NEWPORT — The annual Jester Intrasquad produced plenty of laughs and goodwill Tuesday as svelte runners lobbed hefty shots and big-framed discus jockeys burst from the chocks.
But there was a serious side to the decade-old event that pits Cub against Cub in an exclusive inter-team event that builds confidence, inspires camaraderie and reveals hidden strengths.
“It’s throwers versus runners versus jumpers,” said Head Coach Kurt Hargett, who explained how the 110-strong lineup of track-and-field specialists is dispersed into three teams which have to use what they’re given. “It puts people in situations where they have to branch out and extend what they do.”
That’s how Jake Tucker, the full-sized shot and discus phenom who threw the 12 lb. shot 53-7 at the Cotton Invitational earlier this year, found himself in the long jump pit at the end of a respectable 8-2.5 effort.
“You don’t envision Jake in the fast lane, but there he was on a 4x100 relay team and taking 11th in the long jump,” commented Hargett, who said coaches backed off and let the teams figure out their own rosters. “We had kids who’d never run distances doing the 3,000
While Tucker will likely remain in the discus and shot put events, the April Fool’s competition could put new faces on the bus as Hargett takes his top three prospects for each event to Saturday’s meet at Junction City.
Sophomore javelin thrower Jillian Thompson, for example, won the 800 Meter race on a time of 2:45.7, nearly two seconds ahead of seasoned runner Emma Allen and almost five seconds in front of third-place newcomer Natalie Jajieh at 2:50.35.
Meanwhile, junior Emma Allan blistered the tarmac in the 1500 Meters at 6:06.45, her first attempt at the mile-shy (0.932) distance and more than 40 seconds faster than second place freshman Sarah Vargas.
Taylor Kinner, a sophomore runner whose best showing was 36th in the 200 Meters at the March 21 Grizzly Bear Open, cleared 7-0 in the women’s pole vault.
“She’s just a tiny thing, maybe four-feet-seven,” remarked Hargett. “These kids just exploded onto the stage.”
Hargett said the 2019 Cub track squad has the potential to meet or exceed a 2018 team that won the men’s district title and set a school record in the women’s 300 Meter hurdles. The team’s talent benefits from seasoned athletes who spend time in the school gym.
“Most of the kids are multi-sport athletes who hit the strength training we offer six classes out of the day,” he added.
The Jester Intrasquad, a brainchild of cross-country coach Tom Swinford, is the place where the conservative blue-and-white colors of the Newport track and squad give way to gaudy costumes of gold, red and purple. Behind the amusement and final scores of the event were inescapable conclusions, however.
“In track and field, you know when you’re better,” said Hargett. “If the true measure of a person’s best self is found in improving her own personal achievement, then that’s a win every time.”