Senior Marah Franz claimed the Class 3A pole vault title last season by clearing 10 feet, 6 inches. The vault also broke the Hillsboro school record of 10-3 set by Hannah Marsh in 2007.
Coach Dennis Boldt said defending her title won?t be any easier just because the Trojans are back in Class 2A this year.
?One thing about track is sometimes what you think is weaker competition is truly not,? he said. ?She?s a competitor and she?s excited. We haven?t had many good days to vault yet, but she keeps in shape. She?s very motivated.?
Boldt said technique is Franz?s competitive strong suit.
?Hannah had great speed on the runway, and good technique, but Marah has excellent technique, not as good speed,? he said. ?But they were both in gymnastics. That?s why I always encourage that for kids.?
Also returning with state experience are Brittany Schale, Abby Sechrist and Kennedy Klein, who comprised three-fourths of the 12th-place 4×800 relay team at state in 2015.
?Brittany, Abby and Kennedy are coming back very motivated,? Boldt said. ?There?s no substitute for success. If they?re successful, they?re motivated.?
Two newcomers will be vying to fill that fourth spot on the 4×800: junior Savan?nah Unruh, who played softball her first two seasons, and freshman Eva Franz.
Together with the three returning veterans, ?they are five excellent middle distance runners,? Boldt said.
The Trojan coach said he isn?t sure if any other relays will materialize this year.
?If they are willing, we?ll just have to see how it fits into our schedule,? he said. ?I think we could have an excellent 4×100 for the girls.?
Meanwhile, Callie Lin?nens, who was the alternate at state for the 4×800, will be focusing on throwing events this season.
?She?s got great length, she likes the throws and she?s successful at the throws,? Boldt said.
A pair of sophomores, Paige Craney and Kelly Mei?singer, will compete in the throws as well after a strong start as freshmen.
Two other girls to watch happen to be cousins: junior Rebecca Kaufman and sophomore Sienna Kaufman.
?The Kaufman girls are both jumpers?Rebecca is a horizontal jumper and a triple jumper, and Sienna concentrates more on the pole vault,? Boldt said.
Two newcomers who could make an impact for the girls happen to be sisters. Senior Tassanee Sanchez and freshman McKenna Sanchez transferred in this fall from Thailand. Tassanee is focusing on high jump while McKenna prefers the horizontal jumps.
For the boys, meanwhile, no one returns with state experience. But at least one returner came close to qualifying.
Junior Jonathan Hiner?man missed state by one place in the 1,600 meters. He is coming off a strong cross-country season this past fall.
Other returning letter-winners are sophomore Kaden Ward, whom Boldt says ?shows great promise? in the jumps.
?He is quite an acrobat himself, so pole vault lends well for him,? he said. ?He?s one of those kids who can do a standing back flip. Very talented, good speed.?
Senior Matthew Denholm returns in the hurdles.
?I?m hopeful he can slip in (at state) on the hurdles this year,? Boldt said. ?He continues to get better. He got in the (regional) finals last year.?
Boldt also highlighted sophomore Brodie Rathbone, who probably will be concentrating on the jumps.
Another letter-winner, Travis King, used to hurdle but likely will run in the open 400 and 800.
?Travis is a gutty runner,? Boldt said.
The Trojan coach is hoping for some scoring support from several other athletes.
Freshman Wes Shaw has ?great ability in the throws,? according to Boldt, and classmate Joe Knoll could be competitive in the jumps.
?We have seven freshman boys out,? Boldt said. ?Kyle Horton is a strong runner. You combine him with Joe and Wes, and also Tucker Moss, who runs distance, and they could score for us.?
The Trojan coach said it is more difficult for freshmen boys to experience success than it is for freshman girls.
?If you talk about the throws, every implement is bigger,? he said. ?If you?re talking about the jumps, any eighth-grade boy going against a senior boy, that?s hard. But these kids have great talent.?
Even with 36 athletes out for high school track, Boldt said it will be hard for Hills?boro to compete as a team at the large invitational meets.
The Trojans are lacking consistent multi-event scorers like they had last season in distance runners Emily Sechrist and Grant Knoll, each of whom regularly placed high in two to three races each meet.
?People like Marah Franz will be scoring, but it takes a long day to get those pole vault points,? he said.
That said, the Trojans should hold their own in the smaller Central Kansas Track League meets.
?I feel we can score in multiple events,? Boldt said. ?But if you?re comparing us to last year?s group, it will take a little longer to score to any degree in an invitational because the competition is so strong.?
The Trojans were schedule to compete in their first CKTL meet April 8 at Marion. Their next meet, also of the CKTL variety, will be April 12 at Joel Wiens Stadium in Hillsboro with a 4:30 p.m. start time.