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MHS track shows potential to start the spring

Marshalltown boys head track coach Doug Bacon has been around the Bobcat track program for a long time, so he knows what it takes for a team to be successful.

As the MHS boys prepare to start the outdoor portion of their schedule today with a meet at Waukee, Bacon said this season’s iteration of Bobcat track features quite a few things, but arguably the most important is a good pool of talent to draw from.

“It is kind of early to tell, but I would say it looks like we may have a little more depth pretty much up through the 800 or so,” Bacon said before practice on Wednesday. “We are still a little thin at the long distances like the 1,600 and the 3,200 but we are in much better shape I think in the hurdles than we were starting out last year. We didn’t even have a high hurdler last year until the last meet before the Drake relays so we are way ahead there.”

When Marshalltown hits the track at Waukee today, it will do so with quite a few familiar faces. The Bobcats return the top-performers in nearly every event from last season, all aside from the discus and shot put where they will have to replace Maddux Richardson, the lone individual state qualifier from last year.

Bacon said in just the work the team has done in the preseason he can see the start of what could be a strong season for Marshalltown track.

“We had a quarter-mile workout on Tuesday and sometimes you can just tell by watching the workout, you can go ‘gosh, this looks pretty familiar,” he said. “This looks like something I’ve seen before.’ You don’t get too high about that because you still have to go race it, but I certainly think we have an improved work ethic, at least with the upperclassmen.”

So far in the indoor season the Bobcats have already shown some promise, particularly in the Central College meet last week where senior Ryan Huffman placed fourth in the high jump, senior Tyler Reeder took sixth in the 60-meter hurdles and two relay teams placed in the top 10.

“I think our indoor performances are a little bit better, I didn’t really set up too many relays or anything special indoor but just kind of looking at where we were last year versus where we are now I think we are ahead of that. There is a lot of potential there,” Bacon said.

The Bobcats have around 55 kids out for track this season, not the biggest team Bacon has had but definitely a good number of athletes to choose from. Bacon said what matters more isn’t necessarily how many athletes you boast, however.

“There are two different types of teams you can have. You can have 55 out and most of them are kids you can really work with and there’s a core that you can move forward, then you can have 55 with a small core and it’s very hard to get anything accomplished,” he said. “I would say we are in the former case this year, we have the ability to do work.”

Being a 4A school, Marshalltown has the difficult task of competing with schools from suburban Des Moines and other hotbeds of athleticism, as it does in every sport. What Bacon said separates his teams from the other larger schools across the state isn’t their athleticism, but the intangibles they bring to the track.

“There is no doubt when we come off the bus and look at their kids, by most athletic measures they were better,” he said. “Our past success was always based on hard work and a chip on our shoulder and a whole lot of heart. That’s who we are and I think that’s who we are as a community, so you might as well embrace it and use it.”

When it comes to on-track success this season, Bacon said there are quite a few areas he could see his team excelling at, though only time will truly tell.

“I would say, without really running an outdoor meet, I would guess that our strength would be the sprints and the middle distances,” he said. “Hurdles and the shuttle hurdle, as long as we can keep everyone healthy that should be good, and the field events are coming around.”

Field events do come around a bit slower mainly because of both the weather and the indoor season, since you simply can’t practice things like the long jump and discus without being outside.

“Ryan Huffman jumped 5-8 at Central and had a couple of really nice attempts at 5-10 so I think he is coming along. Josh Melde has not jumped yet but I think there is some potential there,” Bacon said. “With the throws Lucas Duff is back throwing the discus and that will probably be our best throw event, obviously after you lose Maddux Richardson, 60-foot shot putters are hard to replace. But that group is working really hard and I think there is some potential there with Duff and Jordan Anderson is showing some ability.”

Where the Bobcats might see the most success for field events is the long jump, where Bacon said both Gabe Wyant and Noah DeVenny return after seeing some good distances last year.

“They were both 19-plus jumpers last year and, as a matter of fact, Gabe almost jumped 20 [feet] at districts so there is reason to be optimistic,” Bacon said. “I guess it’s guarded optimism, I learned a long time ago it’s probably a bad idea to make predictions on where the season is going to go.”

In this first meet at Waukee, Bacon said there isn’t a whole lot of pressure on any of the guys to perform, especially since a lot of them will be going out and competing for the first time this season.

“The basic plan is we are going to try and run all of our relays fairly strong,” he said. “I don’t know what any one of them is really maxed at, we are still trying to figure out what some kids will do on a 400-meter track, but I think that is the main thing. We know we will have to work through a few snafus with handoffs and those things that happen early on, but that’s kind of the primary focus.”

Other than getting down some of the finer aspects of competing, Bacon said what he really wants to see his guys do is get a feel for what it’s like competing in the track season again.

“Maybe the biggest thing that I hope we get accomplished tomorrow is if we figure out when it is that I have to get up and warm up, how I go about that, that it’s ok to sweat before I race and how to take care of myself and get back in my sweats and cool down and how to handle the downtime,” he said.

The Bobcats head down to Waukee today for their first meet of the season, starting at 4 p.m.