NHS TRACK: From the parking lot to the state meetChris Stovern and Nate Nelson, pole vaulters for Northwestern High School, were overjoyed with their practice site Wednesday afternoon. The sky was clear, the air was warm and the Tigers were preparing for the WIAA Division 2 state track meet in the parking lot of Iron River Elementary School. “This here, is a lot better than what we’ve had,” said Nelson, a sophomore. “What we’ve had has been inside the gym. Being out here is great,” Stovern said.
By: Emily Kram, The Daily Telegram
Chris Stovern and Nate Nelson, pole vaulters for Northwestern High School, were overjoyed with their practice site Wednesday afternoon. The sky was clear, the air was warm and the Tigers were preparing for the WIAA Division 2 state track meet in the parking lot of Iron River Elementary School.
“This here, is a lot better than what we’ve had,” said Nelson, a sophomore.
“What we’ve had has been inside the gym. Being out here is great,” Stovern said.
Despite being forced to practice in strange places because of construction at the high school, Northwestern has dominated in the pole vault this season. The Tigers will be well represented in the state meet Friday and Saturday as Stovern, Nelson and Nikki Weyandt all advanced in the pole vault.
Weyandt competed in the state meet for the girls last season after winning the pole vault in the sectional meet. She duplicated that effort this year, placing first in the event with a height of nine feet, nine inches.
“She’s probably the nicest kid I’ve ever met in my life; she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body,” said Bruce Nelson, who coaches the pole vaulters at NHS. “She works hard and you couldn’t ask more of someone.”
Bruce Nelson said he has been working with Weyandt since fifth grade, when she would come to practice with her older sisters. Since then, Weyandt has grown into one of the Tigers’ leading pole vaulters on a very strong girls team.
“We’ve won it (the sectional meet) six years in a row now for the girls,” Bruce Nelson said. “Our girls vault has been really tough. The girls vault is very competitive at the state meet this year.”
He added that Weyandt has a shot at the podium because she has a great run and plant.
For the boys, Stovern and Nate Nelson finished third and fourth, respectively, in the sectional meet to advance.
“We figured it was a possibility that one or both of us would make it, but it was still definitely a surprise,” Stovern said.
Neither has been to the state meet before, and both questioned if they would make it this year.
Nelson said he was practically crying when he advanced because he had been convinced he did not make it. After another competitor got no height on a vault, though, Nelson finished in fourth place to make the cut.
“I went from really upset to really happy,” he said.
Stovern was very nervous during his vaults, also because of a misunderstanding. The junior thought he had cleared only 11 feet and missed 11-6, when if fact he had made the 11-6 vault and missed 12 feet.
“I thought there was no chance I was going on,” Stovern said. “Then when Nate told me we both made it I was really excited.”
Nelson and Stovern agreed it will be easier to compete in the state meet with someone they know and can talk to. As to goals, Nelson said they’re just going to focus on making the opening height to start.
“Bruce keeps telling me I should get 13 feet, but we’ll see what happens,” Stovern said.
On the track, Nicole Hughes will compete in the 800-meter run for the Tigers at the state meet Friday. The NHS senior also spent most of the season practicing in a parking lot, but unlike the pole vaulters, she didn’t find the conditions enjoyable.
“We didn’t have any track this year, so it’s pretty hard to do anything without a track right now,” Hughes said. “But we made the best of it.”
Hughes thought the lack of an adequate practice surface was a major difficulty for the Tigers this season. Spray-painted lines on a stretch of the parking lot at Northwestern Middle School served as the Tigers’ track this year.
“Those are our marks for different distances,” Hughes said of the spray-painted lines. “We had a straight line and just like paint marks. We didn’t have an actual loop.”
Tuesday’s practice at the outdoor track behind Wessman Arena was only the second practice of the season on a real track for Hughes.
In addition, this is Hughes’ first time running the 800 at the state meet. In past years, Hughes has run the 400 individually at state, winning in 2006. Hughes also holds the school record in the 400, but this year, track coach John Woodbury decided the senior had the endurance to run with the best and moved her up to the 800-meter run.
“It’s a really competitive field, and the 800 is going to be who is on that day,” Woodbury said. “It’s such a good field. Like at sectionals, our goal was to make it to state. She was fourth but one second out of first. That’s how good a field it is. Those are really outstanding runners we’re going up against.”
Helping Hughes train for the 800 are two up-and-coming runners at NHS, Jimmy Hosey and Jessie Morris.
“I need some people to work her over a little bit because the 800 is such a physical race,” Woodbury said.
Unlike the 400, which Hughes is used to running, Woodbury said competitors do not stay in their own lanes for the 800. He is interested to see how Hughes will respond to the challenge at the state level.
The only goal Hughes has going into the meet is to improve on her sectional time of 2:22.35, which is school record in the 800-meter run.
Would an improvement of one-hundredth of a second be enough?
“Yeah, actually it would,” Hughes said. “I’ll go for more too, though.”