Replacing a two-time state track champion would probably have been enough of a challenge for the Collins-Maxwell-Baxter boys track team.
But it wasn’t just one senior that graduated from last season.
Dealing with the difficult weather and a youthful roster, the Raiders and coach Neil Seales will likely have to wait until the season starts to see what the team will be capable of in the new campaign.
“It feels really early since we’ve been inside so much, so we don’t really know where we are speed-wise besides some of the returning guys,” Seales said. “But about two-thirds of our team is freshmen and sophomores, so hopefully we’ll continue to improve throughout the season.”
One area the Raiders won’t need to rebuild this season is in the shot put, thanks to junior Zach Samson and sophomore Patrick Girard. Samson finished fifth in the event in Class 2A at state last season, and has already found himself near the top of the state during the indoor season. Girard isn’t far behind, hitting his personal bests in the indoor season as well.
“He threw very well as a sophomore, but he’s already made a big jump,” Seales said of Samson. “We believe he still he has the longest throw in the whole state, at least that’s how it was at Iowa State.”
One area Seales is hoping for improvement in is the discus, in which Clayton Weltha has emerged as a frontrunner. Sophomore Bryce Kemp has also set himself aside in the long jump, but is also being groomed in other areas. Besides some sprint events, Kemp is also being charged to replace state 110-meter hurdles champion Josh Zeiser, who is now training for the decathlon for the Universtiy of Iowa.
“We’re using a lot of the same philosophy as we did with Josh Zeiser,” Seales said. “Bryce is a similar type of athlete and has some natural ability, so we’re looking at him to give us some help in multiple areas.”
CMB isn’t left alone with just those returners, however. Jordan Coughenour and Seth Balke are being looked at for hurdle events, while Gabe Schabillion and Zach Huffaker are emerging as sprinters. Zach Hartgers and Austin Moorman are returning competitors in the longer portions of relay events, while Aaron Ward will handle the distance duties.
As far as the new faces, Seales has a number of candidates he’s looking at to step into new roles. Among them is Mark Deutsch, who saw plenty of action during the cross country season and could translate that into distance events this spring. Hunter Gunderson is also picking up some momentum in the high jump, as well as Brady Stover and Brad Ritter.
“We definitely have some pieces, we just need to see how far they can come in a short amount of time,” Seales said.
The Raiders will have to wait a little bit longer to test themselves ourdoors than orginally planned, as their meet at Greene County scheduled for Monday has been cancelled. They will now have to wait until an April 2 meet at PCM.
“Our expectations are to just be the best we can be, but we don’t know what that is and how it compares to other teams,” Seales said. “All we can control is what we do, but I’ve been really happy with the attitude and effort of this group.”