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Argylls will look for individual success

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

While Madison-Grant boys’ and girls’ track teams lack the numbers to win many meets, the Argylls have several athletes primed for individual success.

Unfortunately, the most talented athlete — junior Payton Freel — won’t compete this spring after tearing an ACL during basketball season. Last year, Freel was a Western Sectional girls’ meet champion in the discus and a third-place finisher and regional qualifier in the shot put.

The Argylls already had lost their best thrower Savannah Leas, a state meet qualifier, to graduation, and Freel’s injury is a double whammy to a girls’ team already battling low numbers. Second-year coach T.J. Herniak is working with 10 athletes this spring, but he had just six last year.

“Payton losing the whole season is disappointing, but we want to think of her long-term health and what she has in front of her next year,” Herniak said during Tuesday’s season-opening meet at Mississinewa. “Our expectations are for her to make it to the the state meet next year.

“She had showed a level of improvement last summer after the season was over that was far beyond anything I expected,” he added. “I think she’s going to come back and be one of the best track athletes in the county as a senior.”

Madison-Grant’s boys are in better shape with the return of regional qualifiers Alex Webb (high jump) and A.J. Jones (shot put), both are juniors that second-year coach Kyle Booher expects to lead the Argylls for the next two years. Webb won the high jump and Jones captured the shot put and discus in the three-way meet with the Indians and Elwood.

“Our expectations are a lot like last year, and last year we got better every time out,” Booher said. “Alex Webb and A.J. Jones are regional qualifiers and they continue to do well, and we’re looking for them to have good years.”

Booher is working with 16 athletes and said that is enough to fill each event and relay, but it will be difficult to match up with deeper teams like Eastbrook and Oak Hill. The Argylls finished second behind the host Indians in their season debut but had four first-place performances.

Besides Webb and Jones, the Argylls had Joey Marshall placed first in the 110-meter hurdles, and he will be one of the senior leaders. Another key performer will be Sinjin Turner in the sprint events. 

“Sinjin Turner really turned it on great last year, and Joey Marshall is another senior that stepped up in hurdles and might have a pretty good season,” Booher said. “Turner is actually a utility guy and anything under the 400 we can put him in wherever it fits, and he runs our short relays.”

Booher said middle distance and long distance events could be solid with the return of Parker Amburgey and Christian Veach.

“Parker Amburgey is leading our distance guys and he dropped some good time in the 800 (in Tuesday’s meet),” Booher said. “Christian Veach is a middle distance leader and he does a good job with that. He’s really trying to step up and run a lot better in the 400, and he dropped a couple seconds since indoor season.”

The boys lost only one athlete to graduation, while Booher said three or four newcomers have the potential to help. Mason Bronner ran his first track meet Tuesday and had a third place finish in the 800, and freshman Alex Cretsinger debuted with a second behind Marshall in the 110 hurdles.

“The guys so far have been out working pretty hard and today everybody did pretty decent for the cold weather and not being outdoors practicing,” Booher said. “With the weather being inconsistent there’s only so much you can do indoors, but the guys are on pace to keep moving forward from last year.”

Herniak looks for senior Madison Purkey to lead the Argylls girls, and she was the only other individual besides Leas and Freel to score points in the sectional with a sixth in the high jump. Purkey was a second place finisher Tuesday.

“Madison Purkey has come back a lot stronger than last year and already has come close to a personal best in the indoor meets and cleared 4-8 (Tuesday),” Herniak said.

Hailey Marshall is a senior out for the first time and also performed well in the high jump, giving the Argylls girls some depth in at least one event. Hurdler Katelyn Shouse will continue to pull double duty for the track and softball teams, but Herniak said she should be available more often than last year.

A newcomer who could help is Bailey Freel, Payton’s freshman sister, in the sprint races.

“We’re just trying to build a culture of getting more girls out for track,” Herniak said. “Obviously, the numbers have been down in two years I’ve been coaching and we want to get the numbers up.

“And like what coach Booher said, we want to see improvement in every meet and we have couple girls who could do well,” he added. “Purkey has a chance to qualify for regional if she continues to work hard, and we have some young athletes we can develop over the next three years.”