Pine River boys track hopes to defend league title

CHAMPIONSHIP GOALS: Eric Gebhard, left, works with his Pine River track team during a recent practice. (Herald Review/John Raffel)
CHAMPIONSHIP GOALS: Eric Gebhard, left, works with his Pine River track team during a recent practice. (Herald Review/John Raffel)

LEROY — Coach Eric Gebhard is hoping his Pine River boys track team can repeat as Highland Conference champions and it appears his squad has enough talent to accomplish it.

The Bucks, like everyone else, have been waiting for the weather to allow them to have a meet and practice outdoors. Shortly before the spring break, the first week of April, they cleared the track off of snow and were able to get in some workouts.

A year ago, the weather was far more pleasant and allowed the Bucks to be outdoors.

The first day of practice was March 11. “We’ve been surviving the hallways,” Gebhard said at the end of almost three weeks of practice.

The Bucks are hoping this will be the week to make their season debut. They were scheduled for a home meet on Tuesday against Marion and hope to be at the Benzie Central Invitational on Thursday and at the Chippewa Hills Invitational on Saturday.

“Indoor practices are one of those double-edge swords,” Gebhard said. “You want to push them so they get in shape But the harder you push them, the more likely you are to get someone injured. So we’ve been walking that fine line.”

Gebhard noted that some of his athletes participated in indoor track over the winter. Practices and workouts were set during term break.

“It’s the northern Michigan lag for you. We peak a bit later which isn’t that bad for you,” Gebhard said. “The first few meets are to usually teach the kids, that haven’t been with us before, how to run a track and the mechanics of it.”

Gebhard expects the middle distances and distances to be the strongest part of the Bucks’ attack this season.

Ethan Whitley, returning captain, Trevor Holmes and Ben Ringling will be in the 800 and up, and should score plenty of points.

Also, Cole Gingrich returns in the pole vault as a sophomore after clearing 12 1/2 last year. “We’re looking to see where he can take it from there,” Gebhard said.

Dustin Ecker will be in the hurdles. He set the school record in the 110s last year.

There are several newcomers such as James Harvey and Dustin Wieczorek in the sprints and long jump.

“We’re pretty solid all over,” Gebhard said. “We don’t have depth in everything but we’ve got someone solid in most every event.”

As for the league title, “we’re poised to make a run at it again,” Gebhard said. “You have Evart with their superb distances a factor.

Lake City will return a lot of their good athletes. We definitely would like to win it but we also have our work cut out for us.”