With three returning state qualifiers and a larger roster of athletes, Hillsboro track and field coach Dennis Boldt is upbeat about the upcoming season.
The Trojans field a team of 13 boys and 16 girls.
?I think we can make a bigger impact in all of our team scoring this year, particularly with those freshmen (girls) who came out last year and are returning.? he said.
The Trojans will be led by Emily Sechrist, who will be aiming to add to her stash of seven state medals during her senior season.
Boldt said Sechrist combines a strong work ethic and positive attitude with her natural running ability.
?Emily makes other people better,? Boldt said. ?She brings excitement to our sport and makes it fun.?
Last year Sechrist achieved state medals in the three distance races.
?That?s really rare anymore, particularly when you start talking about the difference between a 3,200-meter runner and an 800-meter sprinter, which is what she had to do,? Boldt said.
Sechrist placed second in the 3,200 in 11 minutes, 43.19 seconds, third in the 1,600 in 5:24.18 and seventh in the 800 in 2:26.28.
?Emily has gotten physically stronger,? Boldt said. ?Her times at state last year were as good as she?s had. With her extra training and dedication this year, I think she?ll come out earlier (in the season) with better times.?
Boldt does have one regret about Sechrist?s high school career.
?We?ve had a good group of girls, but we haven?t had the depth at the state level that would let her enjoy a team championship,? he said. ?She?s very deserving of a team championship.?
One athlete who is expected to contribute toward that goal is junior Marah Franz, who earned a silver medal in pole vault at last season?s Class 2A state meet by clearing 10 feet.
?Marah has extremely good form,? Boldt said. ?She is gaining upper-body strength. She has been vaulting in the off-season. She has found her niche.?
Pole vault will be Franz?s primary event, but she likely will compete in relays and perhaps some sprints.
The girls? team has several other returning athletes who have potential to contribute points, including senior Karyn Leihy in the distance races.
?She?s a pretty consistent runner for us,? Boldt said. ?She works hard, and I would give her the school record for enthusiasm. There might be a tough day, but she can manage a smile and encourage everybody.?
Leihy could run any combination of the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 races at a given meet.
Four girls gained significant varsity experience in 2014: sophomores Rebecca Kaufman, Callie Linnens and Brittany Schale, and junior Kennedy Klein.
?Rebecca Kaufman is an athlete now,? Boldt said. ?She?s going to be triple jumping for us and probably long jumping. She?s really going to help us.?
Klein will concentrate on the sprints, according to Boldt, but the combination of Kaufman, Klein, Linnens and Schale gives the Trojans options for some competitive relay teams, and possibly a berth at state.
Of the six freshmen on the current roster, Boldt feels Sienna Kaufman has the best chance of making an immediate impact at the varsity level.
?Sienna is a good multi-event athlete,? Ratzlaff said. ?She is a pole vaulter, a long jumper and a hurdler right now. What we?ll do is say, let?s do one thing first (pole vault), then we can expand on that. I think she can be competitive at the big meets right away,? he added.
The Trojan boys will be led by a senior distance runner as well. Grant Knoll placed seventh at state last season in the 1,600 (4:43.12) and 11th in the 3,200 (10:48.89).
?Grant has had great success in distance running because he?s a gritty runner,? Boldt said.
Boldt said Knoll is taller and stronger and his stride length is getting him around the track faster.
?Grant?s best race is the 1,600,? Boldt said. ?But we know he can qualify in the 3,200 and 1,600.?
Boldt highlighted three other athletes who have the potential to generate points this spring.
Senior Cody Craney, who has signed with Pratt Com?munity College, is working on javelin and shot put.
?Cody, physically, is so much stronger when I watch him this year,? Boldt said. ?He has actually leaned down, with more lean muscle mass.?
Senior Justus Hilliard opted for track and field after playing baseball last spring.
?Justus will concentrate on his sprints,? Boldt said. ?We?re not going to overload Justus with too many field events right away. But right now he?s working on his jumps?probably long jump.?
Sophomore Jonathan Hinerman, a cross-country runner, will be focusing on distance races this spring after competing also in high jump last season.
?Jonathan has been working (on his running) in the off-season,? Boldt said.
Among the new faces on the team, freshman Kaden Ward has caught Boldt?s eye as someone who could make an immediate impact.
?Kaden is concentrating on his jumps, although he is an excellent sprinter,? Boldt said. ?With the addition of Kaden, Justus and Cody Craney, plus Travis King and Brodie Rathbone, we could have the making of an 4×100,? he said. ?We?ve struggled with the boys in our 4×100 with consistency.?
Rathbone also is a hurdler and a jumper.
?I think those two (Ward and Rathbone) will make an immediate impact on scoring.?
Hillsboro will open its competitive season April 7 with a five-school Central Kansas Track League meet at Remington. The field also will include Central Christian, Centre and Herington.