BRADEN RIVER — Braden River High junior Jill Koenig isn’t one to shy away from a challenge.
In fact, it’s what pushes Koenig every time she walks up to the pole vault.
As Braden River’s lone female pole-vaulter, Koenig has had to learn as she goes along —relying on her gymnastics background to propel her over any mental setbacks that may come her way.
“Usually, gymnasts tend to be good pole-vaulters,” Koenig said. “They’re not afraid to go upside down and do some crazy stuff. I love the thrill of doing something totally different. It’s really fun to go upside down — the challenge is the fun part.”
Koenig joined the track team last spring and decided to try pole vaulting, knowing relatively nothing about the event when she first came out. But it didn’t take long for Koenig to discover she had natural talent.
Koenig, who also runs the 400-meter dash and the 1,600-meter relay, won both the junior varsity and varsity county championships as well as her first district championship, advancing to the regional meet where she placed fourth — one place shy of advancing to the state meet.
Now in her second season, Koenig has her sights set on jumping at least 10 feet with the hopes of advancing and placing at the state meet.
Koenig and the rest of the Pirates will open their season tomorrow afternoon at the Bobcat Relays. The team, featuring returning stars Chris Calloway, Tevin Bryant, Olivia Moore, Madison Daunt and Bridget Lanier, among others, is larger this season and has a lot of new talent, which should make the Pirates more competitive this season.
Last season didn’t end the way thrower Austin Slade had hoped.
After several strong performances early on, a knee injury kept the then sophomore from returning to the regional meet. This season, Slade is hoping to return to the regional meet and have a shot at advancing to the state meet.
Slade joined his middle school track team in sixth grade at the urging of his coach. At the time, Slade simply began throwing for fun. But eventually he decided to focus solely on shot put and discus.
“I got into throwing in the first place just by messing around, and then I (gradually) perfected it into this style,” said Slade, who has personal bests of 37 and 115 feet in the shot put and discus, respectively.
Slade will begin his third season with Lakewood when the Mustangs compete in the Bobcat Relays tomorrow afternoon.
Lakewood has one of its largest teams in recent years with nearly 80 students coming out for this year’s squad. And with several strong competitors in the majority of the events, the Mustangs could be one of the favorites to win the district.
“I think for this team this year it’s going to be an exciting year,” coach Kent Ringquist said. “We have a lot of kids that are fast and we have a lot of kids that are very good at distance. I think we’re going to be solid all the way across the board.
“They’re eager and we have a really good group of coaches this year,” he added. “So I expect us to do really well in districts.”
Out-of-Door Academy senior Alanna Rogers thrives on competition.
And over the past five years, Rogers has seen her fair share of competition, having advanced to the state meet each of the past three seasons. Now as Rogers begins her final season at ODA, she has her sights set on capturing district titles in the 100 and 200 and once again advancing to the state meet.
“I’ve been doing a lot of running outside of track practice,” Rogers said. “Last year I focused a lot on strength (training) and this year I’m just focusing on running.”
Rogers joined the Thunder track team in seventh grade after realizing how fast she was in elementary school. Since then, she has become the most dominant member of the girls track team, competing in the 100 and 200 and the 1,600 relay.
After completing one of its best seasons in school history, in which the boys team won a regional championship and the girls 1,600 and 3,200 relays advanced to the regional meet, ODA returns a number of athletes from last season’s squad, including Rogers, Juliet Onufrak, Peter Runge, Brian Ragone, Jeff Young and Ashtin Frank, among others.
“We look good, especially the girls,” Rogers said. “We have a lot of new (talent). We lost three really great collegiate athletes from the boys team, but I think (overall) we’re a really well-rounded team.”
ODA opened its season Feb. 20 at the Cardinal Mooney Tri-Meet. The Thunder will return to action tomorrow afternoon at the Bobcat Relays.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].