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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Experience key to Clovers' success

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Freshman Brooke Gray jumps over her hurdle in Tuesday's meet. [Order this photo]
CLOVERDALE -- For Cloverdale High School track coach Kristin Crabtree, the 2009 season is proving to be interesting to say the least.

For her girls' team, Crabtree is looking at this season to really be a rebuilding year for the Lady Clovers.

"We lost Jenna Lewis, a returning senior, who was one of our strong distance runners, because of medical reasons, making her unable to run. That will affect our distance game," Crabtree said. "We only have 13 or 14 girls this year so it's a small group so it's mainly going to be focusing on individuals this year."

With Lewis out of the picture, Crabtree is looking at Elizabeth Cheatham to be the leader of the girls' team this year and so far she hasn't disappointed.

Cheatham qualified for the Hoosier Relay State Finals this Saturday when she beat out Greencastle's Caitlin Gannaway in the shot put event at the DePauw qualifying rounds a week ago.

"Cheatham will definitely be our standout girl this year," Crabtree said. "We worried about her ankle injury that she suffered during basketball this winter, but it doesn't seem to be bothering her.

"When she won the shot put event at DePauw, that gave us hope of what she could possibly do this year," Crabtree added.

There is another on the Lady Clovers team that could make some noise for the team this year -- freshman Brooke Gray.

Gray also qualified for the Hoosier Relay State Finals at Purdue when she ran the 55 hurdles in 9.74 beating the cut time by .26 seconds.

"Brooke's run at the Hoosier Relays was very impressive for her being a freshman," Crabtree said.

For her boys' team, Crabtree doesn't have the problem of not having many athletes; it's the lack of experience.

"I think there are like 25 or 26 boys on the team this year and that's pretty good for us," Crabtree said. "But a lot of them have never run before, so I'm not quite sure what they can do yet."

Jess Kauf kicks it in overdrive in the final meters of his race Tuesday at the Greencastle Invite at DePauw. [Order this photo]
But not all of her boys are novices. Crabtree has a few returning runners who will help balance the team out.

"Nick Keefer, who is a senior this year, has been a strong hurdler for me his entire career and he should be a player for us this year," Crabtree said. "I also have some strong sprinters coming back like Jess Kauf, who is a sophomore, and Levi Boller and Dillon Gray, who are both seniors."

Another athlete Crabtree has this season is high jumper James Hinton. At least that is what she has been told.

"He moved back here this year and everybody tells me that he is a wonderful jumper, but I haven't seen him really jump yet," Crabtree said. "But I'm hoping to get some jumping out if him this year."

Crabtree might not have seen him do any vertical jumps, but she has seen in jump crossways.

She had Hinton jump in the long jump event during the Hoosier State Relay qualifying round at DePauw and got a very nice surprise. Hinton jumped 20-feet-1-inch, the fifth longest of that day, earning him a spot in Saturday's finals.

People might think Crabtree will be stretched pretty thin this year trying to get so many boys into the shape they need to be, but she is not one of those people.

"I have a real big group of senior boys and even junior boys who have already done a good job of mentoring the underclassmen," Crabtree said. "Which is something that I look for them to do this year.

"Them pulling (the others) off to the side and showing them proper technique really helps me out," Crabtree said.

There is one thing different on the Clovers track team this year. For the first time ever they will have a throwing coach.

"We actually have a new coach this year in Kyle Winkler," Crabtree said. "He has become the throwing coach and has started a conditioning program that he used with his football team for the throwers and that is something that I think will really help our throwers this year."

With the mixture of numbers that Crabtree has this season on her two teams, she knows that this year won't really be a team concentration year.

"Individually I think I will have some standouts this year, but team wise it's going to be hard to say," Crabtree said. "With the number of girls I have, it's going to be hard to do anything as team, but the boys' team -- there is a possibility since we have more numbers than we have had before. But we will have to see since a lot of them have never done anything like this before," Crabtree said.