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LEOPOLD—Even without graduated star Nick Huber, Coach Jason Barnett expects Perry Central to have another strong boys track team.
Huber, who set school records in five events and placed third in the state in the 300-meter hurdles last year, is now running for Cornell University.
But the Commodores have more depth this year. “We have 33 boys on the team—that’s the best we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Barnett.
That number includes nearly everyone from last fall’s sectional championship cross country team—several of whom have not run track before—and a talented nine-man freshman class.
Besides having depth in the distance races, “I think we’ll definitely be strong in the throws,” said Barnett.
Robbie Piper placed second in the shot put in the 11-team Jasper sectional with a 47-foot-91⁄2 throw last year and “has thrown over 50 (feet) in practice quite often” this year, said Barnett.
Jake Paulin, fourth in the sectional at 46-1 last year, also returns in the shot.
Paulin and Dane Ransom will be the Commodores’ top discus throwers. “They’ve both been throwing real well—130 to 140 feet,” said Barnett.
Cross country stars will man the distance races. Eric Scheiber and Jake Schwartz lead the team in the 1600 and 3200 and Michael Ernst and Ian Bashor are the top two in the 800.
Ernst, who placed second in the sectional in the 800 in 2:03.11 last year, will also run the 400 at times.
“He could definitely break 2 minutes in the 800 and 50 seconds in the 400,” said Barnett.
Reuben A. Schwartz and Samson Benjamin, two seniors in their first year competing in track for the Commodores, will also run the 400. “We’ll mix it up a little bit at times,” said Barnett.
Benjamin has also been the team’s top sprinter in the 100 and 200 in practice.
He’ll be joined by Ethan Wheatley in the 100 and freshman Trent Pringle in the 200.
Freshman Ivan Bland gets the formidable task of replacing Huber in both hurdles races.
“He’s not an ordinary freshman—he’s running the 110 highs in the high 16s already,” said Barnett. “He’s looking good—maybe better than Nick did as a freshman.”
Kyle Schnell will join Bland in the 300 intermediate hurdles.
T.J. Hall returns in the long jump after placing fourth in the sectional at 19 feet, 1 inch last year.
Mikey Wilkerson is probably No. 2 in that event, said Barnett.
Bashor and Neal Schwartz will pole vault. Bashor has cleared 11 feet, 6 inches in practice—“he took lessons all winter (from former Tell City star and pole vault coach Marty Rogier),” said Barnett.
Three newcomers—Bland, Reuben A. Schwartz and Alex Rogier—are competing for the top spots in the high jump. “By the end of the year I’m hoping to get some people over 6 feet,” said Barnett.
The Commodores have so much depth in the 3200 relay that Barnett plans to enter two teams in it early in the season to sort things out.
Bashor, Noah Gatwood, Kyle Schnell and Ernst will run on one. Reuben Y. Schwartz, Jacob Schwartz, Neal Schwartz and D.J. Newton will run on the other.
Benjamin, Hall, Reuben A. Schwartz and Ernst will man the 1600 relay.
Wheatley, Robert Wirth-wein, Wilkerson and Hall are slated to run the 400 relay.
Perry Central beat Paoli by 11 points to win the PLAC title last year. “I would think we’re favored again, but Paoli always seems to come around to give us a good run,” said Barnett.
He said Forest Park is favored in the sectional. “I would say them, Northeast Dubois, us and Tell City are the top four teams in it, but I don’t know in what order.
“I’m not going to count us out (of winning it). It all depends on how our sprinters step up. And hopefully our high jumpers can step it up.”