Experience crucial for PHS teams

by Greg Ceilley
of The Review staff

DEREK NOVOTNY, pictured competing in the state long jump last year, is one of the key athletes back for the Plymouth boys track team. – Photo by Tyler Luedtke DEREK NOVOTNY, pictured competing in the state long jump last year, is one of the key athletes back for the Plymouth boys track team. – Photo by Tyler Luedtke PLYMOUTH – The Plymouth Panthers’ boys and girls track teams have 16 returning letter winners each and will be counting on that experience to propel them during the 2018 season.

The boys squad is led by a strong group of seniors. The Panthers have won the last two East Central Conference championships and finished 10-1 in ECC triangular and quadrangular competition last season.

The girls team has several key athletes back from last year’s team which placed third in the ECC Meet and was 11-0 in conference triangulars and quadrangulars.


“With 16 returning letter winners and a very experienced and talented senior group, we have something to work with this year. However we do need to fill some holes and add depth to all our events to be real competitive,” said Panther head coach Jay Grosshuesch who is in his 21st season at the helm.

CECE HUHN, shown competing in the state discus last season, is one of the key returning athletes for the Plymouth girls track team this season. – Photo by Tyler Luedtke CECE HUHN, shown competing in the state discus last season, is one of the key returning athletes for the Plymouth girls track team this season. – Photo by Tyler Luedtke “We have a large bunch of returning sophomores out this year. It would also be a huge bonus for our team if these athletes can add the depth we need at the varsity level. Our athletes have been showing us some hard work early in the season, so we are hopeful we can mold together to make a quality team by May.

“Our main goal is to have each boy work hard and improve as an individual. If that happens, our team will get better and we will end the season satisfied with our results,” said Grosshuesch.

“I am not sure if we have one area of our team that is a lot stronger than another. We have decent depth in a lot of areas.

“The key for us will be to get our good athletes to become very good or great, so we can score some big points,” the coach said.

The Panthers have two Division 1 state qualifiers back from last year in seniors Derek Novotny and Mason Guell in the long jump and triple jump, respectively. In the ECC Meet, Novotny won the long jump and Guell took first in the triple jump.

Senior Mack Mella is the reigning ECC 400-meter champion. Senior Jaxsen Schermacher won the pole vault in the 2017 sectional meet.

“Our team success will depend on how strong our No. 1 athlete in each event can be and then how well our second-tier guys develop. Over half of our athletes are freshmen or sophomores, so we will really need to have them step up for our team to add to our string of seven conference championships [PHS won five straight Eastern Wisconsin Conference titles before joining the ECC].

“Our distance group is going to be another strong area for our team. Gabe Olsen, Max Hassel and Charlie Waitkus all are coming off of solid cross country season, so we expect them to provide us with solid points. We should get some quality depth with the help of Eric Preissner.

“In the jumps, we expect Derek Novotny, Mason Guell and Derek Holec to build on their strong season in these events last year.

“Jaxsen Schermacher had a great year in the pole vault last year and we expect him to continue that excellence this year as well. Kory Tetschlag also improved greatly in the vault, so we expect him to add some quality depth to that event.

“Our weak areas will be the lack of depth in the hurdles and throws, mostly because we are young or have few athletes in the events. Riley Huibregtse and Mark Nehring hurdled last year and we hope they can continue the progress they showed last year and score some nice points here.

In the throws we have Korey Friederichs and Jack Nytes who had nice seasons last year and can be key athletes for us. Our sprint group will be strong but we don’t have the depth there we had last year. Derek Novotny and Jaxsen Schermacher are four-year sprinters who can lead us in these events.

“Our mid-distance group will be a strength in our team, with lots of depth in this area. Mason Guell, Mack Mella, Adam Smith and John Nugent will anchor this group. We will need to rely on some younger runners or distance runners to cover the 800 and longer relays.”

Grosshuesch said the top prospects are senior Simen Mahnke in middle distance and Preissner in distance.

“I expect Waupun, Berlin, Ripon and Winneconne to be strong [in the ECC]. We hope we can be in that group and can add another conference title in the ECC,” said the veteran coach.


“With 16 returning letter winners our girls team has a decent level of experience. Our challenge will be to have these returning athletes push themselves to the next level of excellence – building off of last year’s experiences,” Grosshuesch noted.

“We lost some very talented seniors to graduation last year, so we have some big holes to fill. We have nice group of seniors and juniors that should provide us with some strong experience to draw on.

“We have had some good early-season practices and our athletes are working hard, so we are hopeful that we can be a strong team by the end of the season,” said the coach.

“Our goal as a team is to have each individual improve in her respective event, and if this happens, team successes will follow.”

The Panthers have one state qualifier returning from last year in junior Cece Huhn who competed in the discus. Huhn was also an ECC, regional and sectional discus champion.

Junior Gabi Mella was the conference champion in the long jump and was the ECC runnerup in the 100 and 200 dashes last season.

The Panthers return three members of the 2017 ECC championship 1,600 relay team in senior Hanna Eigenberger and juniors Lauren Rabe and Izzy Kastelic.

“With a large number of returning seniors, we do have some quality athletes and strong leadership to begin the season with,” Grosshuesch pointed out.

“Our hurdling crew and distance runners are experienced but lacks depth. We will count on Emily Portschy and Sarah Birenbaum to lead us in the hurdles and Amanda Triebensee in the distances.

“We will be quite deep in the sprints and mid-distance. Katie Benedict, Gabi Mella, Libby Tournour, Maggie Staehling and Christiana Hoyt should give us lots of points in the sprints. In the middle distance events, Lauren Rabe, Allie Gruttner, Izzy Kastelic and Hanna Eigenberger should make these events big ‘point-getters’ for us,” said the coach.

“The throwing events may be one of our better field event areas with Emily LaVine, Tanya Gilbertson and Cece Huhn coming off strong seasons.

“Christiana Hoyt and Libby Tournour both took a nice step forward in the pole vault last season. Hopefully, they can get to a new level this season.

“Cece Huhn will be our leader in the high jump. Our horizontal jumps are real thin area for us. Gabi Mella had a great season in the long jump last year and she should be real strong again this year. Hopefully, several of our young athletes can help fill the void we have for a second or third jumper,” Grosshuesch said.

“There will be multiple opportunities for our many younger athletes to contribute in the field events as we need to add some depth in all of these events.”

The coach said the top prospects include senior Sanae Yamanoto and freshman Sierra Grimm in sprints and freshman Lilly LaPorte, distance.

“We just need to stay focused and get great effort out of all the girls each and every day and we will be happy with our season,” said Grosshuesch.

“I expect Berlin, Winneconne and Kettle Moraine Lutheran [Jackson] to be strong [in the ECC]. With some significant help from our young group we may be able to get in their league.”

Berlin is the defending ECC champion.

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