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Local Sports

Baxter spring sports highlighted by returning state qualifiers

Baxter senior Will Clapper is back for the boys’ track and field team, and he hopes this season is even better than last year when he finished as the Class 1A runner-up in the shot put.

The Bolts’ boys track team also welcomes back all four members of its 4x800 state qualifying team, including junior Logan Berg, a state qualifier in the mile.

“We have guys who go and compete,” Baxter boys head coach Josh Russell said. “They are working hard. We are not big in numbers, but they are eager to learn and get better every day.”

The girls’ track team features only 12 athletes, but half of the roster is made up of talented cross country runners who are coming off back-to-back conference championships. And three of those runners ran on the 4x800 team at state last season.

Leading the way for the Baxter golf teams is junior Sadie Meyer, who earned the first all-conference honor in Bolts’ history last season.

The boys’ track team is 16 strong this season. Clapper is the headliner after placing second at state in the shot put last season. Berg went to state in the mile and also ran on the 4x800 team with seniors Ian Thomson and Josh Bruntz and junior Cole Damman.

The girls’ track team is being led once again by head coach Jason Aker, who begins his second season at the helm.

There are 12 Bolts out for the girls team this season, led by the trio of seniors Brenna Thomson and Lauren Ratliff and junior Holly Jessen, who all ran at state on the 4x800 team.

“The girls are doing a great job this spring,” Aker said. “We are ready for some warm weather and a chance to get on the track. Our focus will not be on winning meets this season. The plan will be to put girls in positions to be competitive.”

The other returning state qualifier is senior Kaylin Van Ryswyk, who competed at the state level in discus.

Head coach Zach Hasselbrink is back as Bolts’ golf coach. He has five girls, led by Meyer, and 13 boys to work with in 2019.

The top boys’ returner is senior Austin Good. Four of the 13 boys also will play soccer for CMB this season.

“We only have two kids on our entire boys and girls roster who grew up playing golf,” Hasselbrink said. “We do a lot of teaching early in the season. We are working on swings and making good contact now. The nice thing about the additions is they are athletes, and it’s easy to work with athletes.”

The track teams have one more indoor meet at Grinnell College at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.

The Bolts open the outdoor season at 4:30 p.m. on Monday in Bondurant.

The boys’ golf team opens the season at 4:15 p.m. on April 1 at Saydel. The meet will take place at Woodland Hills Golf Course.

Both golf teams play West Marshall and East Marshall at 4:15 p.m. on April 5 at Lincoln Valley Golf Course in State Center.

Colder weather this spring has kept all three programs inside for most of the preseason practices so far. The golf course Baxter uses — Colfax Country Club — was not open for the first two weeks of practice.

The snow finally left the track and golf courses this week.

Boys Track

Clapper was the state runner-up with a throw of 52 feet last year.

He already hit 51 feet, 6 inches in the first indoor meet of the season.

The Baxter senior wants to get back to the Drake Relays and earn state medals in both the shot put and discus this season.

“He’s got some personal goals. It’s not gold medal or bust though,” Russell said. “He just has some stuff he wants to do in his final year.”

Berg was 17th in the mile at state last season.

He returns as the top distance runner but the Bolts also bring back Ian Thomson, Bruntz and Damman from the 4x800 state qualifying team.

Russell’s biggest problem on the track might be figuring out where to put each of those runners so it gives the team the best chance to score points.

“It will be tricky to figure out where we can score the most points,” Russell said. “I think I can put Logan in just about any race, and he can medal for us.”

Russell said the 4x800 team is not set in stone. Freshman Rory Heer is another option for the Bolts.

Heer took the place of Bruntz at the first indoor meet, and Baxter’s team ran 17 seconds faster than it did at that same meet last season.

“Josh was out for an injury, but he is already back running,” Russell said.

“Those guys will all push each other. They’d like to move up from where they finished at state last year. They are capable.”

Others who figure into key roles includes seniors Ben Huff and Dalton Heer on the track and junior Carter Nelsen in the throwing events.

Russell is still searching for hurdlers. Rory and Dalton Heer will try to score points in long jump.

Girls Track

Baxter’s girls won’t be able to compete for many team championships.

The Bolts’ roster includes only 12 athletes, but head coach Jason Aker likes the experience his team brings back and isn’t letting low numbers be an excuse.

Half of the roster includes members of the Bolts’ cross country team, and Ratliff, Brenna Thomson and Jessen are back after running on the 4x800-meter relay team at state last year.

The trio was part of the Bolts’ team that placed 16th at state last year. Sophomore Kailee Conradi is expected to be the fourth runner on that team this season.

“The cross country girls will be really strong for us this season,” Aker said. “They have many individual goals that they are excited to compete for. We will definitely evaluate as the season goes on to see if we want to keep that team or utilize the girls differently.”

The other returning state qualifier from last season is Van Ryswyk. She placed 23rd in the discus at the state meet and will be a key performer this season in both shot put and discus along with junior Amber Weltha.

“They both have some good experience from the last couple of years, and we are chomping at the bit to get outside and throw some discus,” Aker said. “We are excited for what they bring to our team.”

The low numbers will prevent the Bolts from having a shuttle hurdle relay team, but sophomore Maddie Pierce returns being a part of that team last year.

Pierce also is one of the top sprinters, along with juniors Emily Nation and Rachel Kenney. The Bolts added freshman Maggie Schabilion and junior Andrea Brown to this year’s team, too.

Aker begins his second season as head girls’ track coach. He will be heavily involved with the throwers and spent some of the offseason attending a coaches clinic that dealt with the science of throwing.

“I could have spent a year learning from him,” Aker said. “I think the big takeaway was that we can’t fix everything so try to find one thing we can work on with an athlete and try to make gains there.

“The coaches at Baxter work with both the girls and boys in our certain specialty areas. I still depend on Coach (Josh) Russell and my assistant coach Scott Ranck and use their knowledge, too.”


Meyer averaged 56.83 over her six nine-hole scores last season and was the first all-conference golfer in Bolts’ history.

She will be joined on the girls’ roster by four other players — senior Piper Larson, juniors Abbey Shepley and Bekka Watt and sophomore Sophie Meyer.

Shepley and Larson both averaged 60.57 last season in their seven nine-hole meets. Watt and Sophie Meyer are both new to golf this season after being on the track and soccer teams, respectively, last year.

“We want them to be more consistent this year,” Hasselbrink said. “We want to keep seeing the scores go down.”

Hasselbrink expects Sadie Meyer to start out as the No. 1 and Larson and Shepley will be No. 2 and No. 3 but does not have an order yet.

Having 13 boys out for golf is a good problem to have, according to Hasselbrink. The top returner is senior Austin Good, who averaged a team-best 51 in his three nine-hole meets last season.

This year, Good is not out for track and can devote his entire spring to swinging a golf club.

“I think he knows this is one of his better sports,” Hasselbrink said. “We counted on him a lot last year and will do so again. He will have a lot more time to focus on his swing.”

The other top returners include sophomore Sean Finch and junior Shane Beougher, who were the only other two players to average lower than 60 last year.

If the season started today Hasselbrink would feel confident naming Good, Beougher and seniors Derrick Klemme and Seth Williams as probable varsity players.

Finch will play soccer, too. So will senior newcomers Brendyn Padget, Eian Maxwell and McCade Gowdy.

The rest of the roster includes sophomore Andrew Klemme, junior Christian Brandt, senior Matthew Grimes and freshmen Zach Backus and Carter Samson.

“We just need to continue to improve and get better every day,” Hasselbrink said.

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