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January 24, 2013WOMEN'S INDOOR PREVIEW: STUHLSATZ, THROWERS EXPECT BIG THINGS IN
Twice last season, Hutchinson Community College women's pole vaulter Page Stuhlsatz climbed the podium stand at the NJCAA National Championships.
She climbed both the indoor and outdoor medal podiums knowing she was the top American vaulter in the nation, yet she wasn't atop the podium stand.
"This year, there isn't a Russian vaulter in front of her," Lady Dragon track coach Pat Becher said about Vincennes Univeristy's Natalya Barnovskaya, who dominated the NJCAA women's pole vault in 2011 and 2012 and now vaults at the University of Kansas. "Now we will see what happens this season."
All eyes will be on Stuhlsatz (Garden Plain) to see if she can climb that last step on the podium this season.
Stuhlsatz and the Lady Dragon track and field team open the 2013 indoor season on Friday in Overland Park at the Johnson County Invitational. The indoor season will last just more than one month. The Region VI Indoor Championships will be Feb. 15 in Lawrence and the NJCAA Indoor nationals will be March 8-9 at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.
Last season, Stuhlsatz burst onto the Region VI scene by breaking the Hutchinson indoor pole vault record, clearing 11 feet, 11 3/4 inches. She went into finish as the NJCAA indoor national runner-up. Then in the 2012 outdoor season, Stuhlsatz took care of the HCC outdoor record of 12-1 1/2.
With Barnovskaya out of the way, Becher said Stuhlsatz isn't running short on motivation for her sophomore season.
"She is always motivated," Becher said of his two-time All-American. "When the lights come on she is ready to go. She is a fierce competitor and she is as tough a competitor as any guy I know."
As 2013 begins, Becher expects a lot of points from the pole vault and throwing events.
Sophomore Autumn Iverson (Hutchinson) is another two-time All-American returning for the Lady Dragons. Sophomore Ashley Lorence (Rock Creek) qualified for the outdoor nationals in the discus last season.
Iverson owns the sixth-longest indoor women's shot put in program history when she uncorked a throw of 41-11 1/2 at the indoor national championships to finished eighth. Iverson also placed seventh at the outdoor national shot put.
With Iverson, Lorence and Nickerson freshman Cassie Caswell bolstering a talented group of throwers, Becher sees a lot of success from the Lady Dragon throwers in 2013.
"We can find field event people in Kansas where we can't always get elite sprinters and jumpers here because they stay south where it is warm," Becher said. "We are able to get some area throwers, train and teach them the proper technique and get them stronger so than can compete and have success. This group of throwers is no exception."
The 2012 Lady Dragons finished ninth in the NJCAA Indoor National Championships, but a good chuck of the 32 points scored last season are gone. Still Becher said the 2013 Lady Dragons to be improved in several areas over 2012.
Hutchinson High product Lauren Jacobs and Kristian Lee (Kansas City Piper) will carry the load in the sprints this season. At the middle distances, national cross country qualifiers Ashlynn Lambert (Concordia) and Cecilia Lane (Andale) dramatically improve HCC in those races.
"It is hard to create depth in women's track at our level," Becher said. "After the other sports and the D-Is and D-IIs get their athletes, it's hard to create depth. I have 27 girls this season and I am very happy about that.
"We have some talented freshmen this season, so I think we will be a better women's team than we were last year."
MEN'S INDOOR PREVIEW: 2013 BLUE DRAGON MEN LOOK TO BUILD 'FOR LONG HAUL'
As the 2013 NJCAA Indoor Track and Field season begins for the Hutchinson Community College men's team, all the usual questions are raised.
How many national qualifiers will the Blue Dragons get? How many school records will fall?
Those are short-term questions. Veteran HCC track and field head coach Pat Becher is looking at the season with a much broader view and is also looking long term.
"Obviously I want all of our kids to be successful and see how many we can qualify for nationals," said Becher, whose Blue Dragons open the 2013 indoor season on Friday at the Johnson County Invitational. "I want to spend (the indoor season) getting our athletes back into shape and tuned up for the outdoor season."
Hard to argue with Becher's methods. In 2012, the Blue Dragons were fourth in the indoor Region VI championships and went on to win a second-straight Jayhawk West outdoor title and first Region VI outdoor crown since 1986.
"I train my kids for the long haul, not the short haul." Becher said. "I would rather get them stronger and healthy so they are ready for the end of the season."
But that doesn't diminish what he thinks will be a very strong team in 2013 that should well in the indoor season. The Blue Dragons return seven indoor national qualifiers and eight outdoor qualifiers from 2012.
Sophomore Skylar Arneson (Nickerson) leads a strong group of throwers this season. Arneson was a four-time All-American and five-time national qualifiers between the indoor and outdoor seasons. Arneson was the outdoor national runner-up in the shot put as well as the eighth-place finisher in the discus and national qualifier in the hammer. In the 2012 indoor NJCAA championships, Arneson placed fourth in the weight throw (52 feet, 11 1/2 inches) and fifth in the shot put (50-11).
"Skylar is really throwing well," Becher said. "His is really being heavily recruited and I expect big things from him."
Another field athlete with high expectations is high jumper Spencer Amerin (Meade). Amerin was an outdoor All-American, tying for third at the outdoor nationals with a personal best 6-feet, 11 inches. Amerin was ninth in the indoor national championships after clearing 6-6 3/4.
"He is jumping very confidently," Becher said of Amerin. "We are confident he will go over 7 feet this season."
Other returning qualifiers for the Blue Dragons are:
+ Sophomore sprinter Juwan Cubit (Oklahoma City), who qualified last season in the indoor 60- and 200-meters and the outdoor 200 meters.
+ Sophomore sprinter Matthew Wright (Wichita), who qualified for the NJCAA indoor 600 and indoor 4x800 meter relay that finished eighth in 2012.
+ Sophomore middle-distance runner Isaac Williams (Pretty Prairie) who was part of HCC's indoor qualifying 4x800 relay and outdoor 4x800 relay that finished third in the nation. Williams also qualified for the 2012 NJCAA cross country championships.
+ Sophomore Dakota Becker (Halstead), who was a national qualifier in both the indoor and outdoor national pole vaults.
+ Sophomore multi-event athlete Karson Becker (Pratt), who finished 11th in the NJCAA indoor heptathlon and 10th in the NJCAA outdoor decathlon.
+ Sophomore Brandon Koenigsman (Hutchinson), who was a 2012 outdoor national discus qualifier.
"I think we are pretty good in all of our events," Becher said. "We might be the weakest in the long and triple jump, but there is potential there."
The Blue Dragons will be bolstered in the sprints and relays with the return of Cubit, transfer runner DeAngelo Strickland (Chicago/Highland CC) and returning sophomore Devonte Smith (Hampton, SC).
HCC was void of points in 2012 in the hurdles. That should change this season with the addition of freshman Blake Wilkey (South Haven) and Tyler Barber (Herington), both whom won high school state hurdle championships.
National cross country qualifiers Orbelin Rojas (Phoenix) and John Murphy III (Wichita), both freshmen, will improve the long-distance point potential for Hutchinson in 2013.
"I think we will have some good indoor performances this season, but this group is really built for the outdoor season," Becher said. "I think we are going to have a pretty strong men's team."
The 2013 Region VI Indoor Championships will be on Feb. 15 in Lawrence, while the NJCAA Indoor Championships will be March 8-9 at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.