INDOOR TRACK KICKS OFF SATURDAY
By Raenelle Kwock
Observer Staff Writer
The Eastern Oregon indoor track and field season kicks off in Nampa, Idaho, Saturday.
"We're gearing for and training toward the outdoor season," Eastern coach Ben Welch said. "We're using the indoor season in a large extent to springboard to the outdoor."
He said the Mountaineers do take the indoor season seriously and hope to have more national qualifiers than last year.
Welch said he is hoping for a "good" national meet. The Mountaineers had high hopes last year, but struggled at nationals in Tennessee.
All of the national qualifiers return except Kelsey Jones and Shawn Trimble. Trimble, an Elgin native, won the national championship in the pole vault last spring in the NAIA national outdoor meet, but he is redshirting this winter because of a heavy academic load.
The returning national qualifiers were Pat Egelus, Damian Johnson, Dave Terry, Tim Riley, Ian Schroeder, Ashley Rysdam, Jessyca Barker and Brian Crowl.
Welch said the Mountaineers will de-emphasize indoor racing while training in order to help them in the outdoor season.
There are 75 combined indoor/outdoor athletes.
A newcomer is high jumper Josh Johnson, who is coming off playing football. Welch said Johnson's high school personal best is right at the national qualifier level.
Returning throwers Dirk Bortz and Rick Thew have improved quite a bit, he added.
"We have a lot more talent which remains to be seen," Welch said.
Welch said the Mountaineers will be competitive.
"There is ability in that group," he said. "We'll see what we can do with that."
A concern is finding a place to practice during winter weather.
"The main thing is to get through the indoor season healthy," he said.
Damian Johnson is healthier coming off football and is not as beat up like last year, Welch said.