Question marks abound for first-year Peabody-Burns track coach Isaac Burnett as he takes the reins of a program long on youth and short on proven performers.
The 2010 PBHS graduate volunteered as coach of Warriors throwers the past two years. Burnett said he will draw on his experience as an athlete and lessons learned under former coach Brian Lightner as he develops his young squad.
“Track was always my favorite sport,” Burnett said. “Learning from Coach Lightner was helpful. I enjoy the kids, they’re a lot of fun to be around.”
Burnett’s biggest challenge will be responsibility for the entire range of events, he said.
“There’s a lot more than just the throwers to figure out stuff for,” he said.
Freshmen and sophomores dominate the roster of 16 boys, making senior shot putter and discus thrower Nick Preheim the de-facto team leader. Burnett said Preheim “improved a lot” in his junior campaign, and will be a factor at the league meet if he continues getting better.
Junior Cody Partridge brings two years of experience in high jump and 300-meter hurdles to the team. Burnett said he wasn’t certain where he would use Partridge on the track, but expects him to have a good year high jumping.
“He should possibly be pushing for a good spot at regionals,” Burnett said.
Senior Mackenzie Young is the standout returner for the 13-member girls’ team, having signed in January to run cross-country for Hesston College in the fall.
“We’ll train to help her get ready for that,” Burnett said. “She’s going to do more of the long-distance runs.
Burnett’s experience coaching throwers will benefit junior Kayla Washington, who returns for a second year in shot put and discus.
“She’ll try her hardest and she’ll listen, so she’s fun to have out there and to coach,” Burnett said.
Burnett said he was pleased at the number of athletes participating this year.
“I’m not sure how they’ll compete, but in years past it’s been a struggle to get girls out,” Burnett said. “This year we have a bunch of sophomores and juniors.”
While Lightner’s past guidance will be helpful, another coach who inspired Burnett when he was a young athlete, Chris Young, is now his assistant.
“He was my assistant basketball coach when I was a freshman,” Burnett said. “He’s been out of it for a long time, and it’s his first year back in. The thing that was the best about him was his motivation. He was very upbeat, very positive all the time. It was awesome to have him as a coach.”
Burnett said he could see evidence of Young’s influence by the end of Monday’s first practice.
“Coach Young is really good at keeping them focused and on task,” Burnett said. “His positivity is doing really well for us this year.”
The coaching duo will use the early part of the season to give their young athletes opportunities to try different events. Their goal, Burnett said, is for students to be competitive this year and build for the future by finding one or two events for each in which they can excel.
“With a fairly large team and it being fairly young, it’s definitely going to be a year where we’re figuring out where kids’ strengths are,” Burnett said.