ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
With a core of state qualifiers returning from last season, plus an influx of new talent, Hillsboro head track coach Dennis Boldt is looking for big things from this year’s boys’ and girls’ teams.
The boys’ team returns seniors Ryan Jilka, who won a silver medal at state in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles, Garrett Call, who qualified in the 800 meters, and Scott Winter, who qualified in the shot put.
Other top returners include sophomore Alan Yoder, who tied the 100-meter school record last year as a freshman and just missed qualifying for state, senior Adam Jilka, a competitor in the 800 meters and hurdles, junior Sheldon Funk, who won the league pole-vaulting title last spring, and junior Peter Richert a potential state qualifier in the 3,200 meters.
Juniors Ross Duerksen and Phillip Terrell combined for 67 points in the dashes, relays and broad jump and Brian Nickel adds depth at pole vault.
Boldt’s team gains depth in the middle-distance and distance events with the addition of senior Andy Unger and junior Matt Unger, brothers who were members of the state-runner-up cross-country team this fall.
“The cross-country success is starting to spill over,” Boldt said. “The distance runners we had in middle school went out for cross country, and what a successful year they had.”
Boldt expects two freshmen brothers, Aaron and Danny Yoder, to make an immediate impact, too. Aaron set the middle-school record in the 1,500 meters last spring and Danny set the mark in pole vault.
“We’re real fortunate,” Boldt said. “As long as we’re healthy, we should do well. The attitudes are great and I’ve got real balance from seniors through freshmen.”
Boldt thinks the boys, with greater depth, have a chance to win the MCAA title this year after finishing third a year ago.
“The boys will get the fourth- and fifth-place points that might put them over the edge to win the league,” he said.
The girls team, meanwhile, returns the heart of a squad that finished eighth at state last year.
Senior Julie Hett has a chance to qualify for state all four years in the 4×400 relay and qualified in the individual 400 meters a year ago.
She will be supported by an outstanding junior class, including Shannon Kroeker, who set the school record last season in the high jump and as a member of the 4×800 relay team. She qualified for state in the high jump and open 800, and was the Trojan’s leading scorer with 189.5 points.
Also among the top athletes in that junior class are Andrea Peachey, a two-year state qualifier in the 100-meter hurdles, and sprinter and 4×100 relay member Jenna Jost.
Sophomores Alisa Jost and Cheryl Prieb also were members of the record-setting 4×800 team. Prieb set the school record in the pole vault in its first year as a competitive event for girls, and Jost placed well in the 400 meters.
Classmate Elise Matz was an alternate at state and should contribute points in the sprints.
Boldt looks to Katie Fast, a freshmen, as a strong candidate to step into the vacancy on the 4×800 relay team created by Angela Kroeker’s graduation.
“I think she can make an immediate impact,” Boldt said.
A lack of depth may hurt the girls’ team at the MCAA meet this year.
“The girls’ team will have one of the top athletes in most of the events at the league meet,” Boldt said. “We’ll represent well in all the events and score at least one place.”
Boldt’s goal once again is to qualify athletes for state. “We want to get as many kids in as many events as possible,” he said. “That’s what it’s about. Once we get there, we do our best-but there’s a lot of luck involved (in placing well as a team).”
Boldt will be assisted by Max Heinrichs in the jumping events, Don Penner in the throwing events, Corey Burton in pole vault and javelin, Mike Jilka in the hurdles, and Collette Burton in some jumping events and the sprints.
“They’re good coaches,” Boldt said. “They make me look real good.”
The Trojans open their season April 3 with a quadrangular meet at Haven. Competition begins at 4:30 p.m.