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Gering’s fast and furious
May 06, 2016 Frank Marquez   

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Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen Gering Coach Roger Schmidt talks to Christian Hughes after his performance in the 100-meter sprint at the Western Conference Invitational in Scottsbluff on April 29.

Focused on doing the “hard work” this track season, Gering’s corps of sprinters and hurdlers continue their march to state.

On Monday they competed in the Best of the West meet in Scottsbluff, an event which hosted 23 area high schools. That was from a weekend of rest after competing in Friday’s Western Conference meet on the same track. Overall, in the conference meet, the Blue and Gold’s girls finished third, and the boys, fourth.

In his fifth year with Gering, Coach Roger Schmidt, 68, the coach for both sprinters and hurdlers, has led them through workouts the runners described as “hard.”

He has been coaching for more than 30 years, and this is his fifth year at Gering. Originally from Bridgeport, he has a long-term connection with Bulldogs track head coach Randy Plummer, who hired him. “He cares a great deal about the kids and how they perform,” Plummer said.

The semi-retired Schmidt also coached in Torrington, Sidney, Ogallala, and the final stop before returning to West Nebraska was at Middle Park High School in Granby, Colorado, where he was the track head coach for more than 20 years until 2011.

“I’m a lucky individual to be able to coach,” he said. “I wanted to do it.”

His coaching career was happenstance. He played football and track for the Colorado State Rams, where he helped out other teammates. Schmidt also student taught at Chadron State, which put him on track for teaching and coaching high school athletes. Aside from coaching football and track, he also taught strength
and exercise classes with a degree in physical education.

One of the reasons he’s now coaching at Gering is because of Plummer.

Gering’s head coach was in junior high at the time Schmidt was in high school in Bridgeport. “It’s a town where everyone knows everyone else,” he said. The same went for knowing the Plummer family.

Now on board with Gering, he describes his team as “hard workers,” which to some degree compensates for the lack of natural talent of past teams, some that were state champions.
Though, he’s confident Gering will qualify for state in three or four events.

“There are seven boys, and two girls who are all about equal,” said Schmidt, who sees them as interchangeable in the 4X100 and 4X400 relays, and the quarter-mile, most likely the events that will get them to state. The boys’ 4X400 team consists of Dylan Radzymski, Austin Abbott, Kalen Krantz, and Antonio Murillo, the only senior among the foursome. The girls 4X400 team consists of Rebekah Rawlings, Lauren Shaul, Victoria Schwartz, and Jasmine Johnson. Distance coach Rick Marez coaches the first three girls.

The sprinters and hurdlers group, which includes multi-sport athletes, sophomore Kaetlyn Todd and junior Skylar Mueller, who also trains for the 100 and 200 sprints, and the 100 and 300 hurdles. The rest of the sprinters and hurdlers include Quinton Janecek, Richard Strain, Jacob Rocheleau, Jade Riedel, Christian Hughes, Berrina Sibal, Lexy Johnson, Christian Hughes, Lisa Imus, and Kaylee Gannon.

Freshman Jasmine Johnson, so far, holds the top spot among Class B6 District competition with a time of 26.3 in the 200; she said it’s her favorite event. Her closest competition is Scottsbluff senior Shanell Primes, the two separated by a fraction of a second. The 15-year-old Johnson said practices are “awful. They don’t last long, but they are intense.” Having run sprints since she was in seventh grade, she said Schmidt’s training regimen is making the difference.

Schnmidt said, “physically, we work out really hard, but it’s 90 percent mental. It’s believing you can do it; our motto is don’t break down in the last 100 yards. We run workouts to teach how not to do that, and not break down.”

Schmidt said he had a coach in his early days of high school who preached this method. He learned from him, and in 1966, set the record in the State Class B in the 800 with a time of 1:56.2. “I thought I was a 100-yard dash guy, then my coach told me I wasn’t,” said Schmidt, who estimated his best time in the 100 was 10.4. “To say what motivated me? I did not want to lose. I just didn’t like to lose.”

A little bit of that has rubbed off on his protégés. “Now, they all are that way,” he said. “They get mad if they lose.” That mindset has translated into motivation. “We have kids running the 400 just to make the team.”

One of the group’s leaders, Murrillo, will attend Midland College next year in Fremont. He plans to study for an education degree with an overall goal of returning to Gering to teach Social Studies. He competes in the 100 and 300 hurdles, and holds the anchor position for the 4X400. He recorded his best time of 53.03 contributing to a team time of 3:35.64 at the Western Conference Meet in Scottsbluff on April 29 and 3:35.0 at the Best of the West Meet on Monday, May 2.

Murrillo has bought into Coach Schmidt’s straight-forward approach: “It’s about not breaking down mentally,” he said. “The practices are short and fast. We run as hard as we can at meet pace; we push through the pain.”

Murrillo’s relay mate, 17-year-old Mueller, fills in as the lead leg for relays at times. He agreed, “the practices are more mental; it’s hard, but I just do track for football.” Mueller’s the team’s punter, has put in time at linebacker, and has ambitions of trying out for running back next fall.

Meanwhile, Johnson, Murrillo, Mueller and the rest of the sprinters and hurdlers head into two-a-day practices next week in preparation for hitting the road to compete at Torrington’s invite on May 6, a warm-up to the District meet on May 12 in Ogallala.

If there’s any doubt about meeting their goals, Schmidt has other thoughts. He said, “Any decent athlete willing to work hard, can win.”

Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen Gering freshman Jasmine Johnson (center) hits her stride in the 100 at the Best of the West meet in Scottsbluff. She finished fourth with a time of 12.98, while topping the field in the 200 (26.43).
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