Heading into this season, the Jackson track and field program returns a combined total of 11 state qualifiers between the boys and girls teams from last spring.
The Indians boys squad brings back six state qualifiers and the program’s only returning all-state medalist in senior Collin Havill, who finished as the 2021 Class 5 runner-up in pole vault.
Jackson’s five other state qualifiers coming back on the boys side are juniors Conner Matthews (high jump), Tony Terry (shot put) and Cole Puls (4×800 relay team), and sophomores Zach Brazel (4×800) and Bryce Gentry (4×800).
On top of earning all-state, Havill also won a Class 5 Sectional 1 Championship last season, while Terry is the only returner for the Indians boys team to have won a Class 5 District 1 title in 2021.
Another Indian on the boys team that qualified for sectionals last season was senior Joshua Wehrenberg, who did so as a member of the 4×100 team.
Havill is the only returning individual SEMO Conference Champion for the boys team, as Brazel, Gentry and Puls were all members of the 4×800 conference championship relay team last season.
This fall in cross country, Gentry and Puls helped Jackson win a SEMO Conference Championship as they also qualified for the Class 5 State Meet individually. Gentry placed 45th overall at the state meet, and he also won his first-ever individual SEMO Conference title earlier this school year.
While the girls team didn’t have an all-state medalist last year, the Indians return five state qualifiers and multiple athletes from their Class 5 District 1 Championship team. There are two female athletes coming back this season who won district titles in multiple events.
One of these returners for Jackson’s girls team is none other than Southeast Missouri State signee senior Layla Fliege, who qualified for the Class 5 State Meet in the 800 and 1600-meter run, and she qualified as a member of the 4×800 team.
Fliege won a district championship individually in both the 800 and 1600, while she also helped the 4×800 team take home district gold as well.
Fliege also helped the Jackson girls team win the SEMO Conference Championship as she won both the 800 and 1600 conference titles, while also helping the 4×800 take first in the conference meet as well.
“Going into last track season, my times improved a lot. I hit my goal for my junior season, and it made me really excited for what I could do in the future,” Fliege said.
Fliege is following in the foot steps of former Jackson female runners such as Kennedy Bauer, Chelsea Drum and Carli Knott by signing with a Division-I program. Bauer currently runs at the University of Missouri – Kansas City, while Drum and Knott ran for Ole Miss and SEMO, respectively.
The other Indian to win more than one district title last spring was junior Mallorie Metzger, and she was a member of the district championship and state-qualifying 4×800 team. Metzger, who was a state qualifier as a member of the wrestling team this winter, also claimed gold at districts in the 400-meter dash.
Metzger also became an individual SEMO Conference Championship by taking first in the 400, along with being on the 4×800 conference title team.
The two other members of the 4×800 relay team outside of Fliege and Metzger return as well in seniors Brooklyn Burgess and Addie Heisserer. Heisserer will also be competing in the 3200 individually this year.
Heisserer and Metzger were the only runners to qualify for state in cross country this season, as Addie placed 42nd overall and Metzger 53rd. Heisserer also won her first-ever conference title this fall, while fellow cross country runners Metzger and Fliege also earned all-conference.
The one other returning sectional qualifiers on the track for Jackson’s girls team is junior Gracie Metzger, who did so in the 100 and 200-meter hurdles.
Even though she didn’t win a district championship, junior Briaysia Purl was the only state qualifier in field evens for Jackson’s girls team. There are three other Indians coming back to the girls team this year who were able to qualify for sectionals in field events, though: sophomore Felicity Pingkian (pole vault), sophomore Megan Burger (triple jump) and lastly junior Stormee Rutherford (shot put).
Pingkian and Purl each brought home individual SEMO Conference Championships in their respective events pole vault and discus.
The Indians are in their second full season under Mike Gross, who became the head coach in 2020.