Although the experience levels for the Collins-Maxwell-Baxter boys and girls track teams were drastically different going into the season, they are enjoying the same payoff as the season winds down.
The Raider boys will send eight athletes to the state track meet on Thursday to compete in nine events, while the Raider girls will be competing with six athletes amongst four events.
Qualifying nine events may have been a surprise to boys coach Neil Seales at the beginning of the season, but certainly not by the end. A perfect example of that is sophomore Bryce Kemp, who qualified for the 200-meter dash, 110 hurdles and long jump as an individual, and will also run with the shuttle hurdle relay team. Kemp hadn't run the 110 hurdles before this season, but that obviously didn't slow him down.
"We were young enough coming in that we really didn't have much of an idea of how we would progress, but we're obviously really pleased we got this many events through," Seales said. "They've put forth a lot of effort and grown over the season, so that’s really nice to see. We face state competition a lot throughout the season, so we’re looking forward to seeing where we stack up.”
In the Raiders’ throwing events, junior Zach Samson appears to be the man to beat in the Class 2A shot put after he finished fifth at state last season. Still chasing his brother’s school record of 56 feet, 5.5 inches, Samson currently has the state’s second-best throw of 56-5. He’s no slouch in the discus, either, ranking sixth in 2A with a throw of 158 even.
Joining him at state are sophomore teammates Patrick Girard and Clayton Weltha. Girard has consistently thrown near the 50-foot mark in the shot put all season, while Weltha came on strong at the end of the season and topped out at 143-1 in the discus.
“If you look at his results and how consistent he has been, you’d like to think that somebody is going to have to throw really well to beat him,” Seales said of Samson. “We knew all of our throwers had potential, but that’s only potential. But as they began to develop, they just got better a lot faster than we expected.”
This year’s Raiders will have some extra pressure on them in the shuttle hurdle relay, as CMB’s 2011 squad still holds the state record in the event. This year’s team of Kemp, Jordan Coughenour, Joey Nissen and Austin Moorman qualified about four seconds off that record’s pace, but with CMB’s recent success in hurdle events, who knows what could happen?
“To say it’s a trend, well, I hope so,” Seales said with a laugh. “Any time you’re doing something well, you hope it’s a trend. It was just one of those things where we combined speed and athleticism after waiting to see where things shook out in other events.”
The Raider girls had a slightly different path to state, as all four events had to wait until after their tough state qualifying meet to find out if they had advanced.
Considering they didn’t have anyone finish in the top three, but still advanced those four events proves just how stacked the site was.
“With the girls we have, it was our expectation to have quite a few events in at the end of the year, but after the district meet, we weren’t so sure,” CMB coach Jerry Meinerts said. “But with the group we’ve got, I’m really happy we can end the season this way.”
The group contains an interesting mix of competitors. On one side, there’s four-time qualifier Anne Deutsch, three-time qualifiers Ashley Girard, Kayla Hennick and Hayley Leonard and Abbie Haupert, who will be throwing the discus for the second year in a row. On the other, there’s freshman Bridget Hurley, who qualified individually in the 400 and as part of the 4x400 relay team.
“Having this many seniors out was nice because they could lead the team and help out where I couldn’t,” Meinerts said. “We had a lot of underclassmen and a lot of them have some unlimited potential. Hopefully, they’ll learn what it’s like to be successful from those upperclassmen and continue that over the next couple years.”
Because of that experience, the team seems to have something of a chip on its shoulder from not automatically qualifying. Both the 4x400 team of Haupert, Deutsch, Hurley and Hennick and the 4x800 team of Girard, Hennick, Deutsch and newcomer Shelby Berg will likely use that motivation when they hit the track at the end of the week.
“There definitely is,” Meinerts said. “Our 4x4 team didn’t run its fastest time, so they really want to prove down there that they can run faster. I know all of the girls on our relay times are looking to drop their teams even more.”