The boys and girls teams worked to overcome leadership voids, injuries to get to state award stand

PIONEER PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Senior David Sumpter made it to the state meet for the Molalla track and field team. The start of the year was a difficult one for the Molalla track and field teams. Whether it was athletes from long lasting basketball seasons late to the track and field party, or lingering injuries and illnesses, it was a time of adjustment. The teams 24 freshmen had to learn on the fly, and with key players out or sidelined, there was less leading by example and more active coaching.

"This ended up being a transition year for us with the younger kids," Molalla track and field head coach Sheron Farner said. "We did a lot of working on how do you get to the meet, what do you do at meets. We had a lot of new kids that have never been out for track, didn't know what was going on, so we spent a lot of time teaching this year."

Several of the top athletes for Molalla were battling ailments and injuries coming into the season, as well as during it. Senior sprinter Anna Farner dealt with a lingering ACL injury that required a meniscectomy after just two meets. Farner would eventually place at districts and go on to compete at state, but the time out was definitely a disadvantage. Junior Tanner Nauta came back from a choir trip with a severe illness that kept him out for a good chunk of time.

Other athletes that participated in years past simply didn't return to the team this season. Tack on that no one athlete really assumed a leadership position, and it was a time of figuring out what the face of Molalla would look like.

"The kids were very strong, and would lead by example, but they didn't stand up and take charge," coach Farner said. "I had no vocal leaders. David Paola would gather them up and lead warmups, but we had no vocal leadership. It was very quiet."

Despite all the adjustments and difficulties, it was a relatively successful season. The team grew in certain areas, got athletes to the medals stand at state, and built a foundation of new athletes for the future. There were three areas in particular coach Farner saw marked improvement.

"Coach Baxter is a fabulous throwers coach, it's obvious," Farner said. "He comes back every year with medals from the state meet, and Katie and Meghan both medaling this year was a fabulous job. James Ratliff is a fabulous hurdle coach. Same thing, Emma and David come back having medaled.

"I think we've improved in the jumps," Farner added. "Hannah, to go to the state in the triple jump. That's with the addition of our jump coach Kenny Schoenfeld, he's almost brand new. He joined us last year in April. I think our jumps are getting stronger and better."

With the season over, Farner had one memory that stuck out in her mind, and it was a gaff relating to hurdler David Sumpter. The hurdles were set to the correct height, but an extra flight at the end of the track was left out.

"David Sumpter having to win the (hurldes) race twice to get to state," Farner said. "That would stand out. He ran so hard, he was feeling so good, and then to be told you have to run it again. That stands out. He did an excellent job."

Regardless of that mishap, Sumpter eventually went to the state meet and fared well. Farner was proud of the way her team performed in the face of so many ailments.

"Injury was our biggest problem this year, but the kids that did compete this year competed hard," Farner said. "We did a great job, went to state."

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