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Leaving middle of pack goal for Maconaquah boys' track

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OFF THE MARK: Several Maconaquah sprinters work on their starts out of the blocks during a recent practice.
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OVER THE TOP: Maconaquah junior Adam Bowman works his way back into throwing condition after playing baseball last season. Bowman is one of several new throwers out for the Braves this season and is part of a group looking to help lift the team to better results in 2018.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

Middle of the pack was a place Maconaquah found themselves in repeatedly during the 2017 boys’ track and field season.

The Braves secured a fifth-place finish at the TRC and seventh-place finish at the Kokomo sectional but with many members of the team returning, coach PJ Hatcher said the team wanted more in the 2018 season.

“We’ve seen a lot of guys, early in the season, that are looking to prove something and focused on getting better,” Hatcher said. “We’ve been doing as much conditioning as we can early on while working on running form.

“We want the practices to be hard now so that things are easy during the meets. We’re taking the right steps to put the guys in position to be successful.

“Some of the guys are going to want to progress faster but we want to build a foundation right now,” Hatcher added. “We don’t need the guys to be peaking right now but to take it slow at the start so we can be where we want to be at the end of the season.”

Hatcher said the squad grew in size from last season, allowing for more individualized events, but noted with spring break coming the work for those events needed to be put in now.

“We’ve got 47 guys out, which is up from last year and is a good thing to see,” Hatcher noted. “We’re working on finding ways for kids to specialize in events as we only have this week, a meet at IWU and next week to work on things before spring break.

“Once we come back, we go to Oak Hill and its right into meet season, so we need to put some things together now.”

Maconaquah had one individual advance to the regional last season in Tyler Dietzel, who was also the Braves’ only TRC champion, picking up his title in the 800-meter run.

Hatcher said Dietzel was a big component of the team’s success last season with his middle-distance and relay runs and said others would need to pick up the slack in those areas.

“Tyler was our lead point-getter last year but he’s graduated so we have to work on a few things,” Hatcher said. “Our middle and upper distance is still pretty good as we have a lot of guys that run cross country, so kudos has to go to coach (Chris) Edgington for his work with them.

“We’ve got some guys that are looking to step up but for the most part we’re going to be looking to win things by committee. We’ll be alright in our dual meets and likely our tri-meets but it will take a group effort in the meets like the Northwestern Relays and hopefully, by the time we get to the TRC, we’ll have more guys in the top tier of the events.”

Along with middle and long distance, Hatcher said the team had a good crew of throwers out for the season while several runners will be looking to anchor the sprints.

“We’ve got a good mix of new and returning guys in several events,” Hatcher pointed out. “We’ve got a couple of returning throwers in Paxton Kintner and Jacob Shaffer along with Vincent Smith and Adam Bowman, who, while newer, are a little more physically mature than your typical newcomers.

“We have a lot of distance runners back in Jordan Edgington, Fletcher Williams and Jacob Edwards along with middle distance runners Sam Bourne and Evan Baldwin among others. These guys have worked really hard already this year, they’re working on their running tempo, finding ways to control the pace of a race and maintain that throughout the year.

“We won’t have Christian Frakes this year, so we’ll need more guys in the sprints,” Hatcher added. “We’re not sure if we have top tier speed yet but we have a lot of guys that we’re developing and we’ll see how they come along by the end of the year.

“Some of those guys include Shemar Austin, Aaron McKinley, Nolan Kelly and Corbin Middlekauff. Slate Boggs should be a force for us in the 300-meter hurdles, a guy we’re looking to get down in the 41-second range, while Dalton Outlaw returns in the pole vault and Gemini Williams is back in the long jump.”

Hatcher said one of the goals for the new season was to add depth in the jumping events while building up some of the younger sprinters on the team for the next few years.

“Coach (Lance) Bell does great work at the pole vault and what we’d like to have is a second and third jumper in the event,” Hatcher said. “We’ve got a couple of guys we see some promise in in Braden Walton and Jaiden Brown, who Dalton encouraged to come out from diving.

“We’re also looking to find some guys to help in long jump as we’ve got a couple of guys out this year like Evan Myers who are trying the event.

High jump is an area we’re trying to find guys that have the spring for the event, guys that we can work on to get the approach down for and help with the technical side of the event.

“In the sprints, we’re not sure if we have the top end speed but we’re looking to see if we can develop the running efficiency needed in the event,” Hatcher added. “We’ve got some young guys like Jon Dewey and Todd Hughes that show some promise and we think we can help them make a breakthrough in a couple of years.”

Despite finding themselves in the middle of the field most of the season last year, Hatcher said the group had the potential to challenge at a higher level and expected the team, with its growing numbers, to challenge on more fronts this season.

“We definitely thing we can be vying for the top of the TRC and our goal is to see how many champions we can get,” Hatcher said. “We want to finish in the top half, if not the top-three or win it, and be more competitive than we were last year.

“We only had one guy advance from the sectional last year and our 3200-meter relay team was upset they didn’t do better. We’ve got a couple of guys that can step into those spots and if a couple of others put in the work we know they can, they can shave some seconds off to get where they want to go.

“We’ve got some good athletes that have come out and we’re trying to see how to best use them for the benefit of the team.”