When talking about the upcoming track season, Colfax-Mingo boys track coach Matt Barkalow turned his attention to fashion.
T-shirts, more specifically.
Led by the "big three" senior trio of Connor Hainer, Jaden Van Dyke and Chad McLain, the Tigerhawks are hoping to have plenty of material to throw on a shirt for that big meet at the end of the season.
"We want to fill up the state track shirt this year," Barkalow said. "We've got some boys that could qualify in three, four events apiece, and that would be a great season. We had some great kids graduate that we'll miss, but we have some guys that are stepping right in."
Hainer and Van Dyke are no strangers to the shirt. Both are four-time state track qualifiers with top-eight finishes under their belts. Hainer, who owns school records in the long jump, 100-meter dash, 200 and 400, took eighth in the long jump as a sophomore before missing most of last season due to an ACL injury, while Van Dyke took fourth in the 800 last season. Barkalow expects both of them to be realistic contenders for state titles in their respective events on top of major contributors in relays.
"If you throw some relays together with those guys and we have some younger guys that can step up, that's a tough relay," Barkalow said. "No matter where you put them, those relays will be competitive."
The third of the trio, McLain, will be making his impact in the throwing events, although he also led off the 4x400 relay last season. McLain narrowly missed out on state last season, but has already been throwing close to 46 in the indoor season. He is eyeing the school record of 49-2 in the shot put, and is hoping to improve on his distance of 120 feet in the discus from last year.
Helping to fill the void of a strong graduated senior class will be an evenly-mixed cast of upper and underclassmen. The big thing with those underclassmen, however, is none of them will be new to varsity competition. Freshmen Jared Meyers, Jake Lietz and Blake Summy, just to name a few, all saw action in the fall and winter season, which will undoubtedly help ease the transition. In fact, both Summy and Lietz earned medals during the indoor season.
"Some of these guys were two-sport athletes earlier in the year, and that's going to help them" Barkalow said. "They're not going to have that shell-shocked, big eye look."
Outside of the younger athletes, seniors Jake Alexander, Byron Johnson, Jesse Nicodemus and Trent Pease have plenty of varsity letters in track. The Tigerhawks will also get split time from seniors Colten Russell, who is competing in track for the first time along with golf, and Dylan Albright, who will be also be playing soccer and was an alternate on a state 4x800 team as a sophomore.
The only apparent black cloud floating over the team's head is the issue of health. Van Dyke has been fighting a lingering injury from football season and Hainer's injury was serious enough that it continues to give his coaches pause. Although the team is one of the deepest Barkalow has had in his seven years as coach, losing one of the key contributors could have a huge effect on the rest of the roster.
"The big thing is just keeping healthy," Barkalow said. "We're being a little cautious, and we need to make sure they get healthier as the year goes on."
Health concerns aside, the always-charasmatic Barkalow has plenty of reasons to be excited for the upcoming year. If members of the team can improve on some of their performances from the indoor season, there will be plenty of material to fill the T-shirt at the end of the season.
"It's a great group of kids, we have over 30 boys out who work really hard and are good teammates," Barkalow said. "It's going to be a good season, and one they should remember for a while."