If it weren’t for bad luck, Fieldcrest track and field coach Carol Bauer and her distance runners would have no luck at all.
The Knights had one of the best cross country seasons in Bauer’s lengthy tenure in 2019, only to have their sectional assignment be moved from one of the easiest to the toughest, and ultimately they missed advancing to state.
Now, those runners took to the track this spring with their opening goal to qualify for indoor state, and the coach believes they had until the coronavirus postponed their season indefinitely.
Bauer is hoping that the virus will be contained or cured soon enough that their season can continue and her 3200-meter relay, the best hope for the school’s first boys state medal since James Leigh took third in the Class A 800 meters in 2011, can go about its business.
The foursome of senior Ryan Gochanour, junior Christian Skaggs, senior Andrew Gochanour and senior Andy Wiesenhofer last year ran an 8:26.58, well below automatic state qualifying time, to advance with five other teams in that event to Charleston. It didn’t make the finals, but the experience made them hungrier, and they’ve shown it in their off-season workouts.
In late February, at an indoor meet at Joliet West where times would be much slower, the quartet ran with the leadoff and anchor switched and posted an 8:43.97, a vast improvement over its previous indoor best of 9:02.
“I told the kids that there was nothing we could do about (cross country), that we had to just do the best we can and see what happens (in track),” Bauer said. “They worked really hard over the winter, in awful weather, putting in super quality workouts, focused on making it to indoor state … and then this happens.
“Now we’re staying ready and hoping that this all ends soon and we can go after our goal of being off the grass and on the podium.”
All of those relay runners will take part in other middle distance and relay events, likely with sophomore Mason Stoeger, who was part of the successful FHS football and basketball teams. A sprinter last spring, he may battle for a leg of that 1600 relay
Leading the individual distance runners is junior Victor Echeveste, a strong cross country runner who is looking to improve on a 3200 PR 11:00, followed by sophomores Michael Scott and Jacob Torres.
The sprints will be manned by senior Tisen Covington, juniors Tanner White and Layton Sechrest and sophomore Pacey Pucek.
Rounding out the boys squad will be senior Garrett Nix, juniors Ashton Doty, sophomores David Huntley and Christopher Mize and freshman Jared Connell.
Back from the girls squad is last year’s lone state qualifier, sprinter Ellen Wood, who turned in a :22.60 at sectional but an uncharacteristic :28.88 on prelim day, so she’s eager to make amends. She leads a veteran group of seniors Zada Baker, Grace Haszler and Alexandria Knight, and they may get help from two freshman long jumpers, Haley Doty and Carolyn Megow.
In the distances, junior Kaitlynn Hakes, who was a cheerleader for the Sweet Sixteen boys basketball team and hence got a late start this spring, will get help from sophomore Delaila Gimed. The throws will be lifted by a pair of sophomores, Amiah Pratt and Sarah Pulliam.
“We have a lot of potential, and we hope they will all get the chance to live up to that potential soon,” said Bauer. “Obviously it's a very serious situation, and stopping the season is not an overreaction, but it is just terribly unfortunate for everyone.
"Hopefully something can be worked out.”