UTICA — Under first-year head coach Dan Scholl, the Utica Redskins have made leaps and bounds this year. Heading into the Division II Lexington Regional, Scholl has nearly tripled the number of competitors from last year.
“We’ve got a number of juniors and seniors back, which helped give us experience on our relays, and we’ve had some newcomers,” said Scholl, who was a Utica assistant coach for six years. “A lot of the kids have developed this year. We’re not doing anything differently. It is the same recipe that we’ve used for the last several years.
“This is awesome. I never thought we would have this many qualifiers.”
The Redskins will be competing in several events and have returning regional qualifiers in Travis Lee and Jake Torrens. Lee made it in the high jump and 300 hurdles in 2008, but will only be competing in the 300 hurdles this season while Torrens will be competing in the pole vault once again.
“I’m glad I made it, but I am kind of disappointed because last year I made it in two events and this year I only made it in one,” said Lee. “I was almost there for the high jump again, but I just missed it. ... I’ve been dealing with an injury all year. My ankle was hurting before track even started.”
“I’m excited to be going back to regionals,” Torrens said. “I feel like I’ve gotten better every year, and I’m glad this is not my last year. ... I haven’t peaked yet. I got my (personal record) at districts. I’m hoping to do even better at regionals.”
Also returning are relay team members Matt Wilson and Cody Cline, though they will be competing in a different event. The two were members of the Utica 4x200-meter relay team in 2008, but will be competing in the 4x100-meter relay this year.
Also competing will be Utica hurdlers Austin Morgan (110-meter hurdles) and Lee. The fact that both are going says a lot about their competitiveness.
“It is a lot better this year than last year,” Lee said. “Last year, Austin and I were back and forth. Either I would beat him or he would beat me. This year, he is just blowing everyone out of the water. That is better for me; it makes me work harder.”
Torrens continues to improve, vaulting 12-foot-6 to qualify for regionals. His improvement only reaffirms that he made the right decision.
“It is something different,” Torrens said. “I found that it has been good for me.”
First-year thrower Colton Penell was a surprise qualifier in the distance competition, and the Utica 4x800 team will also be competing. As for the difference between this year and last, Torrens attributes it to the team’s mentality.
“We are more of a working class,” said Torrens. “There are a lot more people here working harder for what they want. People are trying harder to get what they want, and are doing their best.”
Scholl isn’t sure what to expect out of his athletes, but one thing is for sure — he expects their very best.
“It is going to be really tough competition,” Scholl said. “I just want them to go and see what happens. You never know what can happen. ... It is huge for our younger runners that they get the experience under their belts. They will see what kind of work ethic they need to have next year. My hope is that they see what they could be and what they need to be. Then, make those changes to step it up.”
Since Lee and Torrens are very familiar with the level of competition, they feel like they are prepared this time around.
“I expect there to be some tough kids there,” said Lee of regionals. “Last year, it was tough. I’m just going to try to do my best.”
“The tougher competition really pushes me,” said Torrens. “Throughout the season, I didn’t have much competition, but now I actually have to do my best. Only the top four advance, so it will be tough.”