The Smith-Cotton boys track and field team has a good turnout this season.
“We have got the biggest team since I’ve been here,” said coach Brad Hagedorn.
The Tigers had 65 boys come out for track this season, up from the 50 the Tigers had last year.
“That makes it nice because we’ll be able to fill all the events,” Hagedorn said. “Hopefully we’ll be fresh at the end of the season for conference and districts and hopefully avoid any injuries.”
The Tigers are especially deep in the middle distances. Smith-Cotton returns West Central Conference 400 meter champion David Desmond and runner-up Luke Rosendale. Joining them will be Jacob Lamb, who recently won the 800 at an indoor meet in Columbia and will be running the 400. Miler Brady Ritzert and hurdler Michael Chernookiy could also run the middle distances as could freshmen Seth Redford and Luke Guier.
“We’ve got and extremely large group that’s very talented that we’re going to be able to mix and match and keep kids fresh,” Hagedorn said.
With that many quality middle-distance runners, he also expects to be able to put together strong relay teams.
In the shorter distances the Tigers look to improve their showing from last season’s conference meet where Henry Contreras took fourth in the 200 and sixth in the 100.
“We’ve highly improved that,” Hagedorn said. “We’ve got a couple of kids back that are going to help us in Austin LaBoube and Keegan Kendrick. We’ve added Blake Longan and we’re excited to see him run.”
Derek Kerbo was a part of the team two years ago and is back which should boost the Tigers’ sprinting depth.
“We were kind of thin at that last year so we’ve kind of solidified those,” Hagedorn said.
Desmond and Rosendale will also drop down to run the sprints and could see time on the 4x100 and 4x200 teams.
In the field events Hagedorn is expecting big things from pole vaulter Zach Volk.
“He’s gone over 13 feet this winter so we’re real excited about him,” Hagedorn said.
In the triple jump the Tigers have Zach Wolf and Chernookiy who have both gone over 41 feet.
Hagedorn is still trying to figure out who the Tigers can put in the high jump but newcomers Albert Nash and Chance Johnson have shown some promise so far.
The Tigers took second in the conference last season, their 110 points putting them 66 points behind champion Warrensburg, but Hagedorn is confident Smith-Cotton can close that gap if not overtake Warrensburg, then keep going from there.
“We would love to have five or six events make it through to state,” he said. “That’s a lofty goal. I think the conference is certainly attainable. Getting five or six through to the state meet is going to be tough because we go to a district with Rock Bridge and Jeff City. Our district is as loaded as any in the state and it’s going to be tough to get out of there.”
Hagedorn is also aiming to have his team peak at the right time. Bad weather forced many practices indoors to start the season which limited the time the team has had to work on relay hand-offs and field events. In addition, the lack of an all-weather track meant the Tigers’ first scheduled meet of the season was washed out. But Hagedorn said he is aiming at having his athletes in peak condition for the end of the season, not the beginning, and they are off to a pretty good start after off-season conditioning.
“A lot of our kids came in with a pretty solid base and a lot of them either ran with us all winter or were playing basketball,” he said. “As far as being fit and ready to go, we’re OK.”
While a WCC title may be within reach for the boys, the girls have a lot more ground to make up. The Lady Tigers have 20 runners out this season, down from the 25 last year.
“We don’t necessarily have more numbers but the combination of the girls is better,” Hagedorn said. “We’re able to fill a few more events across the board.”
In the longer distances the Lady Tigers have Rachel Howieson who recently announced her plans to run at Central Methodist next season.
“We’re looking for her to run the 800 and the mile,” Hagedorn said. “She’s been solid her whole career and she’ll continue to be that way. She’ll be probably one of our best athletes.”
Allison Sproles is also back in the pole vault. Her personal best is 7-9 after clearing 7-6 in the WCC meet last year. Hagedorn said the school record of 9-0 is within reach.
“She has worked all winter,” he said. “I hope with the experience she got last spring that she’ll be able to step right in where she left off.”
Also back is Mariona Ward who took fourth in the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles at the WCC meet last year. Hagedorn also expects good things from her in the long jump.
Ward and Sproles will also be featured in the sprints.
“We’re very excited about the sprinters,” Hagedorn said. “For the girls I think the best relays will be the 4x100 and 4x200.”
Smith-Cotton finished sixth in the conference last season with only Sproles in the pole vault and the 4x400 relay team placing in the top three at the conference meet.
“I think winning the conference is unrealistic but I think aiming for the top three is realistic,” Hagedorn said.
Smith-Cotton will open the season with the UCM Relays at 1 p.m. Monday in Warrensburg.