Jump events will be the strength of the Menomonie boys' track and field squad, as Big Rivers conference champion, state qualifier and letterwinner Brian Wheeler returns to lead fellow jumpers this 2017 season.
Now a senior, Wheeler was the Mustang's field MVP as a sophomore and junior. He not only excelled in the field, but also proved to be a strong asset on the track, running on the state 4x100 meter relay team last year.
Alongside Wheeler is sophomore Devin Williams, who head coach Craig Olson says was easily the best freshman in the triple and long jump events in the entire conference last year. He is one of the three underclassmen letterwinners returning this season.
Another sophomore letterwinner, Sam Zbornik, had impressive performances at the high, triple and long jump as a freshman and appears to be just as strong, if not stronger this year.
Other letterwinners to look for this year include sophomore Adam Wilson, juniors Justin Evans and Matt Kieffer and seniors Evan Husby and Noah Leonhardt.
Kieffer will lead distance runners after qualifying for sectionals in the 1600-meter run. Olson said Kieffer averaged 40 miles a week running this winter to prepare for the upcoming season.
For sprints, senior Evan Husby and junior Justin Evans look to make significant improvements after a trip to state last year in the 4x100 meter relay.
Senior Jason Labs will be a strong leader for the hurdling crew and coach Olson says will be a force in the 300-meter hurdle. Another hurdler to look for is junior Kevyn Perkins.
"Kevyn is an amazing athlete and he has the ability to be a wonderful 110-meter hurdler this season," Olson said.
Quite a number of rookies and underclassmen will hit the field to showcase their talents in throwing events.
Sophomore Alex Harmston and junior Tyler Amundson are among a small handful of experienced throwers, having had outstanding performances in the discus as freshmen and Olson said have made significant improvements in the off-season.
Football athletes senior Mitch Weber and junior Mason Platter will test their skills on the field this season and Olson believes they will both bring great potential to the throwing events.
"They are two of the best football players in the area and they should add some great firepower to this young group of throwers," he said.
Some rookies to keep an eye on include sophomore Logan Sorenson, another football athlete whose speed on the field should transfer onto the track in sprint events.
Two freshmen, Adam Giljohan looks to break the 10-foot mark in the pole vault while Simon Fichter shows promise in distance events.
The Mustangs welcome junior Alec Bailey, who recently transferred from Menomoniee, Michigan, where he was a very accomplished distance runner.
Olson says the team to beat in the BRC this year is Hudson and after that it is anyone's guess.
"Most of the BRC talent last year graduated and we had a very young team," he wrote. "We have the ability to be in the top half if we continue to improve, but it's always a challenge in this conference."
This is coach Olson's 18th season coaching and sixth year as head coach. Alongside Olson is Matthew Flug, head coach for the girls' squad. He enters his 19th year coaching overall, eighth as the girls' head coach and will also be coaching sprints.
Assisting Olson and Flug will be Adam Topper (18th season, long-distance), Angie Wilson (14th season, horizontal jumps), Dwight McNaughton (sixth season, pole vault), Steve Jennings (fourth season, pole vault), Andrea Gores (second season, hurdles), Greg Anderson (first season, hurdles and high jump), Drew Preusse (second season, throws) and Tracey Sorenson (third season, long distance).
The Menomonie team began their track season by hosting the Dunn County Invite on Thursday and continue with a "small schools" Northern Badger Invite at UW-Stout Saturday.
Seniors: Douglas Hamilton, Evan Husby, Matthew Jones, Jason Labs, Noah Leonhardt, Brian Wheeler and Mitch Weber
Juniors: Tyler Amundson, Alec Bailey, Kevin Dietrich, Dane Dittman, Justin Evans, Matthew Jacques, Matt Kiefer, Mason Platter, Devante Scholfield, Sam Srivastava, Ben Sterk, Kevyn Perkins and Kevon Villareal
Sophomores: Jake Boyette, Alex Harmston, Jack Leipnitz, Mitchel Miara, Cole Reckin, James Schemenauer, Marcus Smith, Logan Sorenson, Emmet Suckow, DJ Walker, Ryan Westphal, Devin Williams, Adam Wilson and Sam Zbornik
Freshmen: Tyler Buhr, Simon Ficther, Adam Giljohann, Cooper Gorecki, Alan Gray, Adviat Gundala, Shawn Halverson, Wyatt Hanson, Ryan Heleniak, Rocco Jemilo, Daniel King, Adrien McCabe, Tony Placzkowski, Benjamin Schwartz, Jed Ogea and Forrest Strong