Four-peat in Wildcat sights

There is one thing that comes up almost daily around Whitko boys track and field.Repeat.Not just any repeat but a fourth consecutive Three Rivers Conference championship.It’s a broken record that the Wildcats hopes stays that way for another season.“One of the things we’re hoping to do is make it four in a row,” Whitko head coach Ron Cherry said. “That’s our goal that the kids say almost daily. We get together and they yell ‘four-peat.’”For eight seniors, a conference title is all they’ve ever experienced. According to Cherry, the winning never gets old.“They’ve never not won the TRC championship,” Cherry noted of his seniors. “When we won it in 2008, we were very happy and pleased with the year. Then we realized we had a lot of people coming back.”For the next two seasons, Whitko continued its dominance over the conference and making history in the process.“It was a real focus after 2008 to do something no track team had ever done before which was to defend their conference championship,” Cherry said. “Then when we did it just kind of snowballed from there.”The numbers have grown for Whitko over the stretch to where they stand now at 42 athletes on the team.Depth and experience doesn’t run any deeper than in the distance team Whitko brings to the track.Comprised mostly of the cross country squad that advanced to the semistate level, the talent of the distance team is a big part of how successful Whitko can be this season.“Our distance program is going real well and that, of course, helps us,” Cherry said. “It’s really nice to have a lot of depth because although Brian (Menzie) and Trapper (Mize) are tremendous distance runners, there are some other really good kids that go along with them.”Head cross country coach Mike McKeighen serves as the distance team coach. Back for him are state finalist and senior Brian Menzie who along with junior Trapper Mize helped lead the 3200-meter relay foursome to a regional appearance last season.The 2011 season got off to a good start for the 3200 relay along with the Wildcats Tuesday. Whitko traveled to Southwood and won 87-36. The 3200 relay team of Mize, Menzie, Brody Wilson and Jude Steiglitz won in a time of 8:51.6.The Wildcats get one more test before spring break with Wabash Tuesday.Senior Max Elder comes in with rejuvenation after struggling through injuries in past seasons.The Wildcats long and high jumper serves as one of the leaders for Whitko in 2011. “He’s got a lot of different things he can do,” Cherry commented about Elder. “Versatile would be a great word to describe him.”Elder is featured in both the field and track as a winning part of the 400 relay team Tuesday.Elder also won the high jump at 5-feet, 10-inches while taking second in the long jump at 18-feet.The loss of their top sprinter, Chase Stouder, had his replacement come from within the family in sophomore Connor Stouder.Stouder was also a part of that 400 relay team while also winning the 100 and 200-meter dashes.“Connor does a great job for us,” Cherry said. “Along with Scott Skiles, they will help us out in the sprints.”Balance has been a goal for Whitko during all of its success.A weak point for them has been the throwing events with a lack of depth at times.“We will be more balanced and that’s a goal of ours,” Cherry said. “The throws have been kind of weak for us for a few years. We’re hoping with Joe (Haywood) and John (Bandeira de Mello) and some new kids that we’ll change that.”