NEW PALESTINE — The 2022 New Palestine boys track and field season ended in the training room.
The Dragons’ lone state-qualifier, pole vaulter Jack Rossell, had to bow out due to a hip injury that flared up during warmups at the 2022 IHSAA Boys Track and Field State Finals.
The Hancock County Championships’ Athlete of the Meet, sprinter Isaiah Thacker, was lost for the season before his postseason started. He suffered a season-ending knee injury during the long jump competition at the Hoosier Heritage Conference meet.
Fortunately, Rossell and Thacker were juniors, and both are back for their senior campaigns.
Head coach Eric Branch said Rossell is being eased back in during early season workouts.
He cleared 13-feet, 9-inches in the regional to earn a callback spot in the state finals last year.
“He’s been doing a long-term rehab. We weren’t really expecting to do a lot of pole vault outside (in the early preseason), so we made a decision to ease back into it this year,” Branch said of Rossell’s return. “We’ve been working on rehabbing, upper-body strength, getting his legs back and when we get in the outdoor season push a little more. He’s definitely going to have a great year. We just didn’t want to push him much in the indoor season.”
With a healthy Rossell, the Dragons have one of the state’s best pole vault tandems in seniors Rossell and Sage Halter.
Halter, who cleared 13-feet, 6-inches recently in the indoor season, has qualified for the Hoosier State Relays in Bloomington (the indoor state championship) on March 25.
Halter and Rossell finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in last year’s HHC meet.
Both Rossell and Halter are closing in on the school record of 14-feet, held by the team’s pole vaulting coach Chad Clark and 1981 graduate Mark Gilpin.
Along with Halter, the Dragons 4×800-meter relay team is currently holding on to a qualifying spot in the indoor finals and are expected to have a strong year when the team heads outdoors.
The relay group includes senior Cody Crawmer, junior Danny Davis, and sophomores Jake Cooper and Gavin Smith.
Thacker leads the sprint group. At last year’s county meet, Thacker won two events. He took top honors in the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash. He was third in the long jump.
He set a meet and school record in winning the 200 (22.39 seconds) and broke one of the oldest records in the county meet’s history, set in 1984 by New Pal grad Jim Seifert (22.50 seconds).
He won the 100 in a hand-held time of 10.8 seconds. It was quicker than the meet mark of 10.93 set in 2010 by New Palestine’s Pat Feeney, but was not considered an official meet record since it was done by hand-held timing instead of by FAT (Fully Automatic Timing).
Thacker was fifth in the conference long jump competition but was hurt on his final attempt and had to pull out of the rest of the competition.
“Fortunately, it wasn’t real bad and he was able to recover in a couple weeks, but it took him out of the sectional,” Branch said. “He’s back, looks great. We think he might just miss the cut in the 60-dash (for indoor state), but we’re taking our time with him in the long jump.
“He’s locked in right now and we think he’s going to have a great year.”
Branch expects good years from others, too.
James O’Dell, another senior, is back in the hurdles and will likely join Thacker and two others in the 400 relay. O’Dell finished fifth in the low hurdles in the HHC meet.
Sophomore Dylan Dragoo is another one of the key youngsters expected to do well in the 400 and 4×400 relay.
Connor Lapenta is a senior and key mid-distance, distance runner. He’s currently recovering from injury. If healthy, he’d likely be a part of that 4×800 relay group.
Branch said three freshmen could make an impact in their first high school seasons.
Ian Erwin will be a top sprinter along with Colton Spears, who will also be in the high jump. Frosh Brock Brownfield is a strong addition in throws.
The Dragons have a large group this year. Branch said there are 51 on this year’s team, with 14 seniors.
2023 New Palestine Boys Track and Field Schedule
March 25;Indoor State meet (at IU);TBD
April 6;at Shelbyville/G-C;5:30 p.m.
April 8;at Chatard Invitational;11 a.m.
April 11;at Connersville 4-way;5:30 p.m.
April 13;vs. Perry/Greenwood;5:30 p.m.
April 18;at Lawrence Central;5:30 p.m.
April 20;vs. Pendleton Heights;5 p.m.
April 28;at Zionsville Invitational;5:30 p.m.
May 3;at Hancock County (MV);5:30 p.m.
May 11;at Hoosier Heritage Conference (MV);5:30 p.m.
May. 18;at Greenfield-Central Sectional;5:30 p.m.