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Foundation established

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Connersville senior Dylan Cox runs ahead of a Hagerstown runner in the 4x400 relay event,during a dual between the two teamson the Connersville High School track on April 30. Cox and the Spartan boys finished the 2019 season with a 5-4 dual record.
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Connersville’s Trevor Hux looks to catch a Rushville runner during a pre-season indoor meet at Anderson University on March 9.
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Connersville’s Trevor Hux looks to catch a Rushville runner during a pre-season indoor meet at Anderson University on March 9.
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Connersville senior Jacen Beckman approaches lift off in the long jump event at CHS stadiumduring sectional action on May 16. Beckman was one of six upperclassmen competing for the Spartans in 2019.
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By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

Two days after watching their female teammates celebrate a sectional championship, the Connersville High School boys track and field unit took their turn at the postseason inside the Connersville High School stadium.

While the boys weren’t able to overcome sectional winner Rushville in the final standings on that day, that did not mean the season was lost for the 2019 squad.

Far from it, in fact.

The Spartans finished the 2019 campaign with a winning record (5-4) and wound up sixth among several extremely competitive teams within the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference.

Both accomplishments were worthy of note.

“I really think that this team did about as well as it could have,” Connersville coach Jeff Cooley said. “The majority of the boys showed improvement throughout the season, and that’s what we’re looking for as coaches.”

Coach Kelli House was also very impressed with the roster and everything it accomplished throughout the spring.

“We lost a lot of great athletes to graduation last year, so to see some kids come in and replace those losses as well as they did was a great relief,” she said.

Speed was the big question mark when the season opened, as it appeared that CHS would be lacking in that category.

Enter freshmen Braylind Colassaco, Rudy Branstetter and Cameron Dobbins-Park, and both Cooley and House had their answer.

“They really filled those gaps well,” House said. 

In addition to seeing the youngsters on the team develop quickly, there were other high moments during the season, as well.

“I think one of my favorite memories from the season was our performance at New Castle,” Cooley said, referring to a meet on April 26.

At that event, facing teams from Anderson, Jay County, Triton Central and Wapahani, as well as the host Trojans, the Spartan boys finished second, scoring a whopping 103 points. Anderson won the meet, but not by much, finishing with 107 points.

“We did really well at that meet, and had some great individual performances,” Cooley said.

Winners at that meet included Brendan Robinson (discus), Adam Arndt (3200) and Evan Shafer (300 hurdles).

Two of those three — Arndt and Shafer — should be back for the Spartans in 2020.

Unfortunately, Robinson won’t be back, the senior thrower joined by Jacen Beckman, Evan Cobb, Dylan Cox, Trevor Hux and Warren Toole at graduation in June.

“In general, whenever we lose a class of seniors it’s very difficult,” House said of saying goodbye to the half-dozen competitors. “I think the biggest contribution from this group is that they laid a very solid foundation of winning behind.”

One of them, Cox, leaves a leadership void for next season.

“Dylan was one of our team captains, and he really took that role seriously,” Cooley said. “He did a great job working hard and setting a strong example for the other kids.”

House noticed those attributes as well.

“Dylan was one of the best leaders we’ve ever had on this team,” she said. “He was the kind of kid that others were willing to follow. If he was on a relay, the others on that relay performed better for him. The kids didn’t want to let him down.”

Cox was a sectional champion on the 400 meter dash during his senior year, but he was not the only competitor helping to carry the Connersville torch to the regional meet.

Also qualifying were Spencer Noah (pole vault), Shafer (300 hurdles) and Robinson (discus). Additionally, all three relay teams wound up third at the sectional, each of them earning a spot at the regional meet. 

Running the 4x100 were Shafer, Branstetter, Dobbins-Park and Colten Sizemore. The 4x400 was ran by Shafer, Colassaco, Cox and Dobbins-Park.

The 4x800 team consisted of LaTerrian Harrison, Gavin Parsley, Hutton French and Arndt.

Among those dozen names reaching the regional level in 2019, 10 of them can be expected to suit up for House and Cooley in 2020.

“We have a decent group of kids returning, and when you mix in a strong group of freshmen coming in, there should be a lot more improvement next year,” Cooley said.

That same excitement could be heard in listening to House speak of the future.

“We’re definitely going to have some kids coming in that are going to help a lot,” she said. “This past year, we had the largest group of freshmen since I have been here. It’s going to be extremely interesting to see what these boys can accomplish.

“I think the future is going to be very bright for the boys.”