Freshmen may set pace at sectionals

Friday, May 11, 2007

Three area girls look to make a name for themselves.

A crop of freshmen athletes in Southeast Missouri is looking to make its mark on the state level in girls track and field.

Kelly's Londyn Backfish, Scott City's Stephanie Essner and Saxony Lutheran's Cassie Simpher, all freshmen, will each compete in four events Saturday in sectional meets. All three should be among the favorites in their events. The three have all run under a minute in the 400 meters, which could make them contenders at the state meet next week.

The top four in each event move on to the state meet on May 18 and 19 at the Dwight T. Reed Stadium in Jefferson City.

"There's some years, especially in Class 1 and 2, where it's hard to find a good quarter-miler because it's such a tough race," Saxony Lutheran coach Larry Cleair said. "To have three of them so young and so good at it, it's a lot of fun to watch."

Simpher, who will participate in the 100, 200, 400 and long jump at the sectional meet, has added a new dimension to Saxony Lutheran's track team. The Crusaders have experienced plenty of success on the boys side, but have yet to qualify a girl for the state meet. Simpher should have a strong chance in several events.

"I'm hoping to win state in at least three of my four events," a confident Simpher said. "I'm not sure about the long jump."

Added Simpher: "Hopefully I can get a state title so we can get more girls to come out. That way we can get the girls team going."

Simpher had season-best performances in the 200 and long jump at the Class 1 District 1 meet. She could very well win four sectional titles this weekend.

"I've always been into running," Simpher said. "God's given me a great talent, and I want to use it to the best of my ability."

Backfish and Essner dominated the Class 2 District 1 meet at Jackson last week, finishing one-two in the 100, 200 and 400. Backfish won all three races, as well as the high jump. Essner captured the title in the 100 hurdles.

Backfish was able to post her top times of the year in all four of her events at district. Essner pushed Backfish to the wire in both the 100 and 400, with both races coming down to the line.

Despite what has been a long year for Backfish -- she was a key contributor to Kelly's third-place softball team and its quarterfinal basketball team -- the Kelly freshman is coming into her own at the right time.

"I used to be a distance runner, but I started sprinting a year ago and it's worked well for me," Backfish said.

Essner got to compete against Jackson all-state sprinter Rachel Kahle and other big-school competitors on several occasions this year.

"Poplar Bluff, definitely, and Jackson, they pushed me," Essner said. "Landon Wachter [of Jackson] pushed me pretty good."

The 400 times put up by Backfish (58.0) and Essner (58.06) at Jackson could be potential state-winning times. Last year just two runners ran under 58 seconds at the state meet. Backfish started running the 400 late in the season after starting on a relay, but good split times put her in the open 400.

After blazing the Jackson track on Saturday it is hard to imagine either Backfish or Essner sneaking up on anyone at the sectional meet, which may have occurred at the district meet.

"A lot of people know me from previous sports or middle school, but I think that gave me somewhat of an advantage," Backfish said.

Underclassmen have also had an impact at other schools in the area.

Jackson has received a major contribution from freshman middle distance runner Landon Wachter and freshman thrower Jill Rushin. Scott City freshman Libby Miles won the 3,200 at the Class 2 District 1 meet, and Oran sophomore Kelsie Glastetter qualified for the sectional in two events. Chaffee freshman Sarah Sigman will also compete in the sectional meet in the long jump, and Central freshman Victoria Schabbing could get out of the district meet in one of the distance events.

Wachter and Rushin, along with returning all-state senior Rachel Kahle should help make the Indians one of the favorites in the Class 4 District 1 meet, which starts at 11 a.m. Saturday at Jackson. The Indians also return state-qualifier Amanda Peiffer, who finished ninth in the discus last year, and junior hurdler Heather Hileman, who should be among the favorites in both hurdle events and the high jump.

Central, which will also compete in the Class 4 District 1 meet, returns three all-state athletes. Brittany Moreland was all-state in the 1,600 last year; Brianna Egbuka was all-state in the shot put; and Tyler Terry finished runner-up in the triple jump and long jump.

Notre Dame and Perryville will travel to Sikeston on Saturday for the Class 3 District 1 meet. Perryville senior Brittney Castleberry, all-state in the 100 hurdles last year, should be a contender to advance to the sectional meet in multiple events.

Notre Dame returns state qualifier Mark Zimmer, who should contend in the 400.

Class 1 sectional at Centralia

Saxony Lutheran

Boys -- 3,200 relay, 1,600 relay, 800 relay, Clay Obergoenner (100, long jump, 200), Ross Gage (1,600, 800), Brandon Etzold (400, 800, 1,600), Alex Jauch (200, 300 hurdles), Max Wieser (400), Alex Rodewald (discus), Peter Winningham (3,200)

Girls -- Cassie Simpher (100, 200, 400, long jump), Deanna Dippold (3,200)

Scott County Central

Boys -- 400 relay, 800 relay, D.D. Gillespie (100, 200, 400), Caleb Johnson (high jump, shot put), Ron Banks (110 hurdles, 300 hurdles)

Girls -- 400 relay, 800 relay, Samantha Jones (100), Lakeisha Turner (300 hurdles)

Oran

Boys -- Hunter Glastetter (long jump, triple jump)

Girls -- Kelsie Glastetter (100, long jump), Tiffany Christian (discus)

Bell City

Girls -- 1,600 relay, Carerra Patterson (300 hurdles)

Class 2 sectional at Principia

Kelly

Boys -- 3,200 relay, Spencer Ayers (shot put), Cody Kern (1,600, 3,200), Nathan Buford (pole vault)

Girls -- Londyn Backfish (100, 200, 400, high jump), Courtney Tetley (pole vault), Tara Johnson (1,600, 3,200)

Scott City

Boys -- 1,600 relay, 3,200 relay, Craig Arnzen (high jump), Derek Goodin (300 hurdles)

Girls -- 3,200 relay, Stephanie Essner (100 hurdles, 100, 200, 400), Libby Miles (3,200)

Chaffee

Boys -- Kent Courtney (200), Walker Rice (discus), Gage Harrell (300 hurdles), Trenton Horman (high jump)

Girls -- 3,200 relay, Amber Kirk (shot put), Whitney Schlosser (discus), Sarah Sigman (long jump), Rachel Hendrix (800)

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