Despite the loss of two Division I college athletes from the roster of a year ago, this year's OTHS boys track and field team has a talented field returning and is looking to make a run.
The Panthers lost two state champions to graduation, both of whom are continuing their athletic careers at the college level this season. Chris Conrad, who was the state champ at 800 meters last year and nearly broke the state record, is running this spring as a member of the University of Missouri track and field team. Nathan Rainge defended his state titles in the 100- and 400-meter wheelchair events and placed second in the 200 meters last year at state for OTHS. Rainge is now on a basketball scholarship at the University of Nebraska at Omaha
But despite those two big losses, O’Fallon head coach Joe Speaks said he expects this year's team to be solid.
"Coming in to this year, we return many athletes from last season," Speaks said.
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Dorian Brown, a junior, and Lucas Etheridge, a senior, are the veterans on the sprint relays. Brown qualified for state in the 100 meters last year as a sophomore.
The relay squads also ran well last year.
"We ran well in the 4x100 and 4x800 relays, but not state-qualifying times," Speaks said.
Speaks expects more good things this season with the groups he has back.
"Juniors Damien Ross and Jamie Mosley look to have strong seasons in the hurdle events and also contribute to the sprint relays," Speaks said.
Seniors Garrett Blenkush, Matt Gilster, Lucas Capistrant, and junior Will VanAltine will lead the distance group. The group was part of an OTHS cross country squad that finished 16th at state in the fall.
"All these athletes finished strong in cross country, and we look forward to what they can do in the spring," speaks said.
In the field events, the Panthers are loaded with juniors who have a lot of experience.
Quan Cobb and Rei'Shaun Spires have been competing in the horizontal jumps since their freshman year and will anchor that part of the team.
"They have shown consistent improvement over the last two seasons. I think they both have great seasons ahead of them," spears said.
In the throws, Braden Johnson will be the top returner.
"Braden competed well as a sophomore and gained a ton of experience throwing in the big meets and competing with good throwers in our area. He has improved his strength and technique and should be able to translate that into results this spring," Speaks said.