Highland boys track coach Bob Vance is looking to see steady improvement this season from his athletes each practice and each meet.
The Bulldogs finished sixth in sectional competition last season, and the team should be solid again when that sectionals roll around in May.
Just seven athletes return and, as a result, Highland will be looking to fill a few holes in the running and field events.
The biggest loss of the nine athletes that graduated will be the sprint relay team of Mason Geiger, Sebby Wolf, Ivan Proszco, Chase Deprow, and Noah Schmidt.
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“There’s not a lot returning, and we graduated quite a few good athletes,” Vance said.
One area the Bulldogs should be strong in is the distance events.
Junior Nick Hanratty, who was a state qualifier last year, will run the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters. Sophomores Easton Rosen and Josh Loeh will run the 1,600 and 3,200 meters.
“As we work through the season, those guys will be key members of our distance crew,” Vance said. “We’ve got quite a few distance runners returning.”
In the sprint races, Highland will turn to senior Wes McMillan and junior Ethan Leftwich. McMillan returns this season after running his freshman and sophomore year and taking off his junior year.
McMillan will run in the 200, 400, 800 meters and could see time in the sprint relays as well.
In the field events, sophomore pole vaulter Bryce Kirsch should be a key contributor after a solid freshman season.
“He went 11-6 in the vault last year as a freshman and we’re looking for some good things from him,” Vance said.
Junior Connor Sands will look to again make his mark in the long jump, triple jumps, and sprints.
Junior Trevor Zobrist and sophomore Sam Buck will handle the throwing events. Both are expected to compete in the shot put. Buck is already throwing 40 feet in the shot.
“He (Buck) didn’t come out last year, but he’s out this year and we think he’s going to keep getting better and better,” Vance said.
In the relay events, Leftwich, Sands, McMillan, junior Jeffrey Cabelle, sophomore Jack Gieger, sophomore Connor Miller, sophomore Brennan Austin, and freshman James Beard will compete for spots in the sprint and distance relays.
Loeh, Beard, Jacob Rittenhouse, freshman Andrew Capelle, and freshman Vance Brindley will comprise the 4x400 relay team. Meanwhile, Loeh, Rosen, Hanratty, Ethan Augustin, Owen Kobbeman, McMilllan, and Brylee Portell will man the 4x800 relay team.
Portell will not be available until basketball season concludes.
Vance hopes to get the rest of the lineup filled in soon.
“The rest of it we’ll just have to see,” Vance said. “Our goal always is to get better and it’s so early right now and the weather has been so cold, it’s been rough to try to see exactly where we are.”