Depth pays off as Lovell Bulldogs win state title

Chalk up another championship for the Lovell Bulldogs. Depth across the track and field spectrum paid off for the Bulldogs, who rose to the occasion in Casper over the weekend to capture their second straight state championship.

The Bulldogs scored points in 14 events, and even though they had just three event champions, depth made the difference as they scored 127 points and pulled away from second-place Lusk, which scored 74.5. Wind River was third with 73 points, Thermopolis fourth with 48.

The Lovell Bulldogs won their second consecutive state track title Saturday in Casper. Pictured after receiving their trophy are (l-r) Kade Englert, AJ Dickson, Cade Bischoff, Dino Collins, Cody Savage, Austin Ellis, Tanner Rohrer, Nathan Grant, Jacob Beck, Nathan Ballard, Chase Tippetts, Eston Croft and Daniel Strom.
The Lovell Bulldogs won their second consecutive state track title Saturday in Casper. Pictured after receiving their trophy are (l-r) Kade Englert, AJ Dickson, Cade Bischoff, Dino Collins, Cody Savage, Austin Ellis, Tanner Rohrer, Nathan Grant, Jacob Beck, Nathan Ballard, Chase Tippetts, Eston Croft and Daniel Strom.

“You have to have a variety of athletes across the board,” Coach Josh Sanders said. “You can have a few stellar athletes who can get you 10 points in each event or a lot of quality athletes spread out who can bring you a lot of cumulative points.

“We generally have more athletes than most 2A teams, but once they get to State they have to give you quality. Our athletes have worked hard, and you have to find where their talents are, find a way to see what they’re good at, motivate them and, boom, there they go. A lot of schools don’t build enough enthusiasm for the track program.

Senior Dino Collins ended his career with two state jumping titles and two high finishes in running events.

Collins won the triple jump Friday morning with a jump of 42-9¾, ending the streak of close friend and teammate Cody Savage, who had won the event in each of the previous three state meets. Savage placed second at 41-10¼, and sophomore Mysen McArthur tied for ninth at 39-5.

Collins also won the long jump Thursday, jumping a personal record 21-2. Savage was third at 20-2¾, sophomore Cade Bischoff fifth at 19-7 as the Bulldogs piled up the points in the jumps.

In running events, Collins placed a strong second in the 110-meter high hurdles Saturday with a personal-record time of 15.73,trailing only Jesse Hawk of Wind River, after running PR in the preliminaries on Thursday at 15.86. Sophomore Eston Croft placed fifth at 16.59, improving upon his preliminary time of 16.74.

Finally, Collins placed fifth in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.91, a bit slower than his preliminary time of 11.74.

“Dino is calm for his events,” Sanders said. “Hurdles and jumps can lend themselves to disaster, but he quietly went about his business. He’s incredibly focused in practice and works hard.”

Savage, meanwhile, was also strong in the throwing events, placing third in the shot put with a personal-record throw of 43-9 and fourth in the discus at 130-7.

“I’ve always been impressed with Cody’s ability to go after things,” Sanders said. “He won State his sophomore year in a very competitive field. His ability to get the winning jump has impressed me.

“Throwing the shot and discus says something about his abilities. That’s a weird combination (jumps and throws). It says something about him as a track athlete, That doesn’t happen very often.”

Senior Tanner Rohrer ended his throwing career with a strong showing at State. Rohrer won the discus with a personal-record throw of 151-6, beating his closest competitor, Joe Lupher of Wind River, by 15 feet.

“Tanner got that throw early, and that put a lot of stress on the field. Chad (Lindsay) likes them to get in a good throw early for that very reason.”

He also placed second in the shot put at 44-4¾, edged out by about three feet by Martin Fitzwater of Lusk, who threw 47-9½.

Sophomore Daniel Strom finished ninth in the discus at 121-7.

Senior Nathan Grant turned in a courageous performance in the pole vault after injuring his knee in practice before Regionals. Wearing a brace, Grant placed second in the pole vault by clearing 12-6, just six inches below his personal record. Junior Kade Englert tied for third, clearing 11-6.

“Nathan’s 12-6 vault looked really, really good,” Sanders said. “He was close at 13 feet, but his 12-6 jump would have been well above 13.

“He did the best he could in that situation. Not only did he have the (knee) brace but we started to have a little wind and a little rain. Coach (Daniel) Robertson did a good job of helping him there at the event. I think he directs the athletes well in the pole vault.”

Sanders also noted the decision by event judge Joe White to hold off on the pole vault when things got stormy.

“I’m glad he did that,” Sanders said. “Joe wants the athletes to do well. He recognized a condition that could be bad for the athletes and was willing to hold the event.”

Grant also ran the first leg of the 1,600-meter relay team that placed fifth with a time of 3:42.12, joining Chase Tippetts, Michael Brightly and Austin Ellis.

Grant tried his hand at the 300-meter hurdles, and slowed by the injury, he finished 13th in prelims at 44.68, well above his personal-record time of 42.99.

The top relay team for the Lovell boys was the 3,200-meter relay foursome of senior Jacob Beck, freshman Jacob Newman, sophomore AJ Dickson and senior Austin Ellis, who combined to run a season-best time of 8:52.37 and place second, 10 seconds faster than their time at Regionals.

“Austin ran a great last lap,” Sanders said. “He went after some people.”

Ellis had a strong final track meet. Along with the two relay races, he placed sixth in the 800 meters Friday morning with a personal-record time of 2:05.56, and on Saturday he placed eighth in the 400-meter dash at 53.50 after running 53.48 in the prelims.

Athlete of the week

Sophomore distance runner AJ Dickson had an outstanding state meet and was named the male athlete of the week. Along with the 4×800-meter relay, he placed second in the 3,200 meters Thursday with a time of 10:41.98, a personal record, and he placed fifth in the 1,600 meters at 4:55.09, also a PR.

“That was a tremendously surprising performance (in the 3,200),” Sanders said. “It was one of the most exciting things we saw at the meet. I credit Caleb (Sanders). Caleb observed some of the races and saw the conditions, warm and windy, which doesn’t bode well for fast starts.

“He prepped AJ well, and to AJ’s credit he ran the race he was supposed to. At State you have a tendency to really go after it. People go out too quickly at the beginning, and AJ never panicked. He was way back and was not even close to the top eight over the first several laps. He started gradually working his way up, and battling for third he also passed the Shoshoni kid for second.

“AJ was fifth at Regionals and second at State. He ran a smart race.”

Freshman Jacob Newman placed eighth in the 3,200 meters with a time of 11:13.14, beating his personal record by 21 seconds.

“Jacob has a great future ahead of him,” Sanders said. “He has a strong desire to improve and do well. He will be a success in middle distance and distance races. I love his attitude.”

Junior Brandon Wolvington placed sixth in the high jump, clearing 5-8.

Other state track meet results included:

400-meter dash – Chase Tippetts, 11th in prelims, 54.88; 800 meters – Jacob Beck 16th, 2:17.13; 400-meter relay (Cade Bischoff, Chase Tippetts, Michael Brightly, Dylan Hultgren) 11th, 47.53; high jump – Kade Englert 12th, 5-8, Cade Bischoff 14th, 5-6.

By David Peck