Last season, the Tiger Track and Field Team over-performed in the State Meet. Heading into the day, they were predicted to finish 13th, but had a stellar performance and finished 6th overall. This year, the Tigers are poised to win their first state title since 2003. The Tigers are led by a large group of seniors, something they did not have the benefit of last year. They are rounded out by a strong class of juniors. As the first official meet of the year approaches, how does the Tiger Track and Field stack up this year?
The Tigers lose a major contributor from last year’s team in the form of Matthew Thomas. Thomas was one of the top runners in the State of Kentucky and has gone on to run at UK this year. In the State Meet, he placed 2nd in the 1600 and 6th in the 800.
This year, however, the Tigers still return the vast majority of their scorers from the State Meet. Headlined by senior Ryan Guenthner, juniors Patrick Schaefer and Cooper Marchal, and sophomore Zach Larkin. All four of these guys are coming off of a terrific Cross Country season in which they went to Nationals, and are ready for a big season on the Track.
Last season, Guenthner finished 7th overall in the 3200 and Schaefer finished 5th. While Cooper Marchal did not run in the 3200, he will vie for a top two spot this season, but look for these three guys to be interchangeable in the event. Zach Larkin placed 6th in the 1600 last season as a freshman, for look for him to make some noise this season,
Outside of this top group, sophomore Grady Shiftlet is coming off a big cross country season and looks to carry that momentum into track. Shiftlet is a strong 800m runner and will be a dark horse to make it to the state meet this year.
The Tigers have the strongest group of sprinters they have had in quite a few years. They will not lose a single person who competed in Regions last year.
Leading the charge for the sprinter group will be seniors Max Masterson, Ricky Garr, and Jax Goldberg. Both Masterson and Garr have four years of Varsity experience and have a relatively good shot of making state in the individual 100 and 200. Last season, Masterson placed 5th in Regions in the 200, while Garr placed 7th in Regions in the 100. On the other hand, Goldberg will be an all-around runner, who can run in the 100, 200, and 400.
Past these three guys, there is a slew of runners who could step up in the individual events. In the 100, sophomore Nick Erwin is looking for a big campaign. In the 200 and 400, guys like seniors Tanner Boling and James Bryant, junior Brock Mayer, and sophomores Beck O’Daniel and Clay Erwin all want to compete for individual spots in these events.
The Track and Field team returns every major contributor in the field events from last season. In the Jumps, senior Max Masterson leads the way. Last season, Masterson placed 8th in Long Jump at State, and is currently in the Top 3 for returning jumpers in Class AAA. Along with Masterson in the long jump, the high-flying sophomore Nick Erwin is looking to make some noise and is a dark-horse to make state this year in the event.
In the High Jump, Jax Goldberg and Nick Erwin will compete. In his first season, Goldberg qualified for the State Meet in the event and tied for 11th. His PR last year was 6’0″ and if he can improve on that, will easily score in the event this year.
In the Pole Vault, senior Barry Banta returns after missing all of his junior season with a back injury. During the Indoor Season, Banta came back and already tied his PR of 12’0″. Banta will be one of the top vaulters in the State and has said that anything less than being State Champion would feel like a disappointment.
Lastly in the Throws, seniors G.J. Wellinghurst and Justin Voelker lead the group. Wellinghurst has a great chance at placing in the Top 5 if not the Top 3 of the shotput this year. He placed 3rd in Region in his first year of competition and did not make the state meet, but with another year under his belt, has the capability of throwing around the 50 foot mark which should place him into Top 3 contention.
St.X has been known to bust out some of the top hurdlers in the State of Kentucky. This year will be no different. After losing current hurdler for the University of Indianapolis Dallas Ford to graduation, a few guys are looking to step up this year.
Those two foremost guys will be senior Jonny Dumuolin and sophomore Beck O’Daniel. While Dumuolin is sounder in form and rhythm, O’Daniel is the faster of the two. However, both of these guys are poised to make it to the State Meet in the 110m Hurdles and the 300m Hurdles.
Dumoulin is the only hurdler returning from the State Team last year. In the 300m hurdles, he placed 19th overall, but with a lot of the top guys leaving after graduating, Dumoulin will be in contention to score some points for the Tigers.
While O’Daniel may have not competed in either events last year, he has already shown that he is making strides in both events and has the ability to score points in State as well.
While the Tigers may never have the fastest individual guys, you can bet on them scoring points in every relay. This season, the Tigers are poised to place at least in the Top 5 in the 4×800, 4×400, 4×200, and 4×100 relays. On all four relays, they only lose two seniors in Cole Bollinger (4×800) and Matthew Thomas (4×400).
One year removed from St.X’s state record 4×800 team, the Tigers replaced every guy in their lineup. While Thomas was on the team, it was hard to replace Ben Kleine-Kracht, Eli George, and William Mulloy all at the same time.
This year, however, the Tigers return three guys from last year’s team who placed 5th in the State Meet. Ryan Guenthner, Grady Shiftlet, and Nick Poole all return for the Tigers, and will contend for a top spot in the State.
The 4×400 team, who placed 8th last year, loses Matthew Thomas, but the team has a lot of depth in the 400 this year. Returning runners for the relay include Ricky Garr, Jonny Dumuolin, and Beck O’Daniel. However, due to their depth, look for guys to change in and out through the year. Brock Mayer, Jax Goldberg, and Tanner Boling will all compete to be apart of that relay.
To round out the bunch, the 4×200 and 4×100 Relay teams return all four of the same guys in the event. Seniors Max Masterson, Ricky Garr, and Jax Goldberg, along with sophomore Beck O’Daniel are looking to improve on their finishes from last year. In the 4×200, the foursome placed 5th, while in the 4×100 they placed 9th. Depending on the events that O’Daniel performs in, he may be ousted in place of sophomore Nick Erwin, but there is not a drop off between the two.
There are not many other teams in the state that can boast the all-around team strength that St.X has this year. Yes there are some strong team’s in the sprint sides (Ballard and Central) and some strong teams in distance (Manual); overall, St.X’s main competition will come from Paul Dunbar and that team on Shelbyville Road.
The Distance team is coming off of a National-caliber cross country season, while the sprinters are the most well-rounded the team has had in years. The Hurdlers have the ability to make some noise, and almost all the field events have the possibility to score some major points. I believe it is safe to say that the 2017 Tiger Track and Field team has the most realistic shot to win their first state title since 2003.
Next Race: Saturday, March 18th @ CAL