Menomonie head coach Craig Olson said he is looking at one of the most talented boys track and field rosters he has seen in years.
With 13 letterwinners returning — many of whom placed at the Big Rivers Conference (BRC) meet last season — and a skilled group of rookies, Olson is confident of their chances at an even stronger season this time around.
Last season, the Mustangs tied for first in the BRC with Hudson (their first conference title since 2008), had one state qualifier, and saw a school record set when the 4x800 relay team climbed from last place to first place in the conference in the span of one year (2016 to 2017). The team went on to qualify for the sectional tournament.
Letterwinners returning to the roster this season include seniors Matt Kieffer, Dane Dittmann, Justin Evans, Kevyn Perkins, juniors Sam Zbornik, Devin Williams, Logan Sorenson, Ryan Westphal, Adam Wilson, and sophomores Simon Fichter, Shawn Halverson, Rocco Jemillo and Wyatt Hanson.
Zbornik, Williams and Sorenson return coming off conference championships. Zbornik won the 300m hurdles — and was runner up in 110m hurdles and high jump, while Williams and Sorenson won the 4x100m relay, along with Brian Wheeler and Evan Husby, who graduated last spring.
Dittmann, Fichter, Jemillo and Westhphal were the athletes among last year’s successful 4x800m relay team.
On top of a talented group of returning athletes, the Mustang team will gain a number of skilled newcomers who Olson believes will contribute a great deal to the team this year.
Sophomore Dylan Boecker tests his legs on the track for the first time and Olson said he is one of the fastest guys on the team right now.
Freshmen Isaiah Munoz, Devauntae Parker and Will Ockler were all accomplished middle school track athletes who continue their craft at the high school level. Freshman Brock Thornton is expected to turn heads in jumps and hurdles and has already showed promise as an athlete on the basketball court. Another freshman, Patrick Schwartz, was seen as an all-conference cross country runner in the fall and will help the Mustangs in running events this spring.
Rookie senior Brenden Johnston, an All-BRC football player and key contributor to the basketball team this winter, will test his feet out in the jump events.
Senior Tyler Amundson returns after an injury last season to lead the team in throwing events and sprints. Olson said he is healthy and ready to compete.
Focus on personal records
Olson said that while no team in the conference is considered dominant, the squad with the most depth — and health at the end of the season — will likely win the conference title.
“It’s nice to say ‘we want to win the BRC’ but we just don’t know much about our opponents yet,” Olson remarked. “It’s much more important to focus on ourselves than worry about our competition.”
And that’s just what Olson and the Mustangs intend to do. Olson said their biggest goal is to have 300 personal records set throughout the season. Last year, the team set 296 PRs.
“I think we can best that mark,” Olson said. “If we can set 300, then we are improving and the winning will take care of itself.”
Olson is entering his 19th year coaching track at Menomonie High School and his seventh year as head coach. He is joined by girls’ head coach Matthew Flug (21 seasons, 19 years as head coach) and assistant coaches Adam Topper (distance), Angie Wilson (horizontal jumps), Andrea Gores (hurdles), Steve Jennings (pole vault), Dwight McNaughton (throws), Gregg Anderson (high jump) and Ben Gilbert (sprints).
Menomonie kicks off the season to host Boyceville, Ellsworth and Rice Lake at the Menomonie High School Fieldhouse on Thursday, March 22.
Seniors: Tyler Amundson, Dylan Christenson, Kevin Dietrich, Dane Dittman, Justin Evans, Brenden Johnston, Matt Kieffer, Kevyn Perkins, Martell Tripp and Nico Wyss.
Juniors: Kyle Field, Alex Harmston, Dominic Hovland, Jack Leipnitz, Mitchel Miara, James Schemenauer, Logan Sorenson, Emmet Suckow, DJ Walker, Ryan Westphal, Devin Williams, Adam Wilson and Sam Zbornik.
Sophomores: Dylan Boecker, Jonathan Easter, Simon Ficther, Adam Giljohann, Cooper Gorecki, Shawn Halverson, Wyatt Hanson, Garret James, Rocco Jemilo, Daniel King, Adrien McCabe, Jed Ogea and Forrest Strong.
Freshmen: Christian Bilse, Shane Drazkowski, Ryan Kahl, Jared McCann, Isaiah Munoz, William Ockler, DeVauntaye Parker, Ethan Phillips, Patrick Schwartz, Lewis Seehaver and Brock Thornton.