ELKO – When the Elko track and field team actually steps foot into competition – the Indians’ home meet slated for Saturday canceled due to weather – head coach Hans Gaul will see both proven athletes and inexperienced ones.
“We have some athletes we expect big seasons from – both for the boys and the girls – but we have a lot of fresh faces,” Gaul said. “We have some promising freshmen and sophomores, but they are inexperienced and we need to help them improve as the season goes along.”
As far as the early portion of the season goes, weather has made an immediate impact on practices and competitive meets – Elko’s league meet canceled and Spring Creek’s upcoming meet also a question mark.
“We’re doing OK for the most part, but there has been a lot of gym work. The distance runners have been able to get on the track and outside, but they’re tough mudders,” Gaul said. “The field events have been tough. The hurdlers have done some outside work, but the throwers, jumpers and vaulters have been limited. The sprinters have been running in the gym.”
In 2018, the Indians and the Lady Indians placed each placed 10th in the team standings of the Division 3A Nevada State Track and Field Championships, the girls leading the way with 36 points and the boys tallying 29.
Of the Lady Indians’ successful athletes at the state level, some return and approximately half have graduated.
Elko will return the pole vaulting of junior Cassi Christensen, who ended the 2018 season on a high note, placing second in the state meet with a personal-record height of 9-feet-9-inches – trailing only the 10-foot-even of Spring Creek’s Katelyn Anderson.
The Lady Indians will also welcome back the sprinting speed of seniors Phoebe Fagoaga and Brenna Hendrix, who also doubles as members of Elko’s 4x100 relay team.
Fagoaga placed second in the 100 meters and the 200 meters during the state meet, posting times of 13.17 seconds and 27.04 seconds, respectively.
Hendrix and Fagoaga aided the Lady Indians to a sixth-place effort in the 4x100 relay – Elko finishing with a time of 51.46 seconds – but the Lady Indians graduated half of their team, sending off members Gabe Rowley and Taylor Kurz.
Elko also said goodbye to all-around athlete Sariah Pulley, who took third place in both the 100-meter hurdles (16.38 seconds) and the high jump (5-feet-1-inch).
To replace the void, Gaul expects senior Madison Nelson to step up – especially in the high jump – Nelson placing fifth in the 2018 3A North regional final with a personal-record leap of 5-feet-2-inches, the top-three from the North and top-five from the South earning berths to the state meet.
Nelson’s height of 5-2 equaled Pulley’s jump and the efforts of Lowry’s Shelby Garrison and Hailey Hinkle, but Hinkle and Nelson needed more attempts – Pulley and Garrison earning the second and third qualifications with fewer attempts to clear the bar.
The Lady Indians also graduated long jumper Harriet MacNevin – who took third in the state with a distance of 16-feet – and thrower Lexi Baum after a sixth-place performance in the state meet with a launch of 103-feet-10-inches in the discus.
Gaul also said a strength for his girls will be middle-distance runners, specifically noting senior Savanna Carr and sophomore Xandry De Arrieta.
Like Nelson, Carr finished in fifth place during the 3A North regional final – doing so in the 1600 meters with a time of 5:32.11.
She ranked seventh in the 800 meters, completing a half-mile run in 2:34.06.
As a freshman, De Arrieta rounded out the top-10 of the two-mile competition of the regional meet, notching a personal-record time of 12:39.09 in the 3200 meters.
Junior thrower Marrisa Valdez placed fifth in the regional meet in the discus with a personal-record toss of 98-feet-7-inches, ranking seventh in the shot put with a season record of 28-feet-4-1/2-inches.
Long jumpers also have a chance to impact team standings for the Lady Indians in 2019, Lindsey Bruch taking fifth in the event as a sophomore with a distance of 15-feet and Hannah McIntosh finishing sixth at 14-feet-9-1/3-inches during her freshman campaign during the regional final.
McIntosh ranked seventh in the regional final of the triple jump, spanning a personal-record gap of 31-feet-9-1/4-inches.
“We’re expecting a big season from Alex Klekas,” Gaul said. “He’s recovering from an Achilles injury he suffered during basketball, but we’ll get him running and see where he is in relation to other runners before we decide what events he’ll compete in.”
Klekas, now a senior, qualified for state and performed well in numerous events on the grandest stage as a junior – placing second in the 1600 meters and third in the both the 800 meters – also aiding the Indians in several relays.
He was a member of Elko’s only state championship in 2018, the Indians winning the 4x800 relay with a collective time of 8:08.82, other athletes including graduated TJ Steven and Trevor Bruch and then-junior Andres Salas.
Klekas posted a time of 4:31.52 in the one-mile run, trailing only Pahrump Valley state champion Bryce Odegard’s 4:29.61 by a little more than two seconds.
In the 800, he dashed to a season-best time of two-minutes flat in the state meet in one of the most-grueling events the sport has to offer, a combination of sprinting and pacing for the grind.
Elko placed sixth in the 3A state meet in the 4x400 relay with a time of 3:31.21, the team consisting of Klekas, Salas, Stevens and now-senior Joe Simpkins.
Sophomore sprinter Brayden Barnhurst put the league on notice as a freshman, nearly qualifying for state in the 200 meters – placing fourth with a time of 23.71 seconds – ranking seventh in the 100 meters with a personal record of 11.72 seconds.
Salas took fifth at the regional meet with a season record of 10:22.38 in the 3200 meters, then-sophomore Duncan Monroe ranking seventh with a personal record of 10:28.37.
Monroe finished seventh in the regional final with a one-mile time of 4:52.79, Salas following in eighth with a time of 4:56.96.
Now a senior, Peter Neff will look to take to new heights in the pole vault after placing fifth in the regional final – clearing the bar at 11-feet – equaling the mark set by state qualifiers but doing so in more tries.
Junior Caleb Marma tallied a sixth-place effort in the regional final of the high jump, clearing the bar at 5-feet-6-inches, the mark needed for a trip to state set at 5-foot-10.
Simpkins will also help the Indians in the hurdles, placing seventh in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 17.79 seconds during the 3A North final and taking eighth in the 300-meter hurdles with a personal-record time of 44.1 seconds.
Unfortunately for Elko, senior Carl Hansen is not competing this season – Hansen placing seventh in the state meet with a shot-put heave of 40-feet-71/2-inches.
Hansen took fourth in the regional final of the discus with a distance of 128-feet-11-inches, also placing fourth in the regional final of the high jump – equaling Marma’s height of 5-feet-6-inches in fewer attempts.
Elko’s league meet – slated for Saturday – has been canceled, the next competition scheduled for Saturday, March 16, in Spring Creek, weather permitting.