By RYAN CZACHORSKI
---- — NEWTON -- The cold, dreary spring has been tough on Newton, but the Eagles really missed being outside until last week. Despite the tough conditions, the Newton girls track team has been one of the most active teams on the track so far this season, competing even without much outdoor practice. Coach Jackie Schackmann said the hurdlers hadn't jumped any more than three hurdles at a time, and discus and shot put throwers had just been tossing into a curtain.Still, the Eagles started their season with a promising start, winning their Thursday quad meet against Neoga, Marshall and Robinson. "It's been a horrible spring, the girls were not happy with (their) times," Schackmann said.
They also competed over the weekend at the Teutopolis Invitational. They took a strong Wooden Shoes team to the wire, falling by just three points, 152-149. Newton boasts a good mix of experience and youth, although early in their year, they've been led by the freshmen. McKendra Barthelme won three events in the meet last Thursday, and looks to be strong in the hurdles and long jump for the Eagles. Taylor Johnson, another freshman, has taken over the reins as the team's main sprinter in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. "Taylor didn't have a lot of direction last year, and we're trying to tweak her form right now," Schackmann said. "She's better out of the blocks, and she's only going to get better."
At Saturday's meet, Barthelme and Johnson each won two events, with Johnson winning both sprints and Barthelme winning the 100-meter hurdles and the long jump.Johnson's emergence has bolstered Newton's depth, as former sprinter Hannah Litzelman is now running the 400-meter dash after beginning the transition last season. "Hannah Litzelman can run step for step with Taylor, but we had to move someone up to the 400, so we made her focus the 400," Schackmann said. The seniors on the team are also going to make their marks. Tara Wirth competed in the Illinois Prep Top Times meet in the shot put, but has missed some time due to injury.Schackmann said she should be one of the best shot put throwers in the area and will throw discus too. Carly Niebrugge and Sydney May are the teams captains. May will anchor down the high jump and the triple jump, while Niebrugge will focus on distance running. "No one works harder than she does," Schackmann said. "She can give me one of the best 400 times on the team, but the distance is going to fall on her shoulders."Katie Woods will also run distance and mid-distance in support of Niebrugge. Rachel Mammoser is currently one of the team's relay runners and also doing high jump despite a smaller stature. "Rachel'll tell you she's 5'1. She is jumping her height, that's kind of the reference point we like for our high jumpers," Schackmann said. "She's cleared five foot."The Eagles are back at it Friday when they head to Shelbyville.