Multisport athletes give lift to Hampton boys track

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Saturday, April 8, 2023 | 11:01 AM


The Hampton boys track and field team this season has a lot of question marks that might turn into exclamation points.

The Talbots’ 47-boy roster is dotted with multi-sport athletes who are giving high school track a try for the first time.

“These are all unknowns,” second-year coach Heather Dietz said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what everybody can do.”

The newcomers include a record-breaking Division I-bound swimmer, a 127-pound wrestler, a 5-foot-10 basketball player, a former lacrosse player and a handful of football players.

Dietz and her staff are still trying to sift through the new faces to find out which events suit them best.

“The neat thing is that we have a lot of athletes that are new,” she said. “Hopefully, because they are athletic, that will transfer into success on the track or in the field.”

One of the newcomers is standout swimmer Ben Sheets. The Queens (N.C.) recruit broke Hampton’s 100 backstroke record this season while placing third in the WPIAL Class 2A in the 200 IM and the 100 back. Sheets has shown a proclivity for the 400-meter run and the long jump for the Talbots, who opened the 2023 season with a 104-37 victory over Highlands in Section 4-3A on March 30.

“It will be interesting to see how he handles going from the water to land,” Dietz said. “In practice, we’ve seen good things.”

A trio of football players — seniors Dylan Rubenstein, Aidan Lewis and Tyler Mack — are trying their hand at the throwing events. Junior A.J. Prodente, who played for the Talbots’ 24-4 section champion boys basketball team, is competing in running and jumping events, and junior Zech Campbell, who wrestles in the winter, is a sprinter and jumper. Ray Kirsopp, who played lacrosse last spring, is trying running and throwing events.

Dietz said part of the process is learning which events best suit a new-to-track athlete.

“We look at their strengths in the other sports and then talk as a team and then talk to the athlete and say, ‘Hey, what interests you?’” she said. “During practice we let them try it out and see, and then we can help guide them or steer them in the right direction.”

She said the results are typically positive. The newcomers may not contend for a spot at the WPIAL individual championships, but they provide invaluable depth during dual meets.

“Any multi-sport athlete really has that gift of being coachable,” Dietz said. “They are easily able to adapt from season to season based on the sport they are participating in. I think that makes them very versatile and I also think they are quick learners.”

The multi-sport track newcomers join a team that features a strong group of runners, spearheaded by junior Dale Hall, who placed ninth in the 1,600 at the 2022 WPIAL Class 2A championships last season.

Others include a trio of distance runners — juniors Jacob Bonnar and Layne Haught and sophomore Chris Belch — along with middle distance runner Shreyas Chalikonda; senior Joey Mayer (hurdles, jumps), a Slippery Rock football recruit; and junior sprinters and football teammates Adrien Midgley and Brock Borgo.

The Talbots also welcome 19 freshmen, led by sprinter/jumper Gavin Durden.

“I think the team should be really good,” Hall said. “We’ve got a lot of people that came out. Last year we didn’t have many throwers. But we’ve got a lot more people involved in that this year, so that should really improve our depth and help us get more points.”

For his part, Hall is eyeing the school’s 1,600 record of 4 minutes, 11.7 seconds set by Mike England in 1978. Hall has run a 4:17 indoor and a 4:31 outdoor.

“It’s achievable,” he said. “But it will be tough.”

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