Rockets focused on state

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Boys’ track team returns a lot of talent

By Todd Martin

Distance and middle distance long have been the Rockets' calling cards in track and field.

But this year, boys’ Coach George Cottrell is excited to have some strong sprinters to go with his distance runners.

“I’m really, really optimistic,” he said. “There’s a great deal of competition on the team. Our distance and middle-distance guys are very strong, but this year I think there’s more potential with our sprinters.”

As the quick guys come together, Cottrell knows he can count on his stamina team to carry the load.

Leading the way will be Stacey Eden. As a sophomore last season, Eden won the 3,200 at the region and came in fourth at state.

“The 3,200 is his race, and he’s got a great shot to win it this year,” Cottrell said. “But it’s always possible that he’ll run the mile as well. He’s strong enough to do both.”

The progression of seniors J.J. Depasco and Alec Zaremba will determine a lot of where Eden is needed.

“J.J. has shown the most improvement,” Cottrell said. “He’s been in Stacey shadow a little, but he’s been great so far. He’s a guy that could be in the 3,200, mile, 800 or 4 by 800.

“Zaremba is finally healthy this year, and he looks great. He can be in the 4 by 800, 800 or mile for us. He can really help us, and he’s becoming a leader. Hopefully he can put together a full, healthy season this year.”

Jonathan Pernell, another oft-injured runner last season, could give the Rockets a boost. Cottrell noted that Pernell has looked strong in the 400 this season, dropping to under a minute.

“He was on our 4 by 800 team last year, but he’s so valuable in the 400 and 4 by 400 that we’d probably like to use him there.”

The sprinters Cottrell hopes to bring along include Rico O’Bannon and Edwin Thomas, both of whom ran with the Rockets last season.

“Rico has really come on,” he said. “He may be that sprinter we’ve been missing. He can score in the 100, and he’ll definitely be in our 4 by100 and 4 by 200 teams and possibly the 4 by 400.

“Edwin might be our top 100 guy. He’s looking very, very strong so far.”

Tyler Whitehouse anchored the 400 group last year, and Cottrell said he’ll be back in that spot again, and he’s added foreign exchange student Sekou Diarra and Quinten Cottrell to that group.

The Rockets weak link this year could be in field events.

After placing in the top 10 in both the shot and discus last season, Matt Spencer didn’t return this year.

“The field events are our biggest concern,” Cottrell said. “We’ve got some guys we’re trying out, but right now we need some work.”

The regional meet will be held at the University of Louisville this year in the middle of May, but the Rockets’ main goal will be the State Meet, also at U of L on May 22-23.

A new qualifying format should improve Shelby County’s chances at State. This season instead of taking the top two finishers in each event per region and then adding the next top two times across the state – the top 10 finishers will go to State along with the top two from each region.

“It’s going to get a lot more athletes to the state meet, and I think we’ve got a great shot to get a lot more in because of that,” Cottrell said. “We’re very optimistic that we can score some more points at state this year.”