ELKO – The Elko track team has a new face at the top of the program, and the Indians are hosting the first meet of the season Saturday – albeit an abbreviated version.
Hans Gaul has assumed the head coach position from Cody Krenka, who has stayed on with the staff and will continue training Elko’s distance runners.
“I’m lucky that Krenka has run such a great program and that we have brought back so many great assistants,” Gaul said. “The weather has made it tough to get much practice in. We have been working in the gym and the weight room, but I’m looking forward to a full week of practice outside to get ready for the season.”
Elko’s first taste of competition will only come in the track events – hosting the Elko League Meet on Saturday at Warrior Field – but the field events have been canceled due to the recent snow and the still-covered ground around and away from the track.
The areas Elko was hit hardest by graduation for the boys came in the sprints and relays, saying goodbye to nearly every state qualifier from last season – also losing the best jumper in the history of the school – the girls now without the best pole vaulter in school history and their best thrower.
The Indians will definitely miss the all-state athleticism of Kyrin Allen, who could not pull off the three-peat in the high jump.
The two-time defending state champion tied for first in height at 6-feet-8-inches but wound up second after a jump-off with Dayton senior Jonathan Ply.
Allen also took second in the triple jump, totaling a mark of 44-feet-4-1/2-inches.
However, he won his first state championship in the long jump – sealing his third state title overall – sailing 21-feet-8-3/4-inches.
During the season, he broke the school record in all three jumping events.
A 67-year-old Elko mark fell on April 22, 2017, at the Carson Invite, Allen’s heels touching the sand at 22-feet-2-3/4-inches in the long jump.
On May 13, 2017, he broke the school’s triple-jump record with a distance of 46-feet-3-3/4-inches at Carson High School, winning the regional championship in the process.
He also broke his own school record in the high jump during the season, crossing the bar at 6-feet-10-inches.
Like Allen, Marissa Richey knocked down her third state title, stringing together three in a row in the girls pole vault.
Remarkably, Richey set her personal bests and school records on each of her state-winning vaults.
She set a personal record of 11-feet-6-inches during her senior year at state, also booking the best vault for the division in the history of the state meet.
Allen was also a part of the Indians’ second-place 4x400 relay team, the Indians also saying goodbye to Francis Manuel and Juan Rodriguez – leaving now-senior TJ Stevens as the only returning runner from the squad.
Stevens is also the lone returner from Elko’s 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams, which ranked sixth and eighth at state last season, respectively.
From the 4x100 team, the Indians graduated Bryson Kufeld, Gabe Iguban and Manuel – sending off Manuel, Kufeld and Rodriguez from the 4x200 team.
Kufeld represented the Indians in the 100-meter field at state, ranking eight in the dash.
Along with Richey in the vault, Elko also graduated its best thrower for the girls – Lola Cornell.
Cornell finished third at state in the shot put, heaving the stone 34-feet-5-inches.
While Gaul said the “boys have a lot of young people who need to step up in the sprints,” Elko’s middle distance and distance runners should be strong – spearheaded by junior Alex Klekas.
As a sophomore, Klekas led the charge for the Indians in three events individually at state – placing third in the 800 meters with a personal record of 1:59.65.
He crossed fifth in the 1600 meters with a time of 4:44.31 and clocked a 10:10.47 in the 3200 meters for another fifth-place finish.
Klekas was also a member of Elko’s 4x800 relay team that qualified for state and placed eighth – also returning junior Andres Salas and senior Trevor Bruch – only graduating Eder Lujan.
Stevens competed on three relay teams at state during his junior season, but Krenka said “he is focusing more on middle-distance events after two years of cross country.”
In the 400 meters, Stevens placed sixth for the Indians at state last year – closing with a time of 52.45 seconds.
The girls will bring back the speed of Phoebe Fagoaga for her junior season, qualifying for state in two events individually as a sophomore.
Fagoaga ranked fourth in the 200 meters at state last year – finishing with a time of 26.81 seconds – placing fifth in the 100 meters and crossing the line in 12.98 seconds.
She was also part of a young 4x100 relay team that did not graduate a single soul.
Fagoaga, fellow classmate Brenna Hendrix, freshman Olivia Smales and junior Gabe Rowley placed fourth in 4x100 with a time of 51.40 seconds.
Rowley is back for her senior season, but Smales is recovering from a torn ACL she sustained before the soccer season began – Krenka saying they “will bring her back slowly, if at all.”
Gaul said he is excited to bring back senior thrower Lexi Baum for the girls and junior Carl Hansen for the boys.
Krenka expects strong distance running from sophomore Duncan Monroe to pair with Klekas and Salas for the boys, adding that the girls will be led in the distance events by senior Raini Jonson and junior Savanna Carr.
The Lady Indians will return junior high jumper Madi Nelson, senior Harriet MacNevin in the long and triple jumps and sophomore Cassi Christensen and senior Makenna Macias for the pole vault.
Junior Peter Neff is expected to be Elko’s strongest competitor for the boys in the pole vault.
The Indians and Lady Indians will kick off the season with a half-slate’s worth of events – competing on the track only – during the Elko League Meet at 10 a.m. Saturday at Warrior Field.