Growing Mitchell track and field team aims for greater success across each event

Apr. 3—MITCHELL — If you notice a large group of yellow figures running around Joe Quintal Field this spring, rest assured, you're not seeing actual Minions.

That's just the Mitchell High School track and field team, wearing their team shirts that depict the two-eyed cartoon character from "Despicable Me," reminding the team to work together.

And with upwards of 120 kids on the Kernels' roster this spring — its largest contingent in several years — the mindset of relying on each other like a group of Minions is something coach Deb Thill hopes the team can embrace this season.

"We are continually getting athletes to come out for track," Thill said. "When I first started, we were getting 60-70 kids.

"It's a big group, but we do try to have some fun while we're getting better ... We do our warm ups together everyday, we try to do things together as a whole group and there's 10 of us coaches, so it's a little bit manageable."

Returning 25 letterwinners on its girls team, and 20 letterwinners on its boys team, the Kernels have top athletes in each of the sprints, distance, jumping and throwing events that will compete for a spot in the state meet this season.

Senior Nathan McCormick fronts a contingent of Kernel speedsters. On an individual level, he will look to break personal bests in the 100 meter (10.95), 200 meters (22.55) and 400 meters (51.25). He'll also be a part of Mitchell's strong relay teams, including a 4x400 team that finished fifth in state last season.

McCormick's 4x400 teammate, Connor Singrey, placed fifth in the 60-meter dash (9.37) at the DWU Open indoor invite on March 28, and will compete in each of the sprinting events. Other strong sprinters include Alexier Padilla, who ran a 51.96 in the 400 meters last season, and Adam Kampshoff, who competed in the team's 4x200 relay at the Dan Lennon Invitational on March 18.

Additionally, Carter Lee, who is new to MHS, and Will Prunty, who didn't run track last year, have both ran on the 4x400 team during the indoor meets.

"We have a lot of younger guys stepping up to the plate," McCormick said. "And we have a lot of people that came out for track this year that really haven't done much track or haven't joined track at all until this year."

In the distance races, Hunter Patton, who claimed all-state honors for the Kernels' cross country team in the fall, will attempt to qualify for state in the 3,200-meter run, while Grayson Hetland, who ran a 2:09 in the 800 run last season, will look to improve his time and also anchor the team's 4x800 team.

In the triple jump, high jump and long jump, watch for Kellan Odell, Vitus Carpenter and Trell Kaupp. The trio each placed in the top 12 in the triple jump at the Dan Lennon Invitational on March 18. And at the DWU Open, Carter Harris jumped 13 feet, 3.25 inches en route to a first-place finish.

"We got some really good jumpers," Thill said. "Our kids are already setting PRs and our first indoor meets for triple jump, long jump, high jump, we're gonna be we're gonna be right up there."

Odell's success carries over to the throwing events, where he holds the school record in the javelin, and has an opportunity to return to state in the event, which he placed 11th in last year.

The Kernel girls throwers were well represented at the state meet last season, with Lilly Young finishing 11th in the shot put and 18th in the discus, and Taylor DeJong placing 19th in both the shot put and discus.

This year, Young and DeJong return, and hope to lift up the entire throwing room with them.

"I hope we get more people in state for javelin," Young said. "I hope to have a boy and a girl in each event in state, at least for throwers."

That optimism extends to the other events on the team as well.

Similar to the boys, the girls team has a strong group of jumpers. Emerson Smith, Audrey Miller and Keyana Kelley each notched top-five finishes in the high jump at the DWU Open, where in the triple jump, Denaesia Aldridge placed second.

On the track, Ava Brannan returns from a 4x100 team that placed second in state last season. Other top sprinters include a trio of sophomores, Addie Siemsen, Danny Borja and Avrie London, each of whom finished top 15 in the 60-meter relay at the DWU Open.

"Our sophomore class is very, very talented," Thill said.

Other state hopefuls include Kelley, who placed third in the girls 60-meter hurdles (9.66) at the DWU Open. Carsyn Weich is a 400-meter runner, entering the season with a personal best of 1:01, and in the distance events, Londyn Schroeder has impressed as a freshman this year, placing fifth in the DWU Open mile race.