Europe's track season starts Saturday - sort of
March 28, 2013
It’s definitely not a marathon. It’s not quite a sprint.
The DODDS-Europe track and field season can be found somewhere in the middle distance. It begins with a brisk trot, curves quickly into a long, slow turn and finally settles into a straightaway gait – just in time for one frantic final burst for the finish line.
That was the planned schedule anyway. The seemingly endless delay of spring in Central Europe has further complicated the situation. Three of Saturday’s four scheduled meets, at Ramstein, Vilseck and Wiesbaden, have been called off due to lingering cold weather and unsatisfactory conditions on the ground. That leaves a single meet at Brussels and attempted make-up dates for many of the sidelined German squads Wednesday. The teams in Italy weren’t scheduled to open the season all along until April 20.
With spring break starting next weekend, the season’s second Saturday slate of meets isn’t scheduled until April 20 – just over a month removed from the European championships, set for May 24-25 at sparkling new facilities in Kaiserslautern.
Here’s a look at the season:
Boys: Vilseck coach Eric Mead insists his team “still has a chance” at repeating as champion.
The Falcons’ primary loss is substantial: David Lance, the reigning Stars and Stripes male Athlete of the Year in the sport and 2012 European champion in 400 and 800 meters.
But the returning talent is also considerable.
Sprinters Shawn Peebles and Carlton Campbell, jumpers Richard Griffith and DeQuan Bamesberger and distance runners Myles Hall, Ben Nelson and Michael Nelson give the defending Division I champions plenty of shots at individual titles. If enough of those shots are redeemed, the Falcons will be in good shape to repeat.
“Our team may not be as strong as last year,” Mead said. “But we should still be a contender.”
Count Ramstein among those eying the Falcons’ throne. Coach William Buckley identifies sprinter Eric Carter, distance runners George Hyde and Galen McCarver and hurdlers Michael Johnson, Mitchell Kimbrough and Tyler Dickey as threats to swipe points from Vilseck.
Among the smaller schools, Bitburg will lean heavily on athletes from its ongoing football dynasty to make a run at a repeat Division II title.
Sprinter CJ Evans, discus thrower Colton Engelmeier and shot put entry Bryce Randall will look to hold off challenges from a field headlined by Naples, Aviano, AFNORTH and Ansbach.
Girls: That level of competitive parity doesn’t extend to the girls’ ranks.
Patch spread its encroaching DODDS-Europe athletic dominance onto the track in 2012 with an emphatic 32-point victory margin over longtime champion Kaiserslautern. All indications are that 2013 will be another year of the Panther.
Kaiserslautern, after seeing its nine-year reign come to an abrupt end, has an impressive group of contenders but may lack the raw numbers to take back its crown.
Rhea Harris and Grace Gonzalez finished second in the triple and long jump, respectively, and each event’s reigning champion is gone. Thrower Kalynn Richardson will contend in the shot put and discus, and a squad of new transfers including Jamie Creamer and Jada Greene will flesh out the Red Raiders’ sprinting corps.
Division I entries Ramstein, Vilseck, Heidelberg and Wiesbaden will try to elbow their way into the Patch-Kaiserslautern grudge match.
Among smaller schools, reigning Division II champion AFNORTH was devastated by the loss of reigning Stars and Stripes girls track Athlete of the Year Sara Sawyer. She was singlehandedly responsible for the Lions’ 20-point showing at last year’s Europeans.
Region I foe SHAPE, Italian contenders Naples, Aviano and Vicenza and solid German programs Bitburg and Ansbach will be happy to move into the power vacuum.
Baumholder and Bamberg, both double-digit point scorers in 2012 tangle with reigning Division III champion Menwith Hill.