Eagle Valley dominates the field in track | VailDaily.com

Eagle Valley dominates the field in track

Ian Cropp
EVT High Jumpers BH 5-11

GYPSUM – Eagle Valley track and field coach Jeff Shroll knows how easy it can be to neglect the field aspect of the sport.But don’t think for a second he or anyone else on the Devils would do such a thing.”If we didn’t have the field, we wouldn’t have track,” Shroll said.In just about every meet this year, the boys’ squad has pulled in a minimum of 60 points in the field events alone.”It’s ridiculous,” said Mike Smith, who competes in the high, triple and long jumps. “There aren’t many teams that can say they do that with just three guys in the field.”Smith along with fellow jumper John Gabriel and thrower Jacob Rivera have placed better than most 4A teams this year, and helped the Devils win numerous meets.How?

Well, when Gabriel wins the triple jump, takes second in the high jump and gets a top-five finish in the triple jump, while Smith wins the high jump, gets third in the triple jump and adds another medal in the long jump, these things happen. Oh, and Rivera goes 1-2 in the discus and shot put, respectively for good measure.”That’s a 40 to 60 points between John and Mike. Add Jake to that, 15 points being conservative, and that’s just the field events. We haven’t even thrown into that Jake Brock (in the 3,200 meters) and Sean Matheson (in the 100 and 200). And if we get some points in the 400 (from Kyle Simonett) or in relays, that puts us up in the 90s.”But if you ask the big scorers about this season, the first thing they’ll tell you is how much fun they’ve had.”It’s been a blast all year,” said Gabriel, who just scratched on a 45-foot triple jump last meet. “We are able to compete with each other.”Smith is a fan of the intrasquad competition.”It makes it way more fun. It takes the stress off. We push each other, but it’s never serious competitiveness,” Smith said.Tell that to their opponents, some of whom have voiced displeasure at having to go up against two duo.”That’s a good feeling, too – having people not want to compete against us,” Gabriel said.Hard work”The field events are so much harder to coach,” Shroll said. “There are so many technical things. All the runners have gone home and we’re still there late in the field. It takes a lot of dedication and work on the coach’s part.”

Randy Rohweder, the throwing coach, has the full attention of his athletes.”He’s such a good coach. I didn’t even know how to throw when I started, and look where I’m at now,” said Amy Thompson, who along with Kayla Phillips and Sarah Schlegel comprise the trio of girls who place in just about every meet in the discus and shot put.Phillips, who has improved her personal best in the discus by more than 25 feet, appreciates how much Rohweder has helped her.”It’s amazing to see how you’ve improved. It’s a good feeling, and your coach can be proud,” Phillips said.The guys’ jumpers, who both played basketball, are just as happy to have their basketball coach, Pat Gabriel, helping them soar.”During basketball season … he had us do a bunch of plyometrics to build up our leg strength,” Smith said, whose giant calves draw the attention of his teammates. “They call my legs overweight. I think they are just jealous.”Jumping higherWhile they may not compete as often as the often as their teammates, the pole vaulters have been equally efficient. At regionals Wednesday, the girls went 1-2, with Miranda Hicks clearing 7 feet and Byronny Hiland clearing 6-6.”I was kind of shocked because I went in thinking I’d get third,” said Hicks, who was competing for the first time in the event. “We hadn’t practiced any of those heights before, so I didn’t know what I was able to do. Once I got over the bar, I thought, ‘I can do this.'”Hicks also wanted to beat one of her teammates, but from a different event.

“I wanted to beat Mike. He jumped 6 feet, 6 inches (in the high jump), so my goal was to at least beat him. He can do it without a pole, so I have to be able to do it with a pole.”Dan Gillis won the boys’ pole vault by clearing 10 feet.”I was pretty nervous,” Gillis said. “I didn’t think I was going to make the opening height. It’s going to be nice going into (the other events at regionals) knowing we have 10 points before anyone else has any.”UnprecedentedSo what exactly does it mean for Shroll to have three girls who all may end up medaling in both throwing events?”Not since I’ve been coaching have we had that many who are able to score,” Shroll said. “If one breaks out and has a good toss, the others follow. They push each other and encourage each other. It’s a little throwing club.””Freshman year, Kayla and I were both placing here and there,” Schlegel said. “As we got better, we stared to place in both meets in all events.”Then came Thompson. Mix in some solid coaching and a good work ethic, and that’s how the girls do it.But that still doesn’t answer the most taxing question in the field. How exactly does Rivera dominate in throwing while running a leg on a 400 relay team that often medals?”I was talking to coach Rohweder, and he was saying how his best throwers have been in a relay. (In throwing events) you have to be explosive, strong and flexible.”

Shroll couldn’t be any happier with a kid like Rivera on his squad.”He’s super coachable, and always brings it when it comes down to needing it,” Shroll said. “It’s unusual having a kid like him. He’s helped us in the relay with Wes (Minett) being injured.”Rivera enjoys sprinting 100 meters before he throws a discus more than 153 feet.”When you run you have the adrenaline going, and it helps you out,” Rivera said.He’s not the only one who gets into the zone.”When I’m at a meet, if I’m feeling like I can go, I go further every jump,” Gabriel said. “I get more adrenaline and it feels like you are flying almost.”Count on the Devils to get airborne this weekend at regionals in Grand Junction.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935, or icropp@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado

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