Right on track, building a legacy at Roberts

By Alastair Baker
Thursday, May 31, 2018

Courtesy photo

The successful Roberts’ track teams at the 6C District meet. Back row from left to right - Coach Jene Reinhardt, Gus Dines, Cody Gross, Boone Schmaltz, Allex Kosel, Ryan DeVries, Andy Van Ornum, Coach George Nelson Middle from left to right - Skyler Hess, Emma DeVries, McKenzie Pitts, Shandee DeHaven Front from left to right - Alexis Hess, Ariel Wootton, Avery Walker, Maddie Allen

The track dust has settled for another year, the summer’s in and both runners and coaches alike have time to ponder about what went on and what might be.

At Roberts High School, head track coach Jene Reinhardt and assistant coach George Nelson have just led the teams through a most rewarding season, with the boys retaining their Southern C title and the girls claiming their first ever District 6C title.

For the girls’ team, this is the end of a 20-year drought for trophy hunting. The last time was 1994 to 1998 when the girls picked up four 2nd places across Districts and Southern C track meets.

Reinhardt is the new kid on the block, coaching at Roberts for only 8 years compared to Nelson’s 40 years. Together they’ve pulled off some enchanting alchemy that has nurtured a powerful track program at the school.

“It’s pretty awesome to have him,” said Reinhardt. “It’s his 40th teaching year, most spent coaching something. He has a lot of wisdom and experience. It’s a mingling of philosophies.”

Nelson’s name adorns many trophies around the school and now Reinhardt’s name is beginning to appear on some of them.

In the time since Reinhardt arrived the track program has blossomed. It hasn’t always been easy. In the first four years, the highest placing achieved by the boys was 6th and the girls 5th at Districts in 2011. A Southern C placement of 13th for the boys and 8th for the girls in 2013 hinted at things to come. The next year results dipped, the boys reached 7th at Districts and 15th at Southern C with the girls at 12th.

Things changed the following year as recruitment to the girls’ team dwindled and the boys took over the reins and suddenly made their presence felt coming in 3rd at Districts and 12th in Southern C.

A team started emerging in the shape of Rick Hibbs, Gus Dines, Carter Moore, Andy Van Ornum and Allexander Kosel.

In 2016, the team lost Moore but added Boone Schmaltz and Jeremiah Hyvonen to their ranks, and took 3rd in both the Districts and Southern C.

Then came 2017, the bench year for future Roberts’ boys teams in this century as the team took home 1st in District and won the Southern C title for the first time. To top it off, the team, now consisting of Ryan DeVries and Max Romero alongside Van Ornum, Kosel, Dines, Schmaltz and Hyvonen, finished an impressive 5th at State and had broken the 49-year old school 1,600m relay record not once but three times in two weeks.

The girls’ camp was stirring as well, taking 16th in Southern C with Alexia Hess coming 5th in the 3,200m.

And now to this year, with the girls taking 1st in Districts and 2nd in Southern C and the boys’ finishing 2nd in Districts and 1st in Southern C and 6th at State.

Kosel finished his career as State C champion in high jump. At Southern C he also broke the school’s 49-year old high jump record.

For Reinhardt, it is the culmination of incredible dedication by her two squads who don’t mind spending time in the weight room perfecting that sustainability and endurance required in modern competitive sports these days.

“We stick to the fundamentals and require the athletes to work hard.  Coach Nelson and myself have some great athletes who are willing to put the time in and work hard,” said Reinhardt.  “At the district track meet both boys and girls participated in track and field events they love.  They also participated in events they don't love but unselfishly did so for the good of the team.  What makes me proud of both these groups is they had two goals in mind.  Not only did they want to do well for themselves, but they also wanted to do well for their teammates.”

“They’re just great kids, so fun. They make good decisions. They are awesome,” she said.

On looking back to this season’s successes, especially for the girls, Reinhardt believes “we just had a day where the girls competed well. They were all on the same page, and all took a step higher than we anticipated. It’s kinda cool.”

She also credits the boys for helping.

“I think the boys leadership has helped bring those girls along. And having success, they are excited and wanting to move on,” she said.

This year’s success though is marked with some goodbyes as seniors Kosel, Van Ornum, Dines and Avery Walker depart their teams.

“We're going to lose some exceptional athletes this year.  Gus Dines, Allex Kosel, Avery Walker, and Andy Van Ornum have dedicated much time, effort, and hard work into building a program here in Roberts, and they are going to be missed,” she said. “It’s a bittersweet moment as I’m excited for them. All have bright futures with two running at the collegiate level. I’m really excited for them but we’ve been together for so long, it’s hard.”

Such results have sent a ripple through the school and interest in being on the track team is growing to a point that Reinhardt may well have a decent enough pool of runners to pull from, including Kosel’s brothers Luke and Ben.

“The boys 8th grade came 2nd and the girls 1st in District this year,” she said. “I’m excited for the 8th grade crew.”

“We only had one girl for track and none before. There are now 6,” said Reinhardt.

“I feel both teams have a bright future.  On the girls side we have a very young group of girls who are eager to work and learn how they can better themselves,” said Reinhardt.

She plans to give the teams a “couple of weeks off” before summer training begins again with the hunt for more trophies.

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