Boys Track Preview: Trying to keep pace
Farmington's boys track team accomplished a lot last spring -- it finished a close second in the Missota Conference, and won both the section and true team section titles before finishing 32nd at the state meet for the second straight year.
Four state qualifiers are gone from that team, but four others are back to lead a Tiger squad that looks to feature a nice balance of established and untapped talent heading into this spring.
"We lost some quality seniors and will need to have some young athletes fill in our depth that has helped our team success the past two seasons," Farmington coach Brian Helmstetter said. "We have a nice group of experienced seniors coming back this year and hope to be in the mix for the Missota Conference title."
Among those experienced seniors are returning state qualifiers Josh Jackson, Adam Sturm, Josh Zitzmann and Derek Waldbillig. Jackson, an individual state entrant in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, combined with Sturm, Waldbillig and Jordan Hauschild on a third-place finish in the 4x100-meter relay at last spring's Class AA State Meet. Sturm also competed in the state 4x200 relay with Zitmann, who rounded out his trip to Hamline by competing in the 300 hurdles.
With these athletes in the mix, the Tigers figure to once again be strong in the open sprints and sprint relays. Sprint depth will be provided by returning runners Brandon Todd (all-conference in 4x200), Shayne Benjamin, Ryan Farley, Rustin Robison, Andrew Thomas and Tyler Grubb. Newcomers who Helmstetter expects to make a varsity impact include Tyrell Jackson, Tanner Fuchs and Blake Weinand.
No fewer than 15 athletes are competing to represent the Tigers in the 800, 4x800 relay, 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs. Most of the group's experience lies with senior cross country standout Ryan Monroe, who will run the 1,600 and 3,200 and senior Isaiah Rockett, an 800 specialist.
Other returning runners include senior Eskindir Gebremichel, junior Nick Arenberg, sophomores Carl Elmer and Taylor Kampa and freshman Chad Retterath. Newcomers Vince Holman, Matt Schutey, Andrew Born, Chase Ellis, Brian Huls, Nathan Rickert and David Zitzmann could all see varsity time.
Zitzmann is back after finishing 16th out of 18 in the 300 hurdle finals at last spring's state meet. Junior Jordan Keller and sophomor Zack Wyatt are expected to fill out the lineup in the 300 hurdles and 110 highs.
The Tigers took their biggest hit in the field events -- more specifically, in the jumps -- where state qualifier Mike Bendix (high jump) and Hauschild (long jump) were both lost to graduation. Seniors Jake Lippert and Nick Haugen will both see time in the high jump and Zitzmann and senior Mike Amofah figure to see time in the triple jump. Other jumpers include senior Tri Phu, juniors Levi Freetly and Kyle Winkelman and sophomores Sam Hanson and Wyatt.
Several returning athletes will compete for varsity spots in the pole vault, including Phu, Jake Gerten, Drew Schaeppi, CJ Record and Jeremy Teebo.
There are also several contenders in the throws, led by returning all-conference shot putter Logan Hussung. Seniors Aaron Wratz and Nathan Rahman, junior John Schimmel and newcomers Tyler Barnes and Cory Johnson will see time in the shot and discus.
"Our pole vault and throws will now be strengths as we have some experience returning in both areas," Helmstetter said.
Helmstetter will once again work alongside girls coach Tom Hart, who will help with the sprints, jumps and relays. Joe McCarthy will work with the distance runners, Alison Laube will coach the hurdlers, Julian Buss will assist with the pole vaulters and sprinters and football coach Mark Froehling will guide the throwers. The middle-school program will be coached by Chad Prigge and Michelle Gotto.