A season for the ages

Forget the extremes of Dickens’ assessment. For Hillsboro High School track fans, this is the very best of times.


Dennis Boldt, now in his 11th year as head coach, knows better than most how magical this season has been-and he’s not afraid to admit it publicly.

“This is without a doubt the best combination of girls’ and boys’ track group I’ve ever had,” he said. “Without a doubt, this has to be the best track team this school has ever seen.”

The numbers bear him out.

With the peak of the competitive season still ahead-regionals and state-no fewer than 10 school records have fallen this spring. And Boldt believes three or four more may follow before this team hangs up its spikes.

The girls’ squad, though a little thinner on numbers this season and struggling at times with illness and injury, has still finished most meets at or near the top, including a big win in the Trojan Invitational last month.

The boys’ team, though, has been nothing short of a juggernaut. Not only have they won all eight of their meets this season, the margin of victory over their closest rival has averaged just over 100 points.

That’s not their total. That’s their margin of victory.

A 211-57 runaway at the small Little River Quintet in late April may not be so surprising, but the Trojans accumulated a 73-point margin at the Conrad Nightengale Meet in Halstead and whopping 115-point margin at their own Trojan Invitational-not bad for two large and very competitive track meets.

“This is the strongest boys’ track team I’ve ever had because they cover events from top to bottom,” Boldt said. “Let’s face it, the best track team I had was in 1992, and the second-best team I had was with (Tim) Hodge and (Ian) Weisbeck and (Mitch) Goossen in 1994-95-and we are breaking their records.”

With the boys’ team, Boldt has what every track coach dreams of: talent and numbers.

“We have some good individuals, but we cover every single event-and at least half of them in first place,” he said.

In field events, Scott Winter has been a consistently high scorer in the discus, shot put and javelin-and broke the record in the latter event that had stood for 57 years.

Alan Yoder, only a sophomore, has been at or near the top of the long jump finishers all season long, not to mention his dominance in the sprints-the 100 and 200 meters.

Likewise, Sheldon Funk has scored big in the pole vault, including a school record. But his teammates, Brian Nickel and Daniel Yoder, have consistently chipped in points along the way, too.

Ryan Jilka has established himself as a top state contender in both hurdle events, and has set new school records along the way.

The Trojans are strong in the middle and long distances, too.

Aaron Yoder, only a freshman, is the team’s newest record holder, setting a new standard last week in the 1,600 meters. He’s also scored high in the 3,200 meters.

Garrett Call’s strongest individual event has been the 800 meters. He’s come within two seconds of breaking the two-minute barrier, which would give him the school record, too.

Pete Richert and Daniel Yoder have contributed points in the longer races, too.

The Trojan relay teams-boy’s and girls’-have been the envy of a lot of coaches. Hillsboro is strong in both divisions in all three relays: the 4×100, 4×400 and 4×800.

The success of the boys’ team is all the more remarkable, given that only two years ago they were little more than a tag-along squad with a strong girls’ team that finished second in the state.

Maturity and improvement among his veteran athletes, plus an influx of young ones who are making an immediate impact has helped turn the team around.

But one of his keys to success, Boldt said, has been tapping into the success Hillsboro has enjoyed in other sports during the past two years.

“We have guys thinking about being state champs in football now, too,” he said. “They carry that winning attitude into all they do, including track. And their success they have in track carries back into other sports.”

Boldt also credits the leadership his seniors have shown.

“If you come out to practice, you see Garrett Call (a senior) and Aaron Yoder (a freshman) running together all the time,” he said. “They started that in cross country.”

“Ryan Jilka and Adam Jilka step out on the track in warm-ups with Julie Hett, and they are our leaders,” he added. “When we get to warm-ups, they’re at the front of the line, leading by example. When the tough workouts come, they are the ones leading the pack.”

So, how will the Trojans do once they get to state? The girls could score well, given their strength in the relays and the opportunity for finishes by Shannon Kroeker in the 800 meters and Andrea Peachey in the 110-meter low hurdles.

“You need a couple of first-places, and then some support in lower placings, to win state,” Boldt said.

The girls couldn’t be considered a favorite by any means. But the boys could.

“If we are healthy, we have an opportunity to win a trophy, which is a top-three finish,” he said. “I will not tell you we’re going to win, because I can’t. It’s not fair to the kids.

“You kind of throw everything out of the book at state,” he added. “There’s a lot of luck involved, having been there year after year.

“But we don’t want to look past regionals. My goal when we walk into regionals is that we get as many kids (to state) in as many events as we can,” Boldt added. “I never count points, I never look to win a regional or state. We just want to get the kids into state. That’s what’s important. If we win state, that is great. But it’s not what’s most important.”

Boldt said he is trying hard to relax and enjoy this special season.

“After the meets, the coaches may get together and we’re just excited about the times,” he said. “We find ourselves sitting in the coaches office a little longer after the meets, too.

“I just know that when I walk around at a meet, instead of worrying so much, I try to sit down and watch the events at each track meet and just enjoy them.

“Whatever happens, it’s been a super year.

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