By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
Before this track season began, Joplin head coach Kasey Pliler said he thought the Eagles would develop into a well-rounded team.
Contributions from several underclassmen, on both the boys’ and girls’ squads, have improved their overall depth as the Eagles work toward the Ozark Conference and district meets, he said.
“Last week was a good week for PRs (personal records),” Pliler said. “We’re getting better every week. We’ve been set in the right events for two weeks. Now, it’s just a matter of refining it and getting ready for conference and districts.”
The Eagles compete today in the Girard (Kan.) Invitational, their last meet before the Ozark Conference meet May 3 in Springfield.
Cord Franks, a senior, and freshmen Jason Wilder, Antoine Jackson and Adam Norsworthy have made steady progress, said Dustin Dixon, a former distance runner who coaches the sprinters.
“Tolby Clemons and Cord Franks, we’ve been pleased. They’re coming along,” Dixon said. “We’ll see in a couple of weeks (at the conference meet). We’ll see.”
Colton Simmons, who has signed with William Jewell, leads the Eagles’ hurdlers. In the distance events, the Eagles are led by Ryan Davidson, who is headed for Central Arkansas, along with sophomores Matt Bennett and Devon Stahl. “They have continued to progress and PR at every meet,” Pliler said. The distance runners are coached by Jason Riddle.
The girls squad also has seen an influx of young talent, said assistant coach Jennifer Vieselmeyer.
“Holly O’Dell and Miriah Johnson give us great senior leadership,” Vieselmeyer said. “We don’t have a big number of girls, but the quality is amazing.”
Juniors Lauren Bowman and Lacey Darnell, along with sophomores Leah Rader and Sidnee Palmer, have contributed ranging from the sprint relays to distance events, she said.
Freshmen Shantel Beck, Katie Bird, Makayla Tillman and Jenna Herr have found positions on the Eagles’ relay teams, she said.
Sophomores Shelby DeWitt and Celeste Graves lead the distance runners, while sophomore Hannah Bettaso and freshman Rachel Peterson have improved each week, Riddle said.