The Bureau Valley boys track and field team is nearly back to full strength this year with the return of injured athletes and additions of key newcomers to make up for the losses for graduation.
The Storm girls squad is full of state-caliber talent under new direction with Jennifer Backer taking over for longtime coach Dale Donner, who had been the program’s only coach (1996-2019).
Now the Storm just wait and see if they get to run this year.
The Storm gained a boost from Jonah Johnson (sprints/jumps), Jaden Michlig (sprints/pole vault) and Devan Batten (mid-distance), who all sat out the 2019 season with injuries and they all look to bounce back and have an impact on this year’s season.
They rejoin a core of senior leaders in Mac Nugent (jumps/sprints), Casey Horner (throws) and Devan Batten (mid-distance), who are all four-year squad members.
“They are four-year kids who have a lot of experience between them, and they will be helping guide this young group to a successful season,” fifth-year BV coach Dan DeVenney said.
The Storm picked up some new athletes this year, including Mason Wierzbicki (jumps/sprints), who makes a return to track after two years off and “jumped right in and looked like he hadn’t missed a day,” DeVenney said.
Troy Blair (distance) makes his high school track debut in his senior year to run distance while Jack Bivins (sprints) is out for track for the first time since eighth grade and will help improve the Storm’s depth in sprints.
Another newcomer is sophomore Nevin Bolin, who spent his freshmen year competing against the Storm for Annawan/Wethersfield, and this year will help bolster their jumps crew.
Other upperclassmen are senior Jaiden Hansen (distance) and juniors Matt Foster (throws) and Drew Spencer (sprints).
Remaining sophomores are Noah Harris (sprints), Brady Higgins (sprints), Taylor Rainwater (distance) and Joe Ritter (sprints/HJ).
The Storm add five freshmen in Ayden Batten, Mason Goosens, Elijah House, Nick Osborn and Ben Roth, who are all looking to find a way to have an impact on the team, DeVenney said.
While last year’s senior class may have been small in numbers with just three (Kale Barnett, Joe Green, Eric Schoff) they scored many points for the Storm, DeVenney noted.
While the Storm lost out on achieving their first goals at the Illinois Prep Top Times, which was canceled, they remain hopeful to be able to achieve others.
“Our goal is going to be to place top four in the conference,” DeVenney said. “Our conference is going to be loaded this year with Morrison, Newman, Princeton, Sherrard and Erie-Prophetstown. We have many returning state champions and medalists our conference.
“We’d like to get as many state qualifiers and state medals as we can. There are also a few school records that I believe can be rewritten.”
The Bureau Valley girls bring back four athletes who medaled at state last year. That doesn’t include their top athlete, junior Kamyryn Kolb, who became ill at the end of last season and was unable to compete at state.
Kolb was the NewsTribune Female Track and Field Athlete of the Year last spring.
She will compete in long jump and sprints.
Senior Madison Morrow stepped in for Kolb on the Storm’s state 400-meter relay (fourth place in Class 1A) and 800 relay (ninth), joining classmates Carly Konneck and Molly Bohm.
Junior Jade Aber also medaled at state last year, placing eighth in the triple jump. Konneck also qualified for the state finals in long jump.
Backer will bank on the leadership of her four-year seniors — Bohm, Konneck, Morrow and her daughter, Alicia, a distance runner.
“We have four returning seniors. They have been great leaders in their events with the other girls on the team,” Jennifer Backer said.
Backer said senior newcomer Sierra Wierzbicki has been a nice addition to the distance crew.
Kolb and Aber head a junior class including Regan Cook (sprints), Ellie Geldean (mid-distance) and Brooke York (throws).
The sophomore class is the program’s largest in numbers with eight athletes — Lola Diebolt (sprints/throws), Ella Entas (sprints), Jennifer Etheridge (mid-distance/HJ), Allison Larkin (sprints/jumps), Lexie Marquez (sprints/jumps), Ashley Nordstrom (hurdles/throws/PV), Aitana Navarro (sprints) and Jamie Schutz (sprints).
Freshman team members are Jillian Hulsing (sprints/mid distance/HJ), McKenzie Hunt (distance), Cadence Kruse (sprints/throws), Emily Norsworthy (sprints/jumps), Cassidy Peterson (hurdles) and Izabel Wallace (throws).
Backer says team goals remain the same, “win conference again and qualify as many as we can for state in May.”