Sprinters and relay runners are the McClain High School boys track team’s greatest strength this year, according to coach Nate Luke — with several returning runners and key newcomers playing an important role in league competition. From there, he said, whatever happens, happens.
“I’d say our biggest strength is probably going to be sprinters,” he said. “Our relays from top to bottom are going to be solid – I don’t think we’re really going to have a weak link in any of the relays… As of right now, I’ve kind of told the guys a few times, we just want to compete for the league first. I think we have a pretty legitimate shot. From there, districts – we want to just get as many individuals and relays as we can. Our expectations are, you come in, you work hard every day and you give yourself a chance to compete at league and at district. Whatever happens is what happens.”
Returning senior Tristan Pitzer will be an important team leader this season, Luke said, competing in short-distance events and relays.
“He’s going to have a pretty good shot in a couple events,” he said. “He’s going to be kind of our stud, but also our leader, so we’re looking for him to do really well this year… He’s just going to go out there and do his thing. After that, in terms of getting to state, I’m looking for several others to kind of step up, and we’re just going to see what happens from there.”
In terms of relays, Luke said the 4 x 100 relay team is looking good this year.
“We have some new pieces on it where we’re going to be picking up right where they left off last year, just being really successful,” he said.
Senior newcomer Kaleb Shepherd, who Luke said ran track during his freshman year, will compete in distance events this season.
“I’m looking for Kaleb as a first-year senior to do really well in the distance events,” he said.
Senior Jensen Knaff, a sprinter coming off a successful basketball season, has some of the fastest time trials so far this season in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. He’ll also fill in on relays, Luke said.
“We’re looking for Jensen to do some really good things for us,” he said. “I like to think our seniors are really important as far as leadership. I’m really counting on them to be there and bring that leadership for the younger guys, and show them the details and delicacies younger guys can overlook in some events. In that 4 x 100, we’ll have a few seniors – Tyler Jackson will fill in really well for us, I think. I have some big expectations for some of our seniors, especially some of the sprinters.”
Freshmen Dalton Mischal and Griffin Stolz are key newcomers this year, Luke said, with Mischal entering after a stellar performance in basketball. Mischal will compete in jump events, while Foltz will take on hurdles, Luke said.
Of six sophomores on the team, Luke said Reece Schleup, Patrick Fout and Trevor Newkirk are expected to perform well.
Schleup, a middle-distance runner, is coming into the season with high expectations.
“He’s really grown a lot over the past year and matured a lot, and I’m counting on him to step up for us this year,” Luke said.
Fout and Newkirk have also improved on their freshman year, Luke said, and will return to the 400-meter dash.
“I’m looking to both those guys to do really good things in the 400 for us,” he said.
In the end, Luke said he hopes the team will focus on making improvements throughout the season.
“We’re just looking for steady improvement,” he said. “We just want to kind of instill growth mindsets with the kids. That’s what we want to see from them. Our seniors, we’re really counting on them to kind of help us instill that mindset in the young sophomores and freshmen who are coming in.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.