The Jackson boys and girls track and field teams enter the 2018 season under fifth-year head coach James Stoverink Jr., who calls himself “the director” instead of the head coach.
“I do the least amount of coaching — I have a great staff of assistant coaches,” Coach Stoverink said. “I let them do their thing, and everyone of them knows more about their events than I do anyhow.”
Two athletes from last year’s girls team finished the season with Class 5 All-State honors as former Indian Nicole Humphreys took home honors as a thrower while senior Katie Schumer finished on the podium for the third time in pole vault.
Coach Stoverink believes three-time all-state selection Schumer has the chance to reach the top of the podium at the end of this season to become a state champion.
“[Schumer] was really close to [being at the top of the podium] last year, so we think she has a good chance to not only be back on the podium, but is one of the favorites for that top spot,” Coach Stoverink said. “I think she’s a lot more confident [this season]. One of the best things about Katie is she loves what she does. She loves pole vaulting, and she loves working at it. She does it all year round, and she’s deserved all the success she’s had.”
Other returners for this year’s girls team include sophomore Erin Huff, who was a state qualifier in pole vaulting last year, junior Kennedy Bauer, senior Emma Masterson, senior Margo Motes, senior Lauryn Varner and junior Kaylee Wilson, who missed all of last season due to hip surgery.
“They all have great attitudes,” Coach Stoverink said. “These are a group of girls where I don’t feel like you’re going to have some of the girl drama that you have sometimes. They are serious about track and field. They want to be successful and they want to come out and work hard everyday.”
Distance runners Bauer and Wilson earned all-state honors as members of the cross country team.
Wilson took 17th overall in 2016 as Bauer placed 18th this season. Motes also qualified for state this season as a member of the cross country team.
Last year’s boys team failed to have any athletes earn all-state honors as Pete Lake (triple jump) and Donya Marx (high jump) were the only two to qualify for state.
One runner returning, who won a district championship in the 400-meter dash and as a member of the 4×400-meter relay team, is sophomore Aaron Brown.
Brown in the 400 and the relay team finished in fifth place at sectionals to come up one spot short of qualifying for state in 2017.
“Some people consider [the 400] the toughest event in track and field,” Stoverink said. “You just don’t see freshman qualify for state in the 400 in Class 5, so he’s really coming off a great year.”
Another returning runner who is heading into his senior season is Ean Buffington, who took eighth in last year’s 800-meter dash at sectionals.
“[Buffington] has dealt with injuries and he’s dealt with illness, some of those injuries of his own making, but he’s kind of had some bad luck,” Stoverink said. “It’s kind of a testament to his attitude and his character the type of perseverance that he’s had. He’s had a really good offseason, and I’m hoping he’s as confident as he’s ever been coming into this season.”
Coach Stoverink said Buffington was an “early bloomer,” who anchored an all-state 4×800 team his freshman year. Stoverink also said he thinks people have forgotten about Buffington, but that he should turn some heads this season.
On the field it was senior Justin Crane who came up shy of his own goals last season, finishing fifth in shot put, seventh in discus and eighth in javelin at sectionals.
“[Crane] had a good season last year, but he didn’t finish it off the way he wanted to,” Coach Stoverink said. “He’s really hungry [to make it back to state]. You look at him now and he’s gotten bigger. A couple years ago when he got fifth he was like the little guy there with all the throwers — he ain’t little anymore.”
Last year’s boys team won the Class 5 District 1 Championship as Crane finished as a district champion in discus along with Brown and the 4×400 team.
One name that came up when talking about younger runners who could make an impact this season on the varsity level is freshman Daniel Dickerson.
“[Dickerson] had a great junior-high season last year, and so we’re really hoping he can step in and help us out in some places especially in the sprint relays 4×400,” Coach Stoverink said. “I think he’s going to be a key role player on those teams.”
Another underclassman Stoverink expects to make an impact is sophomore Caleb Craft, who finished seventh in the 300-meter hurdles as a freshman last season at sectionals.
“[Craft] was a contender — we went into that sectional meet feeling like we had an outside shot and he’s right there,” Stoverink said. “He’s somebody that’s going to help us out on the 4×400 team. He didn’t do that last year, but we had some guys graduate.”
Both teams will begin its season in the Notre Dame Open Tuesday, March 20, and will then compete in the Festus Early Bird Meet this Saturday starting at 9 a.m.