Season of gold for NU? |

Season of gold for NU?

John HartNevada Union's Jessica Lorson (front left), Thor Juell, Chris Sheridan and Sarah Prout are part of a strong track and field squad.
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When Nevada Union track and field coach Sig Ogstrom says this year’s squad is among the best he’s coached in 20 years, that is really saying something.

The Miners’ girls team has won the Capital Athletic League for six consecutive years, and the boys team has won 13 of the past 17 CAL titles, by Ogstrom’s count. This year’s boys and girls teams have already swept the four major meets they have run this season.

“I think the girls are right on course,” Ogstrom said. “We lack depth – the younger girls aren’t quite there yet – but we should win league this year. With the boys, we are covered pretty well in most events.”

Last year, Nevada Union advanced two boys relay teams out of the competitive Sac-Joaquin section to state. This year, Chris Sheridan, Ryder Heidelberger, Steve Conrad and Thor Juell return to lead a team overflowing with speed.

Ogstrom said he would not be surprised if the school record in the 100 meters, set by Tom King 22 years ago at 10.8, might fall this year. Whether it might be one of the four aforementioned sprinters or a different Miner is impossible to predict. For Ogstrom, such an environment is ideal, because it keeps practices from being routine – especially with relay lineups at stake.

“At Rio Linda, Juell ran the fastest in the 100 trial, and Conrad ended up beating the rest in the final,” Ogstrom said. “The one that has the fastest closing speed is Heidelberger, and the fastest between 100 and 400 meters is Sheridan.”

If not the record for the 100 meters, perhaps it will be the boys 4×100 relay school record that will fall this spring. This year’s 4×100 team has already run a 42.6, just shy of the record of 42.4. Juell said it is within reach for the Miners to not only break the school record, but break the 42-second barrier this season.

“The funny thing is, it is almost the team’s destiny,” Juell said. “It is rare to get this many sprinters that can sprint at a high level, and as our coach said, it could be that it never happens again at NU.”

The talent on the boys team is not confined to sprinters. Defending section champion Mike Davie is looking to improve upon his school record in the triple jump, which he currently holds at 45-feet, 11/2-inches. Senior Kjell Dazila has jumped 6-2 in the high jump, and has his eyes on the section meet. Logan Egan, in his first year with the team, has already thrown the discus 147 feet and could be a force in the league meet and beyond. Distance runner Tom Hummel has parlayed a successful cross country campaign into being the Miners’ best distance runner at 1600 and 3200 meters.

Ogstrom said the boys best CAL competition should come from Bella Vista this season.

“At this point, we like to win our league meets and others, but we try to manipulate the athletes to do well at the end of the season,” Ogstrom said.

For the girls team, success comes not only with hard work, but with some good fortune. For the last two seasons, the girls relay team has had the talent to qualify for state, but has been sidetracked with one misfortune after another.

Junior Sarah Prout, who holds the school record in the 300 low hurdles, had her previous two seasons interrupted by injury. Last year, her year was cut short by a hip flexor injury just before the League of Champions meet.

“Her comeback is really a four-month project,” Ogstrom said. “The important stuff happens at the end of a season.”

Despite the setbacks, Prout’s resume is stuffed with accomplishment. She also was a member of the 1999 4×400 team that set a school record, and is currently the co-owner of the school record in the 100 meter hurdles.

In addition, Prout has an eye on besting the school record in the 200 meter dash. She has already run the distance at 25.9 this year, a few tenths of a second off the record. Teammate Jessica Lorson, who also runs the 200, is expected to push Prout.

Once again, it will be difficult to predict which will have the fastest time of the season, or a school record, when all is said and done.

“We are pretty close,” Prout said. “She hasn’t had many chances to run this year, but we will probably be pretty even. We both could break (the record).”

Lorson, also a junior, has had her share of setbacks, including her current challenge to bounce back from an illness that sidelined her for three meets.

Lorson, who anchored the 1999 record setting 4×400 team as a freshman, is hoping to qualify out of sections in either the 400 or 200 meter runs. Last year, she made it to the sectional meet in the 400, only to be disqualified for false starts. This year, Lorson started out strong, and has also run the 200 in less than 26 seconds.

Lorson is confident the recent illness will not slow her efforts to surpass last year’s performance.

“I’m coming out as strong as I’ve done,” Lorson said. “I’ve had some bad luck, but I am completely optimistic. I put the past behind me. There is no reason to look at that.”

Like the boys, the NU girls team is strong in the relays. Senior Lauren Zealear and sophomore Sara Heidelberger join Prout and Lorson on this year’s 4×400 and 4×100 relay teams.

Though the girls team does not quite have the depth of the boys squad, according to Ogstrom, performers such as Mae Valdes in hurdles and jumps and Molly Heck, Andy Sexton and Megan Curtis in field events should give the Miners a strong shot at once again repeating as league champs, continuing the legacy of the program.

“The girls should win,” Ogstrom said. “We just have to make sure everybody is doing the maximum number of events. With our program, it is a matter of getting a lot of people involved, and keeping them motivated to stick with it for four years.”

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