The Powell High School track and field teams are taking a ton of talent to Casper for the 3A State Track Meet, starting today (Thursday) and running through Saturday at Kelly Walsh High School.
The Lady Panthers are riding the momentum of a first-place finish at the 3A West Regional Meet in Pinedale, while the Panthers took second place behind Mountain View. PHS head coach Scott Smith said the team is peaking at the right time, and he’s looking forward to what the athletes can accomplish.
“I think we’re pretty good health-wise, and the kids are very excited,” Smith said. “The kids have a great opportunity to have a lot of fun this weekend and do some good things.”
Powell will send 38 athletes to Casper, with each capable of making the podium in their respective events. One thing Smith has enjoyed about the team is its depth, as younger athletes have continued to improve over the course of the season.
“Having that depth is huge,” Smith said. “You’ll see teams that have five or six individual state champions but not even be in the hunt for a team trophy. You look at our girls last week, only one individual championship but winning the whole thing. ... We have a lot of kids scoring, and that’s where that depth comes in — having kids do well in all grades.”
Spring in Wyoming being what it is, weather can always play a factor, though so far the outlook is decent.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen three good days of weather for the state meet,” Smith said, as he prepares for his 27th trip. “... Typical Casper, you’ll have some really nice weather, some really cruddy weather and everything in between.”
For the Lady Panthers, Sabrina Shoopman is a favorite going into the 100 and 300 meter hurdles; the junior will also compete in the 400 meter dash and the 4x400 relay.
“The 100 hurdles is really loaded this year, and she [Shoopman] made a little mistake at regionals and it probably cost her the difference between second and fourth,” Smith said. “Anything can happen there.”
He predicted a “real interesting battle” in the 300 hurdles betwen Shoopman and Isabella Romasko of Pinedale.
“They both just get after it well,” Smith said.
Freshman sprinter Jenna Hillman will aim for the podium in the 100, 200 and 400 meter dashes, and will also run a leg in the 4x400 relay with teammates Shoopman, Caitlyn Miner and Abigail Urbach.
Emma Karhu will have a busy meet, competing in the 200 meters, the 300 meter hurdles, the 4x100 relay and the pole vault. Karhu and her brother Brody both have a legitimate shot at a state title in the pole vault, a feat that doesn’t happen often.
Between Emma Karhu, Lyman’s Challis Nebeker and Torrington’s Nakalyn Garner, “it’s going to be a good competition” for the championship, Smith said.
The high jump will be another event to watch closely, as Gabri Lundberg and Hailee Hyde look to build on their top three finishes at regionals. Both girls cleared 4 feet, 10 inches, putting them in an excellent position for similar finishes at state.
Lundberg and Hyde “really came out of the woodwork last week,” Smith said. “We hope they continue improving, we’re really looking forward to them.”
Rachel Bonander and Cassidy Miner are qualified in the shot and discus, with both expected to make a run at the podium.
On the boys’ side, Jay Cox is one of the favorites in the 400 and 800 meters, having won both at Pinedale. The middle distance specialist will also run the 4x400 relay and the 1600 meter sprint medley; his sub two-minute time (1:58.89) in the 800 meters at regionals was an outstanding achievement, according to his coach.
With Douglas’s Brady Brooks also breaking the two-minute mark in the 800, “that should be a really, really interesting race,” Smith said.
Kaelan Groves, competing in his final state meet, will run the 100 and 200 meters, as well as a leg in the 4x100 relay with teammates Kadden Abraham, Riley Bennett and Landon Lengfelder; he’ll also compete in the pole vault, an event he placed eighth in last year.
The 400 meter dash will be an exciting one, with four Panthers in the mix: Cox, Brody Karhu, Aidan Jacobsen and Cole Frank.
“That’s going to be a great race,” Smith said. With Buffalo’s Cody Milmine running the event in under 50 seconds this year, “that’s going to be a dogfight of a race,” the coach said.
Distance runners Alan Merritt and Jayden Yates will close out their high school careers in Casper, with both competing in the 1600 meters, the 3200 meters and the 4x800 relay. Yates will also compete in the 800 meters.
In just their first year of competing in the events, Dylan Preator and Abraham are qualified in both the 110 and 300 meter hurdles.
Brody Karhu broke the school record in the pole vault this season, clearing a height of 15 feet, 1 inch. At regionals, he battled another vaulter who cleared 15 feet in Mountain View’s Connor Micheli; Micheli finished first, setting up another showdown between the two in Casper.
“All of our pole vaulters have a good chance at placing,” Smith said. “Kaelan [Groves] is in that group, along with Brody [Karhu] and Reece Hackenberg and Reed Smith. That’s going to be a fun one.”
In other field events, Preator and Dalton Woodward are both favorites to make the podium in the triple jump; Preator was fifth in the event last year, Woodward seventh.
In throws, Ryan Good and Zeke Frankenberry are also in position for strong showings.
“Zeke [Frankenberry] did a great job last week, and I hope he keeps improving,” Smith said. “And of course Ryan [Good] is sitting pretty well, having prequalified in both shot and discus. If he goes out and has a couple of good days, he could really set some things on fire.”
Kaelan Groves—100M, 200M, 4x400 Relay, Pole Vault
Brody Karhu—200M, 400M, 4x400 Relay, Pole Vault
Aidan Jacobsen—400M, 800M, 4x400, 4x800
Jay Cox—400M, 800M, 4x400, 1600 Sprint Medley
Colby Warner—High Jump
Cole Frank—High Jump
Jayden Yates—800M, 1600M, 3200M, 4x800
Alan Merritt—1600M, 3200M, 4x800 Relay
Dylan Preator—110 Hurdles, 300 Hurdles, 4x400 Relay, Triple Jump
Kadden Abraham—110 Hurdles, 300 Hurdles, 4x100 Relay
Riley Bennett—4x100 Relay
Landon Lengfelder—4x100 Relay, 1600 Sprint Medley
Ethan Bartholomew—4x800 Relay
Reed Smith—Pole Vault, 1600 Sprint Medley
Reece Hackenberg—Pole Vault
Dalton Woodward—Triple Jump
Zeke Frankenberry—Discus, Shot Put
Ryan Good—Discus, Shot Put
Dylan Cordes—1600 Sprint Medley
Jenna Hillman—100M, 200M, 400M, 4x400 Relay
Emma Karhu—200M, 300 Hurdles, 4x100 Relay, Pole Vault
Sabrina Shoopman—400M, 110 Hurdles, 300 Hurdles, 4x400 Relay
Caitlyn Miner—110 Hurdles, 4x100 Relay, 4x400 Relay
Jayden Asher—4x100 Relay
Jaz Haney—4x100 Relay
Abigail Urbach—4x400 Relay
Sidney O’Brien—4x800 Relay
Hailee Paul—4x800 Relay
Elizabeth Liggett—4x800 Relay
Hailee Hyde—4x800 Relay, High Jump
Gabri Lundberg—High Jump
Maddie Hackenberg—Pole Vault, Long Jump
Cassidy Miner—Discus, Shot Put
Rachel Bonander—Discus, Shot Put
Jenna Merritt — 4x800 Relay
Sheldon Shoopman and Jozi Simpson are helping manage the team at state.