Skip to main content

The City Journals

Hillcrest track season has strong start — only to be sidelined by coronavirus precautions

Apr 15, 2020 03:50PM ● By Julie Slama

The Hillcrest High track is missing student-athletes in mid-March as the UHSAA put a two-week suspension of all spring activities and athletics statewide during the coronavirus pandemic. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

At the start of the season, Hillcrest High head coach Scott Stucki liked what he was seeing, especially coming off the strong indoor track season, where many school records were broken.

He had set expectations and goals for this spring’s track and field athletes.

After the season’s first meet on March 11 against Skyline and Cottonwood high schools at home, where senior Jacob Atkinson had surpassed his goals, with a long jump of 16 feet 6 inches in his first try and running under one minute in the 400 meters, Stucki could make even better calculations.

However, with the March 13 announcement by the state superintendent Sydnee Dickson mandating a two-week soft closure for all schools as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus and the Utah High School Activities Association’s two-week suspension of all spring activities and athletics, Stucki now isn’t making any predictions.

“If we’re out just these two weeks, we can be just fine, but if it extends and we come back in May, it will be a very short track season,” he said, adding that he would expect a training week followed by a week where they would compete at region and state would be the next week.

The UHSAA does not allow any practices nor team gatherings during this time.

“I understand why, but it’s frustrating,” he said. “We had our meet, and we were ramped.”

Atkinson, who has run distance the past three years, is transitioning to mid-distance and jumps.

“I’m not a super sprinter and I don’t really like really long distance, so I’m OK with the 400 and 800,” he said. “I wanted to try something new and I’m becoming more of an all-around athlete.”

In his first 400 meters, Atkinson ran a hand-held time of 59.5 seconds and now has his eyes on 55 seconds. He also hopes to now long jump 18 feet, run a 2:10 in the 800 meters and beat his best 5 feet 2 inch high jump. Stucki also expected him to make strong contributions in the sprint relays.

“It all stopped unexpectedly,” Atkinson said just days after the first meet. “I don’t want to miss out on the season my last year.”

That also is the case for senior Morgan Miller, who is a three-year varsity letter sprinter and four-year soccer player. Already Morgan has signed to run track and play soccer at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

“I’m super competitive, so I’ll be upset about it if we don’t get to finish our season,” she said, adding that her focus right now is on her classwork and upcoming International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement exams.

At the state meet her freshman season, Morgan finished sixth in the 100 meters and 10th in the 200. She’s in the top-5 in both the 100 and 200 meters in Hillcrest history. This year, Stucki said she is “favored to medal at state.”

Stucki said he has high expectations of many seniors and other athletes for a solid track and field season.

On the girls team, Stucki expected senior Arleigh Sorensen, who has committed to play basketball for Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon, “would be a medal favorite” in the shot put and the discus.

First-year track athlete and senior Annyka Scherschlight, who is a four-year soccer player and has signed to play at Idaho State, already showed in her first meet that she would make a contribution to the sprints and to the relay teams, he said.

Other strong performances this season Stucki expected would be from sophomores and state-returners Alaina Stonebraker and Auriela Gallman in the sprints and relays as well as juniors Alycea McVey and Meg Standiford in the throwing events. He also said that he expected the hurdles to be led by Maggie Erekson and Sophia Clark.

On the boys team, junior Anthony Davies is expected to lead the distance team after breaking indoor meet records and finishing seventh at the state cross country meet. Couple that with Dallin Moon — “with the chance to hit distance milestones” — and other distance runners like Nic Holman and Jonas Jorgensen, and Stucki liked what he saw.

In the sprints and relays, Stucki also expected the team to be led by Zac Gallman, who ran a 11.37 hand-held 100 meter time on March 11. Other sprinters, including Anthony Vail, Juan Rendo and Spencer Holladay as well as Jacob Morton and Michael Rendon, Stucki predicted would have strong seasons.

Stucki anticipated that Parker Boggess and Gavin Hawley would help lead the throwers this season and student-athletes Kobe Owen, Zach Katzenbach and Hunter Purrington also are stepping into track, trying new events, like Atkinson, Stucki said.

Atkinson meanwhile is hoping he can stay in shape.

“It’s weird not having it going on right now,” he said. “I hope we can go back.”