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'Excellence' is the goal of track and field

Top row (from left): Amanda Moore, Jennifer Brasington, Maddie Ingalls, Reilly Squarcia, Cristiana Bruce, Hannah Long, Cara Commons,and Elise Ormiston. Second Row: Katie Economou, Sabrina Smith, Jenna Feeney, Emily Cleland, Heather Czarnecki, Faith Jeffery, Kylie Reis, Catherine Bartz, Katelyn Kroon. First Row: Michaiah Thomas, Kristen Godwin, Stephaine Conflitti, Sarah Baker, Jasmine George, Micah Luckett, Jada Johnson, Coach Kieve Johnson. (click for larger version)
April 23, 2014 - With so many extra-curricular activities offered to students these days, Coach Matt Johnson is having a hard time filling his girls' track team.

"It's sad to say but it's hard having the girls spread out so thin," he said.

With a squad of 36 total girls, Johnson said he's going to have to get creative.

"The strategy is to place the kids in the right events to get the points to win a track meet," he said. "The difference between a recreational track meet and a competitive track meet is that kids sometimes run stuff that they don't think is what they're good at or want to do."

From Back Row left to right: Connor Coupanger, Julian Messina, Noah Kinnie, Grant Krause, Connor Bandel and Coach Matt Johnson. Sixth Row: Mackenzie Djokic, Hunter Grubb, Shane Treppa, Byron Schlickenmeyer, Bradley Taylor, Braxton Sparks, Keegan Konkle, and Jonathan Sanchez, Michael Gula, Bryce Clark, Colin Sroka, Mark Lockwood, Brandon Basela, Oliver Wissman, Derek Medvedik, and Joshua Hall. Fifth Row: BenjaminWiseman, J.P. Sutherland, Brandon Cappuccilli, Sean Terry, Collin Hagberg, Jacob Lewinski, Bradley Taylor, Raynor Rusinowski, and Tanner Saxon. Fourth Row: Christian Corrion, Jacob Schenten, Joey Ufolla, Tyler Kwapis, Kohli Johnson, Andrew Gierak, Keehgan Leone, Mike Stublensky and Adam Schlickenmeyer. Third Row: Matthew Sheer, Logan Bruni, Michael Sovis, Noah Jenkins, Ryan Justus, Gage Cabinillas, Kyle Reason, Ian Diedrich, Joshua Currie, Ethan Binando, Tristan Measel, Bobby Hudson and Alek MilosaVlevski. Second Row: Alec Gerstenberger, Gabe Hogan, Erick Vandecar, Luke Rolling, Luke Powers, Ethan Moll, Dylan Koss, Michael Abbott, Glacier Wallington and Dallas Pruitt. Front Row: Macalister Wells, Riley Feeney, David Staser, Bradley Vandecar, Joshua Johnson, Marcus Perkins and Joey Corsi. (click for larger version)
Johnson is looking for good things to come out of senior Bree Jackson who he says "by far is a standout." Jackson was a state qualifier last year and placed ninth in the 400 meter last year.

"She is all things speed," he noted.

He is believes freshman Michaiah Thomas is "really great."

"Our strength in our girls' team and probably point winners are going to be senior Victoria Bearse in shot discus, followed by some long distance of sophomore Hannah Long running one mile and two mile and sophomore Christiana Bruce with some mid distance speed."

While the girls' team may be small, the boys' team is strong with 88 runners.

"I attribute that mostly to trying to build relationships with kids to get them to come out," Johnson said. "Obviously I can build relationships with boys easier than I can with girls."

To step up for the boys, Johnson is looking at freshman Gage Cabanillas, along with sophomore Anson Rowley, who he says "is going to have an incredible track career." His most standout senior in field events he says is Dallas Pruitt.

"He should be able to make states easily and be a state qualifier, maybe an all state jumper in the high jump," Johnson noted.

Other standouts include: junior J.P. Sutherland and seniors Eric Vandecar, Jacob Schenten, Joey Ufolla and Mitch Tilley.

The strength of the boys, according to Johnson is "being able to marry a regional championship distance team that all came back to run track to join a sprint team."

"That's incredible," he added. "We have just got to keep the sprinters healthy to carry that weight of potential forward."

When it comes to the league match-ups only one team comes to Johnson's mind.

"When I think 'league,' my mind thinks Lake Orion and the rest falls where it may," he said. "If I can think how to be competitive against Lake Orion and do all my work to get the kids in the right places, then I just (have) to understand where there are hot spots in the other teams and place them accordingly in order to be competitive."

As for meets that he is looking forward to, Johnson said they always look forward to the "Oxford Invitational," which will be held Saturday, April 26 at 9 a.m. at Oxford High School.

"It's usually mirrored more like state level of competition instead of a regional. It's a highlight to see how our kids of high caliber and high quality do against other kids (of high caliber and high quality,)" he said. "That will be exciting to see how we do."

Johnson said he's also has the privilege of having an "All-Star Coaching Staff" in assistant coaches, George Schraut, Andrew McDonald, Kieve Johnson, Dylan Smith and Alex Smith next to him.

"That's a big gift," he added. "I think that helps everybody see, the parents see, the community see what kind of excellence we're trying to aim these kids at."

"Excellence" is the goal of the season.

"My goal is to help them understand that everyday we go out there and we strive to give excellence in warm-ups, practice and the meet," Johnson said. "Then we'll let that carry us through our season and hopefully we end the season with a season that looks like we've conquered and we've achieved excellence."

"If that means we're second in the league and we see excellence everyday then we've achieved our goal," he continued. "If we're first in the league we'll be able to point back and say excellence got us here."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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