Eastwood’s boys’ track and field team gained coach Brian Sabo’s respect before the 2014 season even started.
“We’ve only been inside once, because of the weather, in the last three weeks,” Sabo said. “They have given great effort so far. They do their job and they work extremely hard at it. As a coach, you respect and appreciate that.”
Nikki Sabo, Brian’s wife and the Eagles’ girls coach, could say the same thing about her squad. What they can both brag about is the fact that both Eastwood teams have won 13 straight league or conference titles, including the last two in the Northern Buckeye Conference.
The Eagles don’t plan to let that streak end anytime soon.
|Eastwood high jumper Jake Hoodlebrink clears the bar
at Clay Memorial Stadium Tuesday.
(Press photo by Scott Grau)
“They just come out and work every day,” Nikki said. “The conditions have been horrible and they’re just working hard and giving the best they can and handling the conditions the best they can. We’re more well rounded than we have been in the past. We have picked up our depth in the distance events, and our field events are going to be strong again.”
Brian said the boys’ squad, which took district runner-up honors before winning a Division II regional title last spring, features 65 athletes. The girls’ team, which placed fourth at the district meet, has 50 athletes.
Eastwood’s boys have a handful of juniors and seniors who have been contributing to the program ever since they were freshmen.
That list includes senior sprinters Steven Bruning, Brent Schlumbohm, Ben Church, Jake Hoodlebrink and Joe Salinas, and juniors Brennan Seifert, Devin Snowden and Grant Geiser.
Sophomore John Bowlus will compete in the 200 and 400.
Snowden’s specialty is the 300-meter hurdles and he also competes in the 110 hurdles, long jump and 4x100 and 4x400 relays. Snowden, Bruning and Seifert were on the 4x100 team that placed sixth at last year’s state meet; Snowden won a regional title in the 300s before taking seventh at state in that event.
Salinas, Snowden and senior Gabe Fredericks all ran on the Eagles’ 4x400 relay that took fourth at the state meet.
Jake Hoodlebrink competes in the long jump, high jump, 400 and 4x200 relay and jumped a career best 22 feet, 2 inches at the state indoor meet. He was a regional qualifier in the 400 as a junior.
“Last year his best jump was 21-7, indoors or outdoors,” Brian Sabo said. “He’s just so much more athletic, stronger, faster. I’m very excited to see his times this year.”
Seifert will be expected to score in all of the open sprints and with the 4x100 relay.
“He’s one of those guys who have been counted on since his freshman year, just because of his speed,” Brian Sabo said. “He also long jumps, and he is a puzzle piece you can fit all over the place. It’s going to be fun to see him progress, being an upperclassman.”
The Eagles’ main distance runners are Fredericks and junior Tim Hoodlebrink. Fredericks can run the 400, 800 and 1600 along with the 4x400 and 4x800 relays.
“I have a lot of confidence in him,” Brian Sabo siad. “He’s primarily going to be in the 4x800, 400 and 4x400. Those will be his specialties. He’s tough enough to run all the way up to the two-mile. He’s done it before. He’s always been a great piece to the team.”
Junior Tim Hoodlebrink, who placed fourth behind three seniors in the 800 at last year’s state meet, returns in that event and will compete on the 4x800 relay.
“He expects big things out of himself and so do we,” Brian Sabo sad. “He runs harder in races than most people I’ve ever seen. He hates to lose and he just keeps going until he literally runs out of gas. I really appreciate that from him.”
Junior Noah Smith and sophomore Sam Church will compete in the 4x800, while junior Zach Jacoby returns in the discus and 110 hurdles. Junior Abram Reyes, who took second in the pole vault at lat year’s NBC meet, returns in that event.
Senior Steve Bradley will high jump, while senior Jacob Rahe and juniors Jack Heckman and Caleb Tussing throw the shot and discus.
“We felt we were pretty young last year,” Brian Sabo said. “I feel we know a lot about this team. The exciting part is there are some young guys and it’s time for some of them to have their turn. I’m excited to see what they do with it.”
Nikki Sabo said she expects senior Maddie Jackson to be the leading scorer on the Eagles’ girls team. Jackson competes in everything from the 100 to the 800 and was on the conference champion 4x100 and 4x400 relays last year. She placed third in the 800 at the district meet and also helped Eastwood win the 4x100 district title.
“She’s very versatile and she leads by example,” Nikki Sabo said. “She will give you everything she has and she is a fierce competitor. You couldn’t ask for a better role model for your younger kids.”
Eastwood’s other sprinters include juniors Reagan Boice, Elena Kirkbride, Kortni Montag and Jayme Evans, who also long jumps. Jackson and Boice ran on the 4x100 relay last year.
“That will be the nuts and bolts of our sprint crew,” Nikki Sabo said. “Any of them could run relays. We mix them up a lot just to try to find the right combination.”
The distance runners are comprised of junior Meagan Kaminski, sophomore Sarah Bettinger and freshman Hannah Sponaugle, the NBC cross country champion.
“She’ll make an impact right away,” Nikki Sabo said. “She’ll do pretty well and will go anywhere from the 800 to the two-mile.”
The field events should be strong with seniors Elise Wolff and Emily Hayward. Wolff took sixth in the pole vault at regionals last year and was a regional qualifier in the 100 hurdles. Hayward took third in the shot at the NBC meet and placed fifth at districts last year.
Eastwood opened the season on Tuesday at Clay, with the boys winning 108-25 and the girls losing to Clay by a 68-60 margin.