Helias changes its track schedule

Kaitlyn Shea of Helias pulls away from a group of runners during the early stages of the Class 3 girls 3,200-meter run in last year’s state meet at Dwight T. Reed Stadium. Shea is one of the top returning performers for the Lady Crusaders this season.

Kaitlyn Shea of Helias pulls away from a group of runners during the early stages of the Class 3 girls 3,200-meter run in last year’s state meet at Dwight T. Reed Stadium. Shea is one of the top returning performers for the Lady Crusaders this season. Photo by News Tribune.

Last year, the Helias Crusaders and Lady Crusaders went to every track and field meet they could put on the schedule.

Chip Malmstrom, in his first year as head coach, figured competition was the best way for the teams to improve.

But in his second year, that has changed.

“We didn’t have time to coach or train because we were always getting ready for a meet, or just got done with a meet, or recovering from a meet,” Malmstrom said as the Crusaders and Lady Crusaders prepared for today’s opening dual against Jefferson City at Adkins Stadium. “But this year, we scaled back.”

Most weeks will feature one meet. If there’s two, they will be spread apart by a number of days.

“It’s going to make it easier to schedule our training instead of going to meets seemingly all the time,” Malmstrom said.

The Crusaders and Lady Crusaders will enter the season a little banged-up. Practicing on the asphalt track at Helias has about 10 runners battling shin splints, Malmstrom said.

“We’ve had to change practice a little bit to run more on grass,” he said. “We’re doing what we have to do to get our work in.”

And that work has been productive.

“We’re making progress,” Malmstrom said. “The kids are being flexible about a lot of things that I’m asking them to do.”

III

ON THE GIRLS side, the Lady Crusaders are looking to improve on their tie for 29th finish at last year’s Class 3 state championships.

If depth means anything, that shouldn’t be a problem. The Lady Crusaders have nearly 60 girls out for the team.

“I had to dip into the old uniforms to make sure everybody had one,” Malmstrom said. “That’s a good problem to have.”

Kaitlyn Shea, a returning state qualifier, is back in the distance events.

“We’re going to have to pull her back to make sure she stays healthy,” Malmstrom said.

Molly Light also returns in those events.

“She’s our spark plug that just keeps going and going,” Malmstrom said.

The distance events figure to be among the strengths of the squad.

“We’ve got a lot of girls out from cross country and they’re looking good so far,” Malmstrom said.

Kylie Frank, a freshman, was injured for much of the cross country season last fall. But as an eighth-grader in Alabama last spring, Frank won the Class 3A high school state championship in the 1,600-meter run in a record time of 5:11.11. She also took the title in the 400-meter dash and was second in the 800-meter run.

“We’ll see what she does when she gets a little healthier, but she’s pretty good,” Malmstrom said. “We’re going to look for her for points down the road.”

The Lady Crusaders also figure to be strong in the jumps with Laura Schieber (long and triple), Jessica Van Eschen (triple and high) and Lindsey Griggs (long and triple).

“Laura has looked springy in practice and you can tell Jessica put in some work during the winter,” Malmstrom said. “Lindsey is new to the team this season, but she’s looked good in practice.”

Malmstrom also likes the depth the Lady Crusaders figure to have in the sprint events and relays.

“We aren’t going to need the same girls to run in those events, we will be able to rotate them around,” Malmstrom said. “We just need to figure out who fits where the best.”

The girls who should compete for sprint spots include Katy Macy, Gretchen Rauch, Heather Perry, Baylee Francka, Luci Francka, Mackenzie Casten and Schieber.

Danielle Schrimpf should be among the top hurdlers for the Lady Crusaders, with Emma Albertson leading the throwers.

III

ON THE BOYS side, the Crusaders will be looking to replace a big chunk of their state points (they tied for sixth with 29) after the graduation of 400-meter state champion Griff McCurren and the loss of shot put champion Will Fife to an injury he suffered in the state football championship game.

“Will has a great attitude about the situation,” Malmstrom said of the senior who has signed as a thrower with the University of Missouri. “He was down for the first couple of days of track practice, but now he’s out there coaching some of his friends, helping out where he can.”

In addition to his state title, McCurren also was a part of some strong relay teams.

“I’m not saying we can replace someone like Griff, but we have some kids doing very well in the relays right now,” Malmstrom said.

Josh Woodruff, J.C. Szumigala and Jordan Walker return from the 4x400 team that finished fourth and the 4x200 squad that was fifth.

Ryan Tannehill returns as well after running in those relays for much of the season.

“They’re all dropping their times from what they ran in those relays last year, so I think we should be strong again,” Malmstrom said.

Shane Colonius returns in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles.

“He was on the verge of doing great things last season and I think he will break through this year,” Malmstrom said.

Matt Lorang is back in the distance events along with Thomas Asmar.

“Matt’s a hard worker, he scraps for all he can get,” Malmstrom said. “Thomas is a talented runner as well.”

Tim Struemph has already hit the 40-foot mark in the triple jump in practice.

“That’s where he ended the season last year, so he’s looking good,” Malmstrom said.

Jordan Kemple should lead the team in the sprint events.

“Just watching him in workouts, you can see how he’s developed and he’s starting to lead the pack,” Malmstrom said.

Tyler Schrimpf and Logan Prenger are strong in the pole vault, along with Jared Rackers, who is battling a knee injury.

Chandler Luebbert is good in the middle distance events, Malmstrom said, while Collin Caywood will provide depth in the long jump and Merlin Phelps leads the throwing contingent.

“We have a good boys team as long as we stay healthy,” Malmstrom said. “We’ve got one or two kids in every event who I think can do well, it’s a matter of finding people behind them. Our numbers are down a little bit, we don’t have a whole lot of seniors. We’ve got the right kids, we just don’t have a lot of the right kids.”

Malmstrom is more comfortable heading into his second season at the helm.

“I was figuring things out a day late,” he said. “This year, I can see things ahead of time and get them done. I’m more comfortable, I feel I can coach more and administrate less.”

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