Totally devoted

Photo by Jay AnglinLa Porte's Nichole Flowers competes in the 4x100-meter relay in the Portage Regional last year on May 23.

La PORTE — With sustained success in recent years, the athletes on La Porte’s girls track team have appeared to buy-in to what the coaches have been stressing.

So it’s fitting that the unofficial theme this season has been ‘Buy-in.’

And Slicers’ girls track coach Corbin Slater said the girls really have.

“They just have bought into everything and it seems to be working,” Slater said.

“We’ve been able to have some success the last few years here. We’ve had a really good buy-in to the system all the way through. There’s a lot of optimism about this season.”

The squad’s leaders figure to be Katerina Shuble, Shelby Riehle, Lauren Anglin, Nichole Flowers, Reilly Tuerff, and Janelle O’Neal.

Shuble and Riehle will primarily run in the distance events, the 800, 1,600 and 3,200, while Anglin will be in the sprints. Flowers will compete in the long jump and sprints, and Tuerff will participate in the hurdles. O’Neal will be in the throws and sprints.

“We’re blessed with a ton of leadership this year,” Slater said of his very deep team. “A lot of girls that are juniors and seniors who have been around the program a long time, and really just get it. And they’re great on the track. But they bring that vital leadership role, too.”

Slater added the coaches don’t exactly know at this time what distance runners are going to be in what events for the postseason.

Slater said he doesn’t know right now if the team is going to go all in for the 4 x 800 relay this year, or maybe go more individualized.

The Slicers have a ton of depth in the sprints as well.

A significant returning leader is Shuble.

A season ago, she claimed first in the 800 run in the sectional (2:21.15), and placed fourth in the regional (2:19.79), narrowly missing a state bid.

Fast forward to this campaign, and Slater sees an improved Shuble.

“Right now, Katerina Shuble is on fire basically,” Slater said. “She just ran in the Flashes Showcase Friday night, and ran a 5:09 full mile, which is a 5:07 1,500. And she doesn’t even look at herself as a 1,600 girl, she’s always been an 800 girl. For her to kind of come out this season and do the things she has at higher distances, has just made her a way more well-rounded athlete. And it’s going to translate into some really fast 800s, too, when she gets the chance to have some competition, too.”

Another distance runner who’ll make a great impact will be Riehle.

She won the 3,200 run in the sectional in 2017 (11:17.62), in addition to capturing the regional title in the same event (10:55.81).

Riehle then nearly won a state crown in the 3,200, finishing runner-up in the state finals, earning second (10:44.24), only three-tenths of a second behind first-place finisher Emma Wilson of Greencastle.

Also at state last season, La Porte’s 4x100 relay team of Anglin, Flowers, O’Neal, and Tuerff posted 19th, clocking 49.38.

Tuerff returned to record a 20th-place showing in the 300 hurdles (47.04) at the state meet.

Tuerff will be a major force for the Slicers as well.

She set and re-set the school record in both the 100 and 300 hurdles in her first two years. Tuerff also garnered sectional titles in the 300 hurdles the last two seasons, adding a second and first in the 100 hurdles. Plus, she tallied regional runner-up in the 300 hurdles last campaign.

Newcomers who could potentially contribute are freshman distance runner Ariana Steele, as well as sophomore Kayla Jones. Jones will compete in the sprints.

Slater added Jones is kind of this year’s utility runner, filling the gaps anywhere the team needs her.

“It’s nice to have a fifth girl who can fit into our 4x100 at any point,” Slater said of Jones. “So that’s really nice to have there.”

Pivotal athletes gone to graduation are Katie Pickford, Roby Rogers, and Courtney Dickman.

Otherwise, most of La Porte’s primary scorers are back.

The team’s main focus is the Duneland Athletic Conference Meet and the sectional.

In order for his squad to have success this year, Slater recognized the importance of avoiding injuries.

“One of the biggest things is trying to make sure we’re staying healthy throughout the season,” Slater said. “We’ve pushed the idea that basically April is all about survival. It’s about just trying to stay in the right mindset, keeping your attitude up.

“Right now, it’s just about survival and getting better each and every day, whether it’s little details, or a big workout, or a big race.”

Last year, La Porte hoisted the sectional trophy for the second straight season, winning the Chesterton Sectional (146.50). It took fifth in the Portage Regional (41). And it scored eight points at state at Indiana University.

This campaign, the high-level athletes are guiding the squad.

“It’s a really cool situation as a coach, to kind of sit back and see them lead the team,” Slater said. “Really take a lot of ownership, and do the things they need to do to be successful this year.”

La PORTE GIRLS TRACK SCHEDULE

April 11 - Michigan City & Merrillville, 4:30 p.m.

April 17 - at Valparaiso, Chesterton & Valparaiso, 4:30 p.m.

April 21 - Dick Deardurff Classic, 10 a.m.

April 24 - Crown Point & Portage, 4:30 p.m.

April 27 - at Princess Relays at Elkhart Central, 5 p.m.

April 28 - at New Buffalo Field Events meet, 9 a.m.

May 1 - at Lake Central, 4:30 p.m.

May 8 - DAC Invitational at Merrillville, 5 p.m.

May 16 - Sectional at Chesterton, 4:45 p.m.

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