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Paynesville Press - March 22, 2006

Boost in numbers for boys' track team

By Michael Jacobson

After struggling to fill out a lineup due to shortness in numbers last year, the PAHS boys' track team has boosted its numbers to nearly 30 varsity members in preseason practice this year.

Last year, the track team had only 14 members in grades 9-12 and could not field a complete lineup, even with help from a half dozen junior high athletes. This year, the track team has 29 members in preseason drills, which started on Monday, March 13, again including a half dozen junior high athletes who are expected to compete on varsity.

The team will have their first meet on Saturday, March 25, indoors in the fieldhouse at St. John's University starting at 6:30 p.m.

The increased numbers are great, said coach Todd Spanier, and have led to a focus on team success this season. Not being able to field relay teams last year, meant the Dogs struggled to score points and beat few teams during the season.

This year, though, the Dogs should have competition for lineup spots and need to develop pride in their team and teammates. "That's going to bring the best out of us," said Spanier.

"Our goals are to improve as a team," he added.

The great thing about track, he said, is that it mixes individual goals and accomplishments with team success. So members can judge their own improvement by their times or distances while also helping the team.

The Dogs graduated three seniors in track last year - Josh Binsfeld, Eric Hansen, and Matt Mehr - and return with two seniors in 2006. Leading the way is senior Aaron Bachman, who won the conference pole vault title for the second straight year last year and earned All Conference honors for the third time last spring. Bachman is also expected to run the hurdles for the Dogs this spring.

Senior Tom Stoneburner, a middle- or long-distance runner, has also joined the team this spring.

The team has nine juniors this year, including six returnees: Bryce Fischbach (sprints); Dugan Flanders (long-distance runs); Travis Flannigan (hurdles and jumps); Curt Forster (hurdles and middle-distance runs); Cole Kampsen (throws); and Peder Thompson (long-distance runs). Three new juniors on the team are: Aaron Burris (sprints and jumps); Matt Hansen (sprints); and Elliott Wall (long-distance runs).

Sophomore Alex Svejkovsky (throws and sprints) returns to the team, while sophomore Jordan Spaeth (sprints) is new to the team.

Last year, the Dogs broke five junior high track records, with a half dozen eighth graders competing on the varsity by the end of the year. Ninth grader Nathan Friederichs, ninth grader Travis Jimenez, ninth grader Kody Nehowig, eighth grader Kohl Nehowig, ninth grader Sam Rittenhouse, eighth grader Matt Schmiesing, ninth grader Josh Sturtz, and ninth grader Jamison Wall all return to the varsity team this year.

Friederichs finished second in the pole vault at the conference meet and earned All Conference honors last year. He also broke the eighth grade record in the pole vault, previously held by Bachman, by clearing 10' 6" at subsections.

In all, four junior high records were broken in boys' track last year. In addition to Friederichs' record in the pole vault, Schmiesing broke a long-standing seventh grade record in the shotput with a throw of 38' 3"; Wall broke the eighth grade record in the 3,200-meter run (11:58.4); and Friederichs, both Nehowigs, and Wall set a new record in the 1,600-meter relay (4:15.06).

Other ninth graders on the team this year are Jared Eickhoff and Mitch Marlow. Eighth graders Kody Bengtson, Peter Erickson, Adriano Ihrke, Kohl Nehowig, Donald Neu, David Ruprecht, and Schmiesing have also been practicing with the varsity this spring, along with seventh grader Tanner Wendroth.

The Dogs also have more athletes expected to compete in junior high track, which starts when the weather gets nice enough to practice outside. "I've had a lot of guys show interest," said Spanier. "We've got good numbers all the way down."

The Dogs' schedule for 2006 is similar to previous years. Instead of going to Melrose, though, the Dogs will take part in a meet on the new track at Albany on Tuesday, April 18. With subsections being at Paynesville this year, the Dogs will have three home varsity meets: Monday, April 10; Thursday, April 27; and subsections on Wednesday, May 24.

Another goal for the Dogs this year will be to qualify some athletes for sections. The top four individuals and top two relays advance, with the Dogs being shut out last year. Bachman (fifth in the pole vault), Flanders (sixth in the 3,200-meter run); and Flannigan (sixth in the high jump) were the top finishers for the Dogs last year at subsections.

With the West Central Conference North getting two new teams in 2006 - Minnewaska and New London-Spicer - the conference meet should be even tougher this year. Spanier expects NL-S to challenge St. Cloud Cathedral for the conference title. It should be interesting, he said, to see how Cathedral's strength in the long-distance runs does against NL-S's in the sprints and pole vault.

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