J-Hawk track: Short but promising season
Jesup’s early season indoor meets have always given the track teams an opportunity to preview the season’s competition and a chance to compete among a variety of school class sizes. No one knew that this year’s meets at Wartburg and UNI would be the teams’ last look at a normal season.

On Mar. 3, the J-Hawk boys opened their season by competing against 24 teams at Wartburg College. The team had just one practice under their belt, but saw some great things early on. Izak Krueger finished eighth in the high jump at 5-10. Noah Sheridan finished 16th with a time of 8.55 seconds in the 55-meter hurdles preliminaries. Carson Lienau finished 14th out of 33 competitors in the boys’ shot put with a throw of 35-11.50. The 4x800-meter relay, made up of Jared Thoma, Brady Dahl, Nolan Evans, and Logan Zuck, and the 4x400-meter relay, made up of Noah Sheridan, Carter Even, Heath Wyant, and Luke Vanbrocklin, also had a good start.

A week later, the team was at UNI’s Dickinson Relays. “We showed great progress and put up some good times,” boys’ head coach Jason Sullivan said. “It was early, but already our relays were showing better times than that of previous years, so it indicated we would have some strong relay teams this season.”

The coaching team was focused on helping each of their athletes work towards their individual goals. As a team, they set their eyes on finishing third in the North Iowa Cedar League conference meet, finishing in the top five at the 2A district meet, scoring points at state, and breaking a school record.

The girls’ program wasn’t able to practice with a full team until late in the practice season due to the state basketball tournament. Despite this, head coach Lisa Loecher observed a team ready to work. “There was definite excitement for the upcoming season from the get-go,” she recalled.

“Coach Schutte, Coach Lingenfelter, and I really felt that we had a legitimate shot at taking eleven to thirteen events with what the girls were accomplishing during practice,” Loecher said. “This season looked as though we had a chance to take at least one individual in each of the field events, which would have been a first in my 29 years of coaching at Jesup.”

The girls’ coaching staff knew the team had strong chances at a number of their events making state this year. Another goal for the team was to finish in the top three in the conference.

Then in mid-March, the announcement came to close schools for four weeks, including putting a halt to spring athletics.

For Coach Sullivan, the first warning sign that things would be changing came when colleges began postponing their sports seasons. “We knew it was a possibility, so we created a place to continue our training during postponement,” he said.

Sullivan said the boys’ program had been using an online app for daily workouts and strength training already, so the team was able to quickly transition to all-online training during the postponement. “We were honest and open with the kids and told them if we come back we want to be ready,” he said. “The kids did a great job right away of taking ownership of their own fitness and really responded well. I think the track workouts were a fun thing for them and at least something ‘normal’ they could lean on.”

The girls’ program also pushed themselves with workouts. Coach Loecher sent the team suggested workouts and kept in contact with the team through SnapChat.
Mid-April, the spring season was cancelled.

“I have been coaching for a lot of years and seen many events be canceled and it is always tough,” Coach Sullivan reflected, “but when a whole season is canceled and you see the disappointment in the guys who had dreams and goals for this season it's really tough.”

“We have a great group of seniors who have passion for track and field and have been setting themselves for three years to meet their goals,” he continued. “It's especially heartbreaking for those guys. The coaching staff has been great at contacting our athletes almost daily and checking in. Some guys have walked away, and some guys keep on grinding through workouts. Either way, they know what is best for them right now. We are just trying to meet their needs.”

“I think everyone knew the chances of having the season were slim, but we had that sliver of hope that things would work out,” Coach Loecher said about the closure.
“It was difficult when the news broke,” she continued. “We had five seniors that had been out for track every year since 7th grade with the end goal of running, jumping and/or throwing at the “Blue Oval.” Zoe Miller had run in nine events at the state meet in the last three years, and Payton McHone had run for the first time last year. The way in which the girls had been practicing, we as a coaching staff knew we had a special team which made the cancellation even harder.”

The boys’ team loses thirteen seniors and the girls’ team five.

Read the rest of the story in this week's May 20 Citizen Herald!
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