Fab freshmen have made immediate impact for Devils
GYPSUM – Last season, Sean Matheson turned heads when he joined the Eagle Valley track team. The sophomore finished his first season with four gold medals at state and a school record of 10.8 seconds in the 100-meter dash. The Devils boys finished the season as state champs.This season, the addition of a stellar freshmen class to the girls team has caused similar head-jerking in Gypsum and around the Western Slope.The Devils have a bonafide star-in-the-making with Ashley Rohweder, and have found solid point scorers in Jessie Rice, Sasha Picksley, Courtney Best, Beckah Stough and Danielle Leniger.The mix of young talent and veteran experience has propelled the Lady Devils to a state ranking of ninth in 4A. More importantly, coach Jeff Shroll said, is that the new additions have helped to put the girls team on equal footing with the boys.Schroll didn’t know what he was getting before the season started.”I knew Ashley was talented from middle school track, and Jessie, too, but not to the degree that they’ve performed.” Schroll said. “I knew Beckah Stough, but I didn’t know she was this type of an athlete. The other girls I didn’t even know. With freshmen, you never really expect them to jump right in and contribute. I had some idea that I was getting talented athletes, but not this talented. They’re tough girls.”Rohweder, who is the daughter of assistant coach Randy Rohweder, has had the biggest impact so far this season. Equipped with an exceptionally long stride, the lanky freshman has consistently won gold in the triple jump, the 300 hurdles and the 100.She routinely jumps more than 30 feet in the triple jump and finishes around the 13-second mark in the 100. In the 300 hurdles, she has finished ahead of second-place competitors by more than two seconds with times in the 48-second range.Rohweder said she had a good track background coming from Gypsum Creek Middle School. She credits the Eagle Valley coaching staff, however, for helping her hone her running and jumping form.”It is so much different,” she said. “I was watching video tape from other years and you just kind of jump over the hurdles. You just kind of jump in the sand. This year, it’s so much different. There’s so much competition, but I like it. There’s a real emphasis on form. We do a lot of grass drills and close hurdle drills.”
Rice, Picksley, Best and Leniger round out the other talented first-year additions who went to Gypsum Creek. Stough is the only freshmen who has scored points for the team this season who went to Eagle Valley Middle School.Despite being a freshmen, Rice said she had immediate goals of contributing at the varsity level when the season started. As the starting leg on the 400 relay team with Chelsea Craig, Hattie Higgins and Rachel Sandoval, she has a good shot of making it to state, depending on how the team runs at regionals.”I don’ know if anybody at the high school had expectations for us, but I think that the girls that I did track with up at Gypsum Creek were expecting to do well,” Rice said. “With Ashley, Sasha and myself, we were looking to make an impression our freshmen year. I don’t know if I had so much as expectations, but I had goals. My goals this year have been to go to state. I thought that that would be something that’s in my grasp.”Rice has also helped the team with top-10 finishes in the 100 and 200 and by running on the 800 relay team.Picksley’s contributions have come in the middle-distance relays and as a high jumper. She joins seniors Kenzie Shreeve, Heather Mann and Jessica Stiles on the 1600 and 3200 relay teams – something she said has been invaluable experience.”They’ve taught me to work hard all the time,” she said. “Even in practice, it’s always, ‘Give it 100 percent.’ Heather definitely pushes middle distance. Kenzie pushes us too. Mostly, we try to have fun, but to work hard.”
Stough, Best and Leniger, more than anything, have provided the team with depth in their first season of high school track. Stough has scored points in triple jump, the 300 hurdles and as a member of the 800 relay team.Best is also a member of the 800 relay team and has done well in the 100 hurdles. Shroll has plugged Leniger into a number of events when other runners have been injured.”She’s been real steady for us,” he said. “She’s helped us out on a number of relays.”With so much talent to build around, the future looks bright for the girls track program. Shroll said the team will definitely have some holes to fill next season with the loss of Shreeve, Mann, Stiles and distance runner Jessica Medsker to graduation.With regionals coming up next week, however, he’s been pleased that this year’s newcomers have been able to learn from their older peers.”It’s always nice to have the older girls help the younger girls make the transition,” Schroll said. “Heather, Kenzie and Jessica have been the stalwarts of the team for four years. They’ve been there and done that. It’s nice to have the freshmen be getting ready for the Tiger Invitational this weekend and regionals while they’re all here. They can learn from their work ethic.”Nate Peterson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at email@example.com.Vail, Colorado
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