Hillsboro coach Dennis Boldt has been focused on the start of track season during practices at Wiens Stadium, but with three returning state medalists from last year, it wouldn’t be a stretch to speculate the season will end with another trip to Cessna Stadium.
Senior Emily Sechrist, a perennial state-medalist in cross-country and track, placed second in the 3,200-meter race, third in the 1,600, and seventh in the 800 at last year’s state track meet.
“Very few can say they medaled in all three distance events,” Boldt said. “Everybody should have the opportunity to coach somebody like Emily. Her talent comes from hard work and discipline. We’re looking for her again to concentrate on the 1,600 and 3,200.”
Two-time cross-country state qualifier Karyn Leihy will run alongside Sechrist in the distance events.
Senior Grant Knoll will pace the boys’ team, coming off a seventh-place finish at state in the 1,600. He’ll seek to qualify in the 3,200 as well, and as needed will run the 800. Knoll has signed with Emporia State University to run distance events.
Having proven performers as senior leaders is a plus for the entire team, Boldt said.
“Grant and Emily and Karyn show time in and time out that they work hard in practice and listen to their coaches,” he said. “When young kids see that, they want to emulate that because they want to be successful.”
Junior Marah Franz is the third returning state medalist. She cleared 10 feet in the pole vault to place second. Although Boldt will use her in some sprints and relays, he said Franz has found her niche in pole vault, and returning to state will be her primary focus.
The girls’ team will benefit from three athletes Boldt said bring unique combinations to the squad.
Freshman Abby Sechrist is a triple threat, Boldt said.
“She’s going to be a multi-event athlete — she’s a sprinter, she’s a hurdler, she’s a jumper,” he said. “It’s a blessing to be good at many things, but we have to be careful not to overuse her. Abby would like to run the 400 and also train in the 300-meter hurdles. I’ve never had a girl compete in both.”
Boldt typically trains runners in sprints or distance races, but not both. Kennedy Klein may be an exception.
“She can run everything from the 100 to the 800,” Boldt said. “She will be training as a sprinter and a middle-distance runner. 800 would be the max she would run, and only in the 4x800-meter relay.”
Franz will have a protégé in pole vault, Sienna Kaufman, when she’s not working on other events.
“She can hurdle, she can sprint, she can jump,” Boldt said. “She has the opportunity to do well. If you’re going to be a hurdler and a pole vaulter, that’s a long day of practice.”
On the boys’ side, Cody Craney and Franklin Jost will hold down the weight events. Craney, who has signed to throw for Pratt Community College next year, specializes in the shot put and javelin. Jost does discus as well, and Boldt said he continues to develop.
The Trojans are without a high jumper, but freshman Kaden Ward will anchor the long jump and will pole vault. Another freshman, Brodie Rathbone, will be competing in the triple jump.
A new addition to the squad is senior Justus Hilliard, who played baseball last year.
“He’ll be running sprints for us, and perhaps jumping as well, probably long jump to start with,” Boldt said. “Justus is an exceptional athlete and we want to get him focused quickly.”
Boldt said his overall approach is to find the events where his athletes can perform well, but not to overload them.
“When you have 18 different events, kids only have so much time to work on different events,” he said. “We concentrate on the individual first. We want to put kids in a position where they will be successful. If you can find that early in the year, then you can possibly look at other events.