BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — It might be the third head coach in three years for the Maumee track and field teams, but she’s no stranger to the Panthers.
Lindsay Vannett, who was an assistant on last year’s squad, takes over as the head coach. Also the Maumee volleyball head coach, she’s joined by James Pierce, who also served as an assistant on the Panthers football and girls basketball squads this year.
Vannett said when she decided to step into the head coaching role, it was with the complete support of the coaching staff, many of whom returned this year as well.
“We had talked about it before the posting ever became available and we decided we would do this as a team,” Vannett said. “We have operated on that since day one. We talk through everything as a staff and have been completely collaborative when it comes to team rules, schedules, practices and anything else related to the team.
“I am fulfilling most of the administrative parts of the job in regards to running the team, but my staff is amazing and has picked up some of the unseen roles that are required to run a team successfully.”
Both Vannett and Pierce filled key roles on last year’s staff, along with returning coaches Holly Mack, Sara Arthur and Josh Arthur. Joining the staff this season is Madeline Eye, who will split coaching the throwers with Vannett.
Those throwers will be among the stronger parts of the Panthers for both the boys and the girls. Vannett pointed out senior Evelynn Schneider and freshman Izzy Yancy as potential standouts on the girls team; Schneider finished seventh in the Northern Lakes League last year in the shot put.
The boys throwers will be led by Preston Johnson, Dominic Incorvaia and Pierce Simpson.
“The throwers look really good at this point in the season,” Vannett said of the boys team. “We are starting off where we left off last year and that will only help them grow as the season goes on.
“I have added a coach on staff that brings a slew of knowledge to the discus especially, so it will only help them grow and achieve the goals they have set for this year.
“I have several boys that will challenge each other for spots on the varsity roster this year and the competition will only improve their performances.”
The boys team will look to pick up plenty of points in the field events, thanks to sophomore Lucas Polking-horn. The defending NLL high jump champion, Polkinghorn had an outstanding indoor season, capped by a national championship with a jump of 6 feet, 4 inches at the Adidas Indoor Nationals.
“He was fortunate to compete in several indoor events this year that put his name on the map,” Vannett said. “I don’t think we need to add any expectations to him as coaches because he has big dreams himself. Track is something that Lucas is looking toward for college and he has the talent to make it.
“We have seen him compete in a variety of events and find success. We are looking to use that to our advantage in his outdoor season while keeping in mind that high jump is his baby. He is chasing our school record and being that he is a sophomore, he could definitely achieve that.”
In the running events, the Panthers will be more skewed to the sprint and middle distance events after the loss of some talented distance runners to graduation.
Vannett pointed out a pair of relays – the 4×100-meter and 4×200 relays – as strengths of the teams. They’re also looking for another strong year from senior hurdler Alex Stambaugh.
“We will see a small shift in the loss of our veteran distance runners, but we do have some young athletes that worked hard all winter to step into those big shoes,” Vannett said. “Our sprints and field events will have returning athletes that finished the year strong last year and have started even stronger this year.
“We are looking to have a well-balanced team where we can be scoring in more events and look to challenge to win some team awards.”
Just getting increased numbers on the girls roster has been a success in itself. Last year, the total number of athletes wavered in the low teens; this year, the Panthers have more than 30 girls on the team. Vannett credits recruiting efforts by the coaches and returning players for helping that number rise.
“Just spreading the word that we are building the program back up to its tradition is what we are trying to do,” she said. “We are openly communicating with our athletes regularly to ensure that they are getting the most out of their experience and it is really helping to maintain our numbers.”
Those numbers have come from the younger grades – Vannett said most of the roster is sophomores and freshmen; however, Vannett has already seen veteran leaders emerge.
“We are starting to see leaders emerge in the different groupings on the team; kids like Evelynn Schneider in our throwing events, Cait Smalley and Shannon Tolbert in the running events,” Vannett said.
“They are trying their best to show what Maumee track should be and they are well respected by our athletes.”
The Panthers will host a handful of meets this year, including their traditional Maumee Relays. New this year is a change in the Relay dates; instead of happening in late March, the event will try to avoid bad weather with a move to May.