ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Tabor track and field coach Dave Kroeker, in his fourth season at the helm, continues to gauge the improvement of a young but experienced squad.
“My goal for Tabor College track and field this spring is to finish second in the conference in both the men and women,” Kroeker said.
Last season the Bluejay men finished third while the women were a strong second.
Kroeker said the strength and depth of perennial powerhouse Southwestern may be too big an obstacle for Tabor to overcome.
“We don’t have the distance runners to compete with Southwestern and score points in those events,” he said.
Kroeker is assisted by coaches Shelby Wehrman (sprinters, relays, long jumpers) and Susie Best (middle distance and distance runners).
Kroeker handles triple jumpers, hurdlers and pole vaulters.
Leading the men’s team this season will be three-time NAIA national meet qualifier and three-time KCAC 800-meter champion Landon Goertzen, a senior from Henderson, Neb.
“Landon is a national qualifier and finished 10th in the nation at outdoors last year and sixth at indoors this spring, earning All-American status,” Kroeker said. “We hope his success is repeated during the outdoor season.”
Goertzen holds the school record in the 800 meters at 1 minute 53.2 seconds.
Brian Lightner, a sophomore from Inman, earned all-conference honors by placing third in the 400-meter hurdles last season.
“Brian missed qualifying for nationals by just 0.01 second last year,” Kroeker said. “I think he has the ability, and it’s very likely he’ll qualify for nationals this year.”
Lightner owns the school record in the 400-meter hurdles at 55.31 seconds.
“He’s a really hard worker and I look for him to take that below 55 seconds this year.”
Kroeker said Tabor’s 4×400 relay team could make be a difference-maker this spring.
“I told the guys we have about six men capable of running on that relay team,” Kroeker said. “They should be a national qualifier-or at least I hope they are.”
Getting the initial opportunity to run on the relay team was Jeff Anenson, a freshman from Mayer, Minn., Caleb Stanton, a sophomore, Anaheim, Calif., Goertzen and Lightner.
Waiting in the wings are Jeremiah Randall, a senior from Mound City, and Tim Jones, a freshman, Fort Worth, Texas.
Stanton hopes to be fully recovered from a near-season-long injury and shine in the open 400.
“He ran under 50 seconds in his first meet last year, but pulled a hamstring,” Kroeker said. “He has an opportunity to run in the 48s if he can remain healthy and keeps working as hard as he can.”
Anenson is a runner to watch in the 800 not only this season, but in the future, according to Kroeker.
“I don’t doubt Jeff can run under 2:00 this year and eventually get his time down into the mid 1:50s by the time he’s done here,” Kroeker said. “I’m hoping he’s the guy that takes over for Landon in a year or two.”
Another newcomer drawing rave reviews from Kroeker is Trent Voth, a freshman from Halstead.
“He ran a 15.8 on a cold day over at Bethany,” Kroeker said. “He’s had a time under 15 seconds in high school and I think he’ll establish a new Tabor record fairly early this season.”
Pete Richert, a sophomore from Hillsboro, will make a name once again in the 1,500 meters.
“That’s his race,” Kroeker said. “He played basketball this year so he’s behind, but he’s a local kid with talent and he has the ability to get his time down once he’s in shape.”
Youth sprinkled with veterans dominates the roster in the field events.
Lee Waldron, a sophomore from Bakersfield, Calif., placed fifth at the conference meet last year in the javelin.
“He hadn’t thrown it before,” Kroeker said. “He began the season this year by throwing it as far as he did at the end of last year, and that usually doesn’t happen.
“He has a chance to really improve because he just knows how to throw it better now.”
Randall returns after a top-six placing in the discus last season.
“He got a late start after basketball, too, but I look for him to move up in the discus this year,” Kroeker said.
Strength and youth dominate the throwers for Tabor this spring.
“We have some really good young throwers,” Kroeker said.
Cody Dick, a freshman from Buhler, Nick Hooper, a sophomore from Buttonwillow, Calif., Matt Sahfeld, a freshman from Beloit, and Dan Raines, a freshman from Hope, all plan to showcase their abilities this spring.
“Nick is a football player and he’s a big strong kid who’s going to get a lot better,” Kroeker said. “Any of these guys have the ability to do good things in the throws.
“None of them have thrown before but they’re all learning, so we’ll just have to see how quickly they can improve.”
Clint Reed, a freshman from Woodbine, and Matt Rorabaugh, a sophomore from Lebanon, head the list of high jumpers.
“Clint already jumped 6-4 this spring and Matt went 6-2,” Kroeker said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they go 6-6 or 6-8 by the time the season is over.”
Without a doubt, the marquee athletes for the women are Angela Jost, a junior from Colorado Springs, Colo., and Tamara McCarren, a senior from Clyde.
“Angela was all-conference in the 800 and 1,500 meters last season,” Kroeker said. “I’m hoping she does well this year. Her training is coming along great so far.”
Jost also competed in the steeplechase for the first time at Tabor’s opening meet.
“She loved it, but it’s not an event you do every week.”
McCarren returns to compete in numerous field events, including the shot put, discus, hammer and javelin if necessary.
“Tamara has been our leading point-getter all three years she’s been with our program,” Kroeker said. “She’s a two-time national qualifier in the discus in outdoors and the school record holder in that event (148-6).”
Adding depth in the throws will be Trista Hanley, a sophomore from Hillsboro.
Indoor national qualifier Ashley Sherrer, a freshman from Limon, Colo., begins her outdoor season in the triple jump, but the talented freshman also excels in other events.
“Ashley won the high jump at Bethany,” Kroeker said. “She runs on the 4×400 and 4×800 relay teams, but we have to watch closely so we don’t wear her out.”
Jennie Throne, a junior from Council Grove, hopes to rebound from two seasons of injuries.
“She’s kind of picked up on the 400-meter hurdles,” Kroeker said. “She’s really taken to that and I think she’ll do some good things there.”
Amber McKillip, a senior from Wauneta, Neb., hopes to improve on her top-six finish in the 400 meters last season after crossing over from the Bluejay basketball team.
Another basketball player making the adjustment from the hardwoods will be Angela Kroeker, a senior from Hillsboro, in the discus.
“Angela struggled the last couple seasons, but hopefully she’ll come back with the form she had earlier in her career,” Kroeker said.
Hoping to soar over the pole-vaulting bar this spring will be Rachel Kostner, a sophomore from Peabody, and Jennifer Palmgren, a freshman from Salina.
“Rachel holds the school record (8-6) in the pole vault,” Kroeker said. “Jennifer is still working on some things, but I’m excited about both of these women.
“I’m sure the school record will fall in this event this year.”
A total of 39 student-athletes comprise this spring’s squad, adding to Kroeker’s optimism.
“For me to get excited about them getting a personal record is just as exciting as knowing they won a race if that means they’re improving with each week,” Kroeker said. “Track is really nice because it’s so objective.
“After the first meet, everybody was very disappointed and that’s good,” he said. “Weather is a factor, but with each week you ought to be faster, jump higher or longer and throw farther.
“If you train hard, you get better.”