No Monticello spring sports team finished 2016 on a higher note than the boys track and field team, and no team will start 2017 with higher expectations.
Monti brings back three out of four members from last year’s state championship winning 4×200 relay team, and several other speed demons, to headline what promises to be an exciting year, at least as far as individual performances go.
“With some of the high quality finishes we had last year, and a lot of those guys returning, that obviously brings a lot of excitement,” said Coach Dave Wik.
Team wise, Monti has some holes to fill after graduating a good core of its distance runners and throwers. But individual wise, Monti looks to rack up the accolades.
Setting the pace will be the trio of Nate Hoglund, Charlie Voller and Jack Hoaby, all state champions a year ago. Joining them to make speed events a dominant distance for Monti will be Ryder Beckman, Tyler Jassman and Ray Fasen.
Wik said it’s a group that he believes was ready to get back to work after their historic achievements from last season.
“I think they were kind of chomping at the bit,” he said.
Monti will have to find a couple of replacements on their two state relay teams, the 4×100 and 4×200. At the first meet of the year, an elite invite in South Dakota this weekend, Ryder Beckman was the one to replace the graduated Asher Mason on the 4×200. Wik said that was partly due to Beckman’s experience with relays (he ran the 4×100 last season), but added that the senior athlete has a good chance to keep the job as well.
“He certainly looks to be the front runner for the spot,” said Wik.
But with Fasen and Jassman representing the junior class with speed, Wik hopes it helps to keep everyone on edge all season long.
“We got a couple of younger kids that will hopefully be pushing those guys, to make sure they don’t get too comfortable,” he said.
They looked comfortable at the Ruth Marske Invite in Brookings, South Dakota on Saturday, but in a good way. Both the 4×200 relay team (Hoaby, Beckman, Voller, Hoglund) and the 4×100 team (Hoaby, Jassman, Beckman, Hoglund) finished second to a team from Iowa. The sprint medley relay team, with distances of 200-200-400-800, finished first at the meet. That race was ran by Hoaby, Hoglund, Voller and Matt Baloun.
In distance events, Monti has some significant holes to patch. Monti said goodbye to three strong senior runners last year, and returns just two with significant varsity experience in Mitchell Hughes and Logan Wright.
“They’re going to have to pull a little more weight,” said Wik.
Hurdles is another event where Monti hopes to be strong.
Senior Robbie Watson returns after earning all-conference honors in the 300 hurdles last year and is joined by sophomore Mikhale Maier who started the season with top-ten finishes at both the 110 and 300 distances in South Dakota.
“He was probably our nicest surprise from the weekend,” said Wik.
Throwing is another area that Wik expects to be a work in progress in the early going, as Monti lost a couple top throwers to graduation.
In other field events, Monti has a couple of stars but will need to work to build more depth.
Joe Schultz is back to lead Monti in high jump, while Noah Lanka is back for his senior year in pole vault. Lanka finished eighth in the pole vault on Saturday.
Beckman and Jassman will both be back to the sand pit after strong years in the long jump last year, and Voller is expected to shine in triple jump once again. Jassman was the most notable jumper over the weekend, picking up a seventh-place finish in the triple jump.
Wik figures the team will have a chance to do well in big invites where wins are more valued, but that finishing high in meets that are scored by more of a true-team format may be tough while Monti works to build more depth.
“We’re probably going to ride the individual events a little bit more,” he said.
The head coach added that it was a nice change of pace to kick off the season in South Dakota Saturday, at a high level meet.
“Just the excitement of kind of starting out the season with something big,” he said. “This kind of was a chance to spark things a little bit.”
If last year was any indication, that initial spark likely won’t be the last for the 2017 Magic track and field team. Wik certainly believes he has a group of kids that is ready to go out and make some more noise in 2017.
“I think they’re pretty fired up to have a great year,” he said.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]