Falcon T&F team eager to get back to work
Had there been a season in 2020, Salisbury track and field head coach Victor DeOliveira believes a few athletes of his athletes had a chance to make it to the state meet.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, two of those athletes have since graduated. Distance runner Shane Artis would have been heading back to states for the second time in his career, and sprinter Timmy Buda had a decent chance to make the trip to Shippensburg as well. Both have since graduated for the Falcons.
“We graduated two athletes who had aspirations to go to states last year,” DeOliveira said. “Shane Artis went to states as a sophomore for the 1600. He was a silver medalist at both leagues and districts in 2019 in the 1600m. Tim Buda was a silver medalist in the 200 meter dash in 2019, and missed out on going to states by three hundredths of a second.”
Even with those graduations, DeOliveira has high hopes for some individual athletes this year The numbers are once again on the low side for Salisbury as a team, but there is certainly talent on the roster.
Three returnees have medaled at leagues or districts and have those same expectations once again. On the boys side, junior Hunter Bleam is back after finishing third in the high jump at districts, posting a mark of 6 feet, 1 inch. He also took seventh at districts in the javelin with a throw of 143 feet, 6 inches.
Senior Quintin Stephens figures to thrive in his jumping events as well. He is coming off a 2019 season where he took fourth at leagues in the triple jump.
“Right now our strength seems to be in the jumping area,” DeOliveira said. “We hope to be competitive in pole vault and sprints as well. Throwing and distance are the areas that need some work due to low numbers.”
Perhaps the Falcons’ best shot at a state qualifier is on the girls’ side with Melena Koutch. The Falcon senior earned two district medals as a freshman during the 2018 season, earning top-three finishes in both the triple jump (second place at 35 feet, 1 inch) and high jump (third place at 5 feet).
Koutch, who also plays varsity basketball, then suffered an injury before her sophomore track and field season, and then missed her junior campaign due to the pandemic shutdown. But after some offseason rehab and training, followed by a successful basketball season in the winter, she’s ready to get back on the track.
“As a team, our size is prohibitive in terms of wins and losses in league competition,” DeOliveira said. “We do, however, have a tendency to do well in the postseason. We have athletes that have medaled before, and our hope is that they can do so again. And we would like to add to that list with some of the newcomers.”
Senior Giovanni Hines is a newcomer to Salisbury and has shined thus far in the sprint events, whereas junior Tyler Utesch expects to excel in the pole vault event. Others are on DeOliveira’s list to surprise this spring, too.
“Last year was very difficult because we had some quality athletes graduate without ever being able to compete and achieve their goals,” DeOliveira said. “The rest of the group missed out on a whole season of learning and honing their skills for their events. For many athletes, it is a cumulative process to become good at an event and many now have last year as a missing step.”
Salisbury will face Northern Lehigh and Palmerton in a tri-meet to open its season. Meet time is schedule for 3:30 p.m. at Palmerton next Tuesday.