Track 2012: Plainville built for win
Published on -5/24/2012, 10:55 AM
By CONOR NICHOLL
The Plainville High School boys’ track and field team took third at the Class 2A state track meet last May, the best finish in team history. The Cardinals returned all 40 of their points for 2012 and coach Norma Finnesy told her team after state they had “unfinished business” left for this spring.
That unfinished business is one of several motivations for a talented senior and junior class that has helped turn around Cardinal football, basketball and track programs -- but has never won a state championship or finished in the top two.
"We knew that we could get close last year, and now this year, we can win it," senior long jumper Andrew Casey said.
For the most part, Plainville has dominated this spring, including the program's first conference championship since 1974 and a regional crown last Friday at Smith Center. Yet Plainville has had to overcome the tragic loss of Finnesy's grandson, Bo Brown.
"Gives us a big motivation for her, we want to win it for her," Casey said.
As well, senior Jameson Klein, Class 2A's top shot put thrower, will not compete at state in the event after he fouled on all three regional attempts, the last one on a controversial call. Klein, the classification's best discus thrower and defending state champion, will compete in that discipline.
Senior distance runner Brady Johnson, best in the classification in the 3,200-meter run, has struggled with health issues and injury.
"Going to just try to play it off for one more week," Johnson said.
That includes a painful foot issue that has kept him from practicing for several weeks.
"If we are going to win a state championship, he needs to be there," Klein said. "That's his game. That's what he was born to do -- run."
Still, helped by more quality depth than any Cardinal track team in recent history and several athletes who haven't done track every year in high school, Plainville heads to Wichita State University's Cessna Stadium this weekend as the prohibitive favorite in 2A.
"It's a business trip for us and we are all looking forward to it," Finnesy said.
In 2003, the Cardinal boys' track team had sprinter Ryan Williams, who finished in the top-five in the long jump and 100- and 200-meter dashes. Then, from '04-'07, the Plainville boys didn't score a point at the state meet.
The Cardinal girls were the school's top track team. Led by distance runner Aubrey Frederking and pole vaulter/sprinter Vanessa Owings, Plainville finished second in 2A in 2007. The most successful boys' spring sport was baseball.
In the last five years, though, the Plainville boys have seen their state qualifiers and state points improve each year. The Cardinals have went from 0, to 2.5, to 3, to 15 to 40 points at state in that span.
"They have grown up together. They have been around each other. They are competitors.
"They push each other everyday in the classroom, in the competition field, it doesn't matter," she added. "It's been a lot of fun to have these kids. We are like a family. We pull for each other in good times and bad."
Finnesy, assistant coach Steve Buresh, throwing coach T.J. Staab and head football coach/weightlifting instructor Joe Simon have helped track grow.
"All stress track to make you a better athlete," Klein said. "Last year, when we got third at state, I think it influenced a lot of people to go back out."
Klein, Johnson and junior long jumper Dalton Werner are the constants. Johnson has five state medals, including a gold in the 3,200-meter run last year. Klein has four state medals. Werner is a two-time long jump qualifier, including second place in 2011.
Yet, Plainville has added junior triple jumper/middle distance runner Nolan Weiser, Casey, junior sprinter Trevor Axelson and senior long jumper/sprinter Kyle Becker.
They have joined or rejoined Plainville track in the last two years and qualified in at least one event this spring.
As well, junior Nick Hixon won regional crowns in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles. The extra qualifiers are likely needed for Plainville to win a state crown.
"Less weight lifted off my shoulders," Werner said of the support.
Weiser qualified in two events for Stockton as a freshman before he transferred to Plainville. He was 15th in the triple jump last year and qualified in the triple jump and 1,600-meter relay this spring.
Casey was one of Planville's top baseball players as a freshman and sophomore. When the program was discontinued last year, Casey joined the track team and took 10th in long jump at state. Baseball started up again this spring, but Casey stayed with track and his one event.
"I like track more than baseball," he said. "I like jumping. It was just more of a getting in shape type of thing. I like just focusing on just one event and just trying my hardest at that event, work on it in practice a lot. It's paid off."
Becker and Axelson each competed at the state golf meet for Plainville last spring. Casey and his teammates talked to Becker and Axelson every day and tried to convince them for track. Axelson, a running back and expected team leader next fall, made the switch.
"It's fun," Casey said. "Before last year, we were just harping on Kyle and Ax, 'Come to back to track, we need you, we know that we can make state.' It's been fun having them back out for track and I know they love it."
Axelson could become the Cardinals' first sprinter to place at state since Williams nine years ago. He and Becker helped Plainville set a school record and earn the top seed entering state in the 400 relay. As well, Werner, Casey and Becker took 1-2-3 at regional in the long jump and have pushed each other all season in practice.
This weekend, that depth and talent could help Plainville accomplish their "unfinished business" with a state title.
"We have the athletes to do it," Klein said.