Multi-sport athletes help Andover Central track succeed

Lionel Tipton
Andover Central's (L-R) Britany Harshaw (basketball), Ellen Geoffroy (soccer), MacKenzie Scheidel (volleyball) and Allyson Harris  (volleyball) pose after finishing second in the girls 4x400-meter race on Thursday, May 27 in the Class 5A state track meet at Wichita State. All four girls are multi-sport athletes who help Central sports succeed.

WICHITA—Not all Andover Central athletes take part in more than one sport, but – as evidenced by the Jaguars’ performances in Thursday’s Class 5A state track and field meet – it certainly helps. 

In fact, many competitors on both the Jaguars’ boys and girls teams played pivotal roles Thursday in both teams posting sixth-place finishes.

Some are also football players; some excel at soccer (both boys and girls); and still others were girls basketball standouts on the Jaguars’ 5A state runners-up.

That experience is paying dividends for both sports, much to the delight of Andover Central head track coach Aren Coppoc.

“It’s great to see so many of our kids get up on the medals stand,” he said. “I know, looking at that schedule for (Thursday) we had kids going (to events) all over the place, so it was awesome to see that many kids being able to participate here and then a lot getting on the medals stand.”

Coppock said the Jaguars coaches in all sports try to accommodate each other.

“I’ve talked to coach (Steven) Huskey in boys soccer, Stana Jefferson with girls basketball, and good relationships with all them and (head football) coach (Derek) Tuttle and trying to get them to really support our track program, too,” Coppoc said. “I owe it all to those coaches for helping get all these athletes out.”

Track may serve as a “second” season for them, but Coppoc said all give it their undivided attention.

“It might not be their first sport, but they still put everything into it,” he said. “They still come to practice and work hard every day. Really, (they) just compete at every single meet, every single practice.

“So, that’s awesome to see.”

Track enhances all sports, Coppoc said.

“I’m a huge believer that track can help them get faster, (have) better endurance, help them be more explosive, everything like that,” he said. “So, I kind of push that toward them that not only can you be successful in track, but it can also help you in your other sports, too.”

The Jaguars’ state runner-up girls basketball team and their 10-5-1 girls soccer team contributed key performers in Thursday’s meet.

Leading the way was junior Ellen Geoffroy, normally a soccer player, who anchored the Jaguars to runner-up finishes in both the 4x100 and 4x400 relays as well as taking third in the 400 and seventh in the 100.

With all the regulations in place because of the pandemic, she said she went with track over soccer, which also plays in the spring. It was her first year competing at the high school, she said.

“I thought I’d give track a shot,” Geoffroy said. “It was fun. I gave it my all.

“Soccer has taught me a lot (but) track has helped me with my endurance.”

Fellow volleyball team members Allison Harris and Mackenzie Scheidel, both seniors, were also part of the relay teams. Harris also took fifth in the long jump and seventh in the triple jump.

Not to be outdone, the basketball team was represented by junior Brittany Harshaw, who finished third in the high jump and 10th in the 400 and also was a part of the 4x400 runners-up.

Sophomore Maddie Amekporfor-Sadler, like Harshaw a basketball starter, led off the 4x100 relay runners-up.

She said that being on the track team with her basketball teammates was a special feeling, but the individualism of track required some adjustments.

“Track is a team sport, but it’s more of what you can do,” she said. “In basketball, you can rely on your teammates to do this and that, but I had to learn how to do stuff on my own.” 

There were similar feats on the boys team as well, especially, junior Ashton Barkdull, a bruising running back during the fall, who won the pole vault, was runner-up in the 400, seventh in the 100 and anchored the fifth-place 4x400 relay team.

Barkdull no sooner had received his pole vault medal, and then it was off to check in for the 400.

“It’s kind of been like that for him all season, too,” Coppoc said. “At the smaller meets, he’s kind of having to bounce around, go to the 100, run the 400, come back and pole vault after that.

“At first, when we first saw the state schedule before all the (weather) delays happened, it didn’t look like he was going to have to bounce around as much.

“But then the delays happened, and he was still having to bounce around.”

But Barkdull persevered, Coppoc said, capturing the pole vault.

“He did well with it, had a good day vaulting (winning at 14-0 feet), so that was awesome to see,” Coppoc said.

Complicating matters for Barkdull was a number of downpours that made the going tough – and slick – during some of his events. It wasn’t until late in the meet that the clouds parted.

“He was having to go wipe off his pole between vaults because it was pouring rain,” Coppoc said. “Then, you have to get warmed up, then they take a little break to let the rain go by, so they were starting and stopping, and we had some girls that were long-jumping in the downpour.

“They all handled it well.”

Taking part in track has been enjoyable, Barkdull said.

“I’m really liking it,” he said. “I love hitting people, but you don’t get hurt nearly as much in track and you meet great people.”

Barkdull’s football teammates Kyle Kohman (second leg of 4x400), Brock Stupka (fifth in triple jump and 13th in long jump) and Drew Daniels (fifth, shot put) also were keys, as were soccer players Xander Garcia and Owen Lang, who ran the final two legs of the 4x400 relay.

Lang, a sophomore, in particular, was a surprise third-place finisher in the 300 hurdles despite entering with a 40.93 seed time. His time of 39.33 was just 0.5 behind winner Jacob Hanna of Maize and 0.17 behind runner-up Brock Merz of Arkansas City, both seniors.