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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest track and field athletes: Racing faster, reaching new heights

Apr 09, 2024 12:05PM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High’s track coach says senior Anna Ames, seen here in the indoor Simplot Games, is a favorite to win the state title in pole vault. (Photo courtesy of Hillcrest High Running Co.)

Hillcrest High senior Anna Ames has a possibility to join Husky alumnae Grace Weaver, Tara Sharp and Gracie Otto on top of the podium in pole vault at state track and field.

Ames already has vaulted over the bar set at 11 feet twice—at Davis Invitational April 2023, flying over at 11-feet-3-inches to secure first place at the invited event, and at 5A state last May, vaulted 11 feet to earn second place. She also earned second place at state in 2022.

This year, Hillcrest is back in 4A, where last year’s winning height was 8-feet-5.5-inches, but the state record set in 2019 stands at 12-feet-3-inches.

“Anna’s going to challenge the existing state record,” Hillcrest head track coach Scott Stucki said. “She’s the favorite to win state.”

With a background in gymnastics, the three-year flier on the Hillcrest cheer squad turned in her pom poms to have time to prepare in the offseason.

“This is the first time she’s done indoor track. She’s ahead of where she’s been before and we have a pole vault coach with track so she won’t have to go to the pole vault club as much as she has had to in the past,” Stucki said, adding there are five other assistant track and field coaches. “Anna is really good with the rock (motion) and getting vertical, pulling up on the bar and on the top end, going over the bar. She has a lot of core strength. We’re going to increase her speed a little bit more to get her up to the 12s.”

Stucki will keep his eye on Ames, his four-year varsity runner who earned academic all-state honors in cross country and serves as a student body officer, as well as his other vaulters, including junior Jack McDonough on the boys’ side, but with more coaches added to his staff, he likely will put more focus on Ames’ cross country teammates and others who are running distance races. 

Ames also may run the 400 meters in a few meets, getting in a few last laps on the Hillcrest track this spring before crews plan to expand the six-lane track to eight lanes.

“It will happen probably toward the end of the season; some of the bleachers are going to go away to make room,” Stucki said, adding the football field also will receive an upgrade.

He’s hoping it will pave the way for Hillcrest to host an invitational meet next spring, which could highlight his athletes, including junior Josh Martin, who ran some of his best times during the indoor season.

“Josh has a shot at state in the 1600 and 3200; I’m pretty confident on the 3200,” Stucki said. 

Last year, Martin ran his season best 3200, 10:53, in a meet against Uintah and Cottonwood high schools. During the UHSTCA indoor invitational, he ran 43 seconds faster. 

His fastest 1600 meters last year was at region, 4:48.51. He ran a 4:36.57 at the Simplot Games during indoor.

Martin’s teammate, junior Matt Keller, also ran his fastest times during indoor, with a 4:52.87 1600 meters and a 10:53.71 in the 3200.

Ames’ teammate, top distance runner Edith Neslen, won’t get the chance to put many miles on the new track as she is set to graduate this spring. She already has committed to run for Salt Lake Community College.

“Edith’s running pretty similar 1600 times to last year’s outdoor season,” Stucki said. “We had a bunch of kids run some PRs (personal records) indoors. It basically gives our athletes a taste of racing during four or five meets and getting in some training.”

Sophomore Claire McCann, who ran second to Neslen in cross country, likely will run 400 and 800 meters, although Stucki said she could run longer distances as well. Junior Kimi Mavaddat is expected to add depth in the 1600 and 3200 meters.

This season was to open with a dual meet at Brighton High, followed by another at Murray. The Huskies also were scheduled to compete in March at the Tony Glover Memorial Invitational in Riverton and Draper as well as the Juab Invitational.

In April, the Huskies will host two dual meets and travel to Cottonwood for another as well as compete in West Jordan High’s, Taylorsville’s, Davis’ and Nebo’s invitationals. They will lace up their shoes for the region 10 JV championships April 30 or the Mountain Ridge’s twilight meet to finish the season before varsity regionals May 8 and the state meet, May 16-18 at Brigham Young University.

After first being impacted by COVID shortening its 2020 season to one meet and then, rebuilding the team numbers the past three seasons, Stucki is more optimistic about his team this year.

“We’ve got more kids out than we did last year. We haven’t had more than 100 kids for a bit; even now, we could use more kids. We had a bunch of new girls who are throwing; I think some of them might be pretty good,” he said, adding that his entire throwing class on the girls’ side graduated last year. “We have a pretty good group of guys too; we didn’t lose many (to graduation) from throws last year. We’re going to have some guys that are going to hit some marks at region.” 

Stucki is excited to see the numbers with sprinters this season.

“We’ve got a bunch of new sprinters. We’ll just have to see what that looks like. We should have an easier time filling relays than we did last year,” he said.

Senior Josiah Gonzales, who qualified for finals in the Simplot Games in 400 meters, has been a strong leg on the boys’ sprint relays the past two years. Stucki expects he will qualify individually as well at state; last year, he ran the 400 in 50.57 at the Davis Invitational.

He also has high hopes for seniors Mateo Paul, Tayden Black and Marcus Sollers in sprints.

Stucki is expecting senior Jessi Johnson and sophomore Sophie Peterson to lead the team in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles.

“Jessi was our best 100 hurdler last year. I’m hoping with all her experience, everything clicks for her this year. Sophie was starting to get pretty good at the 300s. I’m hoping they will be attacking them. We’ve got some guys that we’re going to push over into hurdles. We’re going back to our roots to build a strong hurdle team. The last few years we just haven’t had many,” he said.

Although Hillcrest moved into a new region (4A region 10) this year, so did Stansbury High, which Stucki said will be a strong team. Park City and Jordan high schools also could provide tough competition. Cottonwood and Murray high schools also are expected to have good athletes.

“I’m hoping we can have a decent finish in region this year,” he said. “If we can finish third, I feel pretty good about that.” λ