PBL girls track to start season Wednesday

PAXTON — Paxton-Buckley-Loda has a couple of girls track and field members who are closely associated with the University of Illinois.

Senior Claire Wieneke is the granddaughter of former UI head coach Gary Wieneke, who coached the Fighting Illini’s track and cross country teams to 12 Big Ten Conference championships.

“She brings some good things with her as well,” PBL head coach Alex Goudy said. “She’s a runner and a thrower.”

Freshman high jumper Aleeka Gentzler has been able to practice at the UI’s indoor track facility known as the Armory. She gets that privilege from her mother, Clarissa Gentzler, who is the university’s Grant-In-Aid Specialist.

“She took her down to practice the other night at the Armory to high jump,” Goudy said. “Clarissa’s kind of Aleeka’s self-coach, which is great. If I remember, she was a high jumper herself, so she helps out there. I’m expecting really good things out of Aleeka.”

Goudy said she hopes the Fighting Illini connections, among other factors, can help lead this year’s Panthers to a more successful season than they had last year.

“Last year, we didn’t have any great results we could brag about,” Goudy said. “We didn’t even get anybody to state. It was Christine Williams’ and my first year taking over, and we were just kind of getting our feet wet. I think, this year, we can get somebody to state.”

With Williams resigning due to personal reasons, Goudy has been given the full responsibilities of being the head coach — which includes coaching the runners as well as the throwers.

“I’m not normally a running coach, but I’m going to do my best and try to learn everything I can,” Goudy said. “I’m more of a thrower’s person.”

Goudy will get help in the coaching aspect from her father, David Jackson, along with other reinforcements.

“(My dad) just moved up here from Southern Illinois to be closer to me and my family,” Goudy said. He’s helping me because he’s retired. You’ve probably seen him running around town. He did track in high school back in the day. My specialty was throwing, so we’re working together. Becky Kasten’s kind of helping us out, too. Of course, we’re trying to collaborate with the guys, too. We’re trying to help each other out this year with (Erik) Ronney and (Mike) Brehm. We want to be one collaborative thing.”

Goudy, as well as her reinforcements, will lead a young group this season. However, that may not be considered a liability considering that this year’s freshman class is coming off a junior high season in which six athletes went to the state meet.

“We’ve got some really good freshmen that came in this year, so I’m excited to see how they do,” Goudy said. “Audrey Bloomquist will be key. I think Sam Bastic’s got a lot of potential to show us. I’ve got a couple of newcomers — I’m seeing good things out of them already. I expect good things out of Helene Ellis, too. She did great in cross country this year as a freshman. We’re hoping she’ll do the two-mile, which she doesn’t act like she wants to do, but she’s going to do. She likes to run. We’re a young team this year, but I expect good things out of some of these kids.”

Although she says there are not many upperclassmen, Goudy said the few she does have are good leaders and should do some good things this season.

“I’ve got Samantha Schoonover, and she’s doing softball as well,” Goudy said. “I’ve got a couple of girls doing softball too, and that’s great. We’ll work around it. I’ve got Allison Henrichs, who has done really well leading for me and taking over in the shot put, and I expect good things from her this year. She’s been throwing a little bit. We’ve been looking at it — it looks good. Brianna Vasquez is not a senior, but she will be a good thrower for me this year, too, I believe.

“Tara Coady’s a senior, and I expect good things out of her in the distances. I expect good things out of Kayla Burnes as well jumping. She’s kind of a beast in the weight room. We’ve been hitting the weights pretty hard each week. They’re all doing pretty good. I’m not complaining about it anyway.”

Goudy said her team should also be helped by an increased sense of team unity, as evidence by the weekly team activities that her team has performed since the beginning of practice.

“We’ve been doing some team activities each week because some of the girls said last year that they didn’t feel like a whole team, so we’ve been working on that a lot,” Goudy said. “Once a week, I try to do team activities with them, so hopefully that will help and get them boosted up and get us some good results.

“Yesterday, we broke up into groups and they had to make a shelter that they all had to fit in within their group out of newspapers and tape. It’s one of the more creative ideas, and they worked really well together. Another one we did was we had to go around and everybody wrote their name on a piece of paper and we sent it around and everybody had to write something nice about themselves. They all have it in their locker for boosting their self-esteem.”

Goudy said her team has been forced to try to come up with such things to do indoors by the inclement weather outside.

“We’re anxious to get outside,” Goudy said. “We got outside one day last week because it was warm, and we haven’t been able to get outside since. We’re just looking forward to get going and getting outside where we can practice and everybody can get on with their specialties because it’s hard to do everything indoors. But hopefully the weight room’s going to help us and we’ll see some results.”

The Panthers will get their first chance at real track action at 7:30 p.m. today at the UI Armory indoor track. They will go to Eastern Illinois University for a meet at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 9.

“We look forward to getting the first one out of the way,” Goudy said about today’s meet. “It’s just a practice meet — they don’t even have to wear uniforms. I’m anxious to get one under the belt — especially with some of the freshmen because it’s ran different in high school than it is in junior high.”

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