If you’re putting together a track team, having a returning state-champion pole vaulter is a good place to start.
Marah Franz cleared 10 feet 6 inches last year to win the 3A girls’ vaulting crown. With the Trojans dropping to 2A competition this season, Franz goes into the season as the favorite, having soared higher than any of the returning 2A state competitors.
“Obviously in track the best athletes can be in any classification, so there will be good vaulters,” coach Dennis Boldt said.
Franz will be a fixture at Wiens Stadium for years to come, as she signed to vault for Tabor College this past fall. That could be advantageous to her this season, Boldt said.
“When a kid has their mind made up where they’re going, they can concentrate on the season at hand,” he said. “I’ve had athletes in the past who went into the season not knowing, and for some it was a distraction. She’s going to a good place, so she’s comfortable there. She’s just concerned about vaulting.”
Back, too, are three of the four members of the state-qualifying 4x800 meters relay team — Abby Sechrist, Brittany Schale, and Kennedy Klein. Boldt said that with Sechrist choosing to focus more attention on the open 800 this season, a return to state is possible. Eva Franz and Savannah Unruh have middle distance experience and could compete for the fourth spot, Boldt said.
Sophomores Paige Craney and Callie Meisinger and junior Callie Linnens will anchor the throwing events.
Boldt was upbeat about prospects for his 22-member squad, even with the loss of elite distance runner Emily Sechrist to graduation.
“I think we’ll be every bit as strong in Central Kansas Track League meets,” he said. “The invitationals we’ll have to wait and see. We’re still a pretty young team.”
That holds for the boys, too, a team heavy on freshmen and sophomores.
Leadership will come from the team’s lone senior, hurdler Matthew Denholm, and middle distance runner Jonathan Hinerman.
“Every year Matthew’s gotten better in hurdles,” Boldt said.
Hinerman could be the team’s “strongest point scorer” in the 1,600 meters, and also will run the 800.
Of all the puzzles facing Boldt as he figures out where his athletes will fit best, what to do with an abundance of aspiring throwers may be the toughest.
“We have seven young kids,” Boldt said. “We’ve got some excellent guys, but it just takes time.”
Freshman Wesley Shaw enters the season coming off of a strong eight-grade campaign, Boldt said.
“When you’re an eighth-grader going up to a freshman, all the weights increase, so it’s an adjustment,” he said. “Wesley is interested in all three throws.”
Kaden Ward and Brodie Rathbone bring experience to the jumping events, and both Ward and freshman Joe Knoll will likely handle vaulting duties, Boldt said.
Camaraderie will be a stronger contributor than intra-squad competition to the success of both boys’ and girls’ treams, Boldt said.
“It’s a fun group,” he said. “Our kids warm up together and work out together. When one kid’s in an event, you’ll see five or six of our kids cheering them on. I think we’ll see some great results all around and better results each week.”