Chaffee relay teams gear up for state track meet

Friday, May 20, 2011
Chaffee High School's state relay qualifiers, from left, Tyson Estes, Andrew Terhune, Zac Dannenmueller, Jason Cicardi, Jordan Yahn and Michael Rutherford will compete at the Class 1 state meet today and Saturday in Jefferson City, Mo. (Laura Simon)

The finish line to the 2010-11 sports year is within sight for the six members of the Chaffee boys track team.

While they may be competing in the 400-, 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter relays at the Class 1 track and field championships, it may seem like they're about ready to break the tape on a marathon.

Five of the six relay members figuratively have been carrying a baton between sports seasons, going from football to basketball to track. Two of those athletes -- seniors Jason Cicardi and Andrew Terhune -- have pulled double duty this spring, playing both track and baseball.

And the Red Devils are looking for a strong closing kick today and Saturday in Jefferson City, Mo., where they will enter with the top time in three relays.

Chaffee posted the fastest sectional qualifying times in the 800 (1 minute, 35.37 seconds), 1,600 (3:39.42) and 3,200 (8:27.94) relays at last weekend's sectional meets. The Red Devils rank sixth in the 400 relay.

Chaffee senior Jason Cicardi competes during the SEMO South Conference meet earlier this season. (Sikeston Standard Democrat photo)

"Being so highly ranked in all four of them, that's a first for us," said Chaffee coach Tyson Moyers, who also took four relays to the state meet in 2009. "We're excited."

Seniors Michael Rutherford, Cicardi and Terhune will be joined by junior Jordan Yahn in the 3,200 relay to form the Red Devils' most formidable chance for a state title.

The foursome, which also will team up in the 1,600, have broken the school record for the 3,200 relay four times this season and lowered it by nearly 9 seconds. The previous school record was set last season, with all but Rutherford a member of a quartet that placed fifth at the state meet.

"They got fifth in the state and ran real well," Moyers said. "I think they saw there was a chance with the three of them coming back that they could be pretty good at it."

Cicardi and Yahn also ran on the state-qualifying 3,200 relay team two years ago, while Terhune was added to the mix last year when he came out for track for the first time as a junior.

"Last year I came in just to stay in shape for football, and then I kind of liked it," Terhune said. "And this year we had a chance to go to state in all the relays."

Rutherford was the final ingredient to the 3,200 relay, and a reluctant one at that.

He ran the 3,200 relay as a freshman and ended up quitting late that season. He ran a few weeks as a sophomore, only to quit again. He didn't bother with it as a junior.

"I don't like track," Rutherford said. "It's a love-hate relationship. I hate running, but I like winning. The 4x8, we're good at it."

Rutherford played football and basketball all four years. As a receiver, he played an important role in the Red Devils making the Class 1 playoffs last fall for the first time in 27 years. This past winter he was on a Chaffee basketball team that recorded its first winning season in three decades, and that was the dealmaker, according to Cicardi.

"We've been trying to get him out for a couple years and we finally did. It was nice," Cicardi said. "We knew how good he was. We've been trying for a while. He said if we finished over .500 for basketball he'd come out, and we did that, so he came out."

Even then, teammates were not convinced Rutherford would stick.

"I thought he'd go like two weeks," Terhune said. "Every year he did it he'd stay for like two weeks and then he'd quit or something."

Rutherford runs the opening 800 leg and usually finishes just 2 or 3 seconds over 2 minutes.

"He doesn't really like it, but he's pretty good at it," Yahn said. "I don't know why he doesn't like something that he's pretty good at."

Moyers said Rutherford has not allowed his dislike for track to affect his effort.

"Sometimes you have a kid who hates the sport, they don't work hard at it, and that's not Mikey," Moyers said.

Rutherford ran the open 800 this year but failed to qualify for the state meet. That didn't exactly leave him in tears.

"I do enjoy the 4x8. It's more of a team thing," Rutherford said. "Like, I feel if I do bad, I've let them down. And in the open 8, I'm not really pushed to do anything. It's just me. It's individual. But as a team, if I do bad, we do bad as a team. And if I run good, then we do good."

Terhune, whose third relay event is the 400, follows in the second spot in the 3,200. The third leg is run by Cicardi, who is competing in all four of the relays.

"It's very rare to have a kid that can run the sprint relays and the 4x800," Moyers said about Cicardi. "He does a very good job in it. He's not our fastest kid by any means, but he's not our slowest either."

Both Terhune and Cicardi have practiced track before school each day, arriving at 6:30 a.m., in order to work baseball into their schedule after school.

It's probably been a good regimen for Cicardi, who has enlisted with the U.S. Army and will report for boot camp May 31 in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

"It's kind of sad. I like sports, but I'm kind of ready for it all to be over -- get out of high school and start life," Cicardi said.

Yahn, the only nonsenior, is the 3,200 anchor. He was part of an 1,600 relay team that placed second at the Class 1 meet his freshman year. Yahn also will run in the open 400, an event he placed fourth in last year, and the 800 relay.

"I think the 4x2 and 4x8 is our best chance," Yahn said. "I think we can do something in the 4x4, but I haven't heard much about the 4x4."

Valle Catholic and clean handoffs appear to be the only obstacles between Chaffee and a state title in the 3,200 relay. The teams crossed paths in the 3,200 relay three times this season, and the Warriors handed the Red Devils their only loss at the district meet, running less than 8:27 and finishing about 3 seconds out front.

Chaffee avenged that loss in the sectional, finishing about 3 seconds ahead of Valle.

"We're neck and neck," Moyers said.

The fastest 3,200 relay qualifier from the three other sectionals was more than 11 seconds slower than the Red Devils' sectional time.

Yahn will be joined on the 800 relay by Cicardi and juniors Tyson Estes and Zac Dannenmueller, who also will run the 400 and in his third appearance at the state meet.

"Hopefully we'll get first in the 4x2, and hopefully we'll get first overall," Dannenmueller said.

The 800 relay team is less than a second off the school record.

"I think we can break the record if we want to. And we all want to," Estes said.

The Red Devils last won a relay title in 2009, when the 800 relay team placed first in Class 1. Chaffee never has won a team title -- it placed second in 2009 -- which is possible but not likely with the Red Devils only entered in the four relays and the 400. But the chance for a final memorable weekend of high school sports is within reach.

"It'd be cool to go out with a bang," Rutherford said.

Moyers is cautious despite the top time in three events.

"There's an opportunity there," Moyers said. "It's all about what you do on Saturday. It doesn't matter what you've done all season long."

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