explained that Reichelt had already beat a 2017 state qualifier in the triple jump at an early season indoor meet, and had tied Kenny Spencer in the long jump. At the recent Cassville meet, Reichelt placed eighth in the 110-meter high hurdles, with a time of 21.07, and the 300-meter intermediate hurdles, with a time of 52.39. Richelt took sixth in the high jump with a 5’0” jump.
Juniors Gavin Forkash and Clayton Herfel help to round out the team’s strengths on the track, and in the field.
Forkash had a great night recently at the Cassville meet by winning the 1600-meter run in a career best time of 5:01.28, and also the 800-meter run in a time of 2:19.17. He was also a part of the 4x800-meter relay with teammates Dominic Carstens, Jace Roys and Thomas Turben, who placed third in a time of 10:59.95.
“Gavin has a great work ethic, and at times he is really phenomenal in the 1600- and 800-meter events, “Allbaugh said. “We expect he could very well win in the conference competition in both events.”
Allbaugh explained that there are a couple of runners at Kickapoo/La Farge, and one at Wauzeka that are also showing good results in the events, and are competitiors to “keep an eye on.”
Junior Clayton Herfel has gravitated to the field event effort on the team. At the recent Casssville meet, he competed in shot put, taking 13th with a 31’11” toss, and 11th in discus, with a 83’3” throw.
“As a thrower, Clayton is very strong,” Allbaugh said. “He helps our team in a couple of events that have historically been weak points for us, and he is probably in the top three in the conference in the shot put event.”
The North Crawford effort is rounded out with the participation of four underclassmen – Sophomores Dylan Heisz and Noah Miles, and Freshmen Marco Esparza and Jace Roys.
A distance runner for the team, Heisz recently placed tenth at the Cassville meet in the 800-meter run with a time of 3:03.50, and seventh at 3200-meters with a time of 15:28.19.
“Dylan is a hard-working member of the team,” Allbaugh said. “He will help the team score points with solid performances in the distance running events in which he competes.”
Sophomore Noah Miles is an athlete that coach Allbaugh says “wants to win.” This year is Miles’ first season of competition in track and field, and Allbaugh says he is “arguably the most competitive member of the team.”
A dedicated and committed middle distance runner, Miles recently took sixth place in the 400-meter dash at the Cassville meet, with a time of 1:00.28.
Freshman Marco Esparza competes in shotput and discus. At the recent outdoor meet in Cassville, Esparza hurled the shot put 24’3.25”, and tossed the discus 52’9”.
“Marco is the team comedian,” Allbaugh said. “He is a very committed competitor, but also has a talent for using humor to defuse tensions on the team, which helps to keep everyone more focused.”
Freshman Jace Roys, not able to compete with the team in the early season, has returned, and ran as part of the 4x400-meter relay team, which took fourth place at the Cassville meet. The relay team had a time of 4:32.84 in the event. Roys was joined in the relay-effort by Dylan Heisz, Thomas Turben, and Marco Esparaza.
Head coach Mike Allbaugh seems proud of the team’s record of winning in conference competition for the last four years, and has no trouble seeing them win for a fith year in a row either
“In my 22 years of coaching the team, we’ve had ebbs and flows in experience and ability,” Allbaugh observed. “Every year it’s fun to see the athletes develop and grow, and to encourage them to compete in additional events and stretch themselves.”
Allbaugh says that working with the athletes, and encouraging them to expand and broaden the team’s competitive position is like “putting together a puzzle.”
Allbaugh’s goals for the team are to win the conference again, win in regional competition, and send as many kids to state as possible. He sees Wauzeka andKickapoo/LaFarge as team’s to watch in conference competition; and Fennimore and Boscobel as teams to watch at the regional level.
“Wauzeka has new coaches and is tough and getting stronger,”Allbaugh said. “Kickapoo/La Farge is always a contender in our conference as well.”