Quakers like to play the field

SALEM-The Salem track program has had a tendency to run in cycles over the years.

After a long period of great distance runners, the focus has shifted to sprinters over the past few seasons with a number of relay teams making it to state. It seems only natural then, that at the 2013 state track meet, the Quakers will be well represented in the field events.

Seniors Anthony Shivers and Ciera Trybend will compete in both the shot put and discus, while senior Zack Wukotich is a finalist in the high jump.

“These things are bound to run in cycles,” Salem boys coach Todd Huda said. “This program has been strong for a long time. Eventually we were going to have a strong run in field events.”

Shivers will be making his second straight trip to Columbus. He is the defending state champion in the discus and has his sights set on a repeat after a qualifying throw of 190-feet-4, which bettered the second-place effort by 12 feet. His personal best of 198-1 is tops in all of Ohio this season.

Despite being the favorite, he is taking nothing for granted.

“One thing I learned from last year is that everyone comes to compete down there,” Shivers said. “I know I’m going to have to be at my best in order to repeat.”

Shivers will also have the shot put on his schedule this year after taking first at the Bedford regional meet. He finished seventh at regionals last year.

“I was disappointed with the result last year in the shot put,” Shiver said. “It made me hungry to come back stronger this year. Throwing coach Bill Neapolitan really worked with me on my form and I spent more time in the weight room getting stronger.”

The success of Shivers has helped inspire Trybend.

She is going back to Columbus in the shot put with a throw of 41-5 after finishing 10th at state last year. Like Shivers, Trybend has done herself one event better as a senior, qualifying in the discus with a second-place finish (134-5) at Bedford. Trybend was sixth at the regional meet last year.

“Having Anthony around has definitely helped,” Trybend said. “He’s a great teammate and works very hard. When you see someone who strives to be good like him, it carries over.”

For most of her career Trybend has concentrated on shot put, but was surprised by last year’s regional appearance in the discus and resolved to see how good she could be. She began doubling her practice time with the discus and has set personal records in nearly every meet this season.

“I never really saw myself as a discus thrower until this season,” Trybend said. “I was surprised to make regionals last year and that made me want to start working on it harder. The more I’ve practiced, the better I’ve gotten.”

“Ciera worked so hard this offseason,” Salem girls coach Amie Cochran said. “She wanted to be on the podium so bad last year and has built a ton of confidence. She’s been a joy to coach.”

Rounding out the Quaker field event trio is senior long jumper Zack Wukotich, who finished second at Bedford with a jump of 6-6, a mark only bettered by two competitors this weekend. It will be his first trip to state.

“Much of this season was stressful for me,” Wukotich said. “Early in the year, a bunch of little things just weren’t working out. I started getting better late in the year and really felt I was peaking for the regionals.”

However, the day before the Bedford regional meet, Wukotich had a bad practice that made him unsure of his chances.

“It was stressful the night before the meet,” heh said. “I knew I had to do better in order to make it to state. The next day when I knew I had made it I felt a huge relief.”

Wukotich is a third-generation state qualifier. His grandfather, Dick Farmer, and uncle, Rich Farmer, both competed at state for United – Dick in the high jump and Rich in the long jump.

“My parents wanted to show me a picture of what it was like when my uncle went, but I don’t want to see it,” Wukotich said. “I want to save the anticipation until I get down there on Thursday.”

The Salem track program has been a model of consistancy over the years, with a state runner-up finishes in 1916, 1931 and 2007. Though the events may have changed, the Quakers remain as strong as ever.

“This program was great long before I got here,” Huda said. “The sucuess is something that has built on itself. We’re just trying to keep it rolling.”