BLOOMER — In the face of a tragedy, the Bloomer boys and girls track teams are ready to give everything they have for their late coach Dave Landgraf.
Nick Schumacher takes over for the longtime Blackhawks coach who passed away after being struck by a vehicle last August.
Schumacher returns a pair of state qualifiers from last year’s team and sees no reason his team shouldn’t be in contention with the best in the Heart O’North Conference.
“I see our team as a strong competitor in the Heart O’North,” Schumacher said.
Back for the Blackhawks is Levi Nayes and John Vodacek, a pair of state qualifiers last year. Nayes competes in the sprint races and triple jump. Vodacek runs in the longer distance races.
Schumacher said he also expects athletes like Garrett Sarauer, Mitch Boettcher, Brandt Bruxvoort and Ryan Buske to make an impact this year.
For the Blackhawk girls, the majority of last year’s team that finished well at the Heart O’North Conference meet returns.
Those returners are led by future Northern Illinois Husky Ali Olson. She returns as conference, regional and sectional champion in the 800-meter run and was also a member of a pair of top-four finishing relay teams at state.
Joining Olson are Kayla Ruff and Chloe Zeman. Ruff and Zeman are the defending conference champions in high jump and discus, respectively.
The Blackhawks will need to deal with the loss of Jaime Ludwigson and Briana Buske, two state-caliber athletes who contributed in many areas.
“Our younger athletes need to improve to make up some of that difference,” Bloomer girls coach Steve Krueger said.
Both teams have said they are dedicating the 2012 season to the memory of Landgraf.
Armed with an array of returning state qualifiers, Clayton Gindt and his Cadott girls track team look to have the talent to compete in 2012.
The Hornets girls return six state qualifers from last year’s team and will try to strengthen in the other areas.
“The coaching staff is attempting to find the strengths and weeknesses of the team,” Gindt said. “So we can look to people to fill in the “gaps” we have.”
Cadott returns shot put state qualifier Ellen Sikorski, high jump qualifier Lexi Siverling and their entire 800-meter relay team of Lauren Manier, Savanna Roth, Tori Rykal and Aquila Glomski.
The Cadott boys team returns a balanced team led by seniors Nathan Spindler, Luke Smercek, Michael Siverling and Connor Mackie. But they are a team that will have to make up for the loss of distance runners Tanner O’Brien, Blake Johnson and Jared Johnson.
“In similar fashion to last year, the strength of our team should be in our ability to score two or three times in an event,” Gindt said. “To be a good team as the season progresses, we need to have our athletes consistently take thirds and fourths.”
Gindt said he expects the Western Cloverbelt to be tough, but that any team can step up at any time.
“Because of that great level of competition, our main goal is to work as hard as possible to place ourselves in the best position to have a chance to win the Western Cloverbelt Conference championship,” Gindt said.
With the loss of three state-caliber athletes in Marissa Mahr, Lyndsey Thorpe and Shelby Mahr, the Stanley-Boyd girls track team is a team in transition.
But it is also a team that coach Kari Thorpe feels will get better as the year goes on.
“We have only competed against one team from our conference and I feel we will be competitive come May at the conference meet,” Thorpe said.
The Orioles will depend on returners Shaina Hanson, Amy Plechacek, Shantel Hartzell, Abby Schmitt and Stephanie Szymanski to pick up the slack, as well as newcomers Peyton McCauley and Brooke Carrigan.
For boys track coach Bob Seidl, he returns a variety of athletes that have his team thinking big.
“We have good numbers and some good athletes with potential,” Seidl said. “We will be a competitive team in the Western Cloverbelt.”
Conference and regional discus champion Jack McLoone returns for the Orioles, as does sectional discus qualifier Jeremiah Reit and sectional 200-meter dash qualifier Dakota Nichols.
Stanley-Boyd will have to deal with the loss of Austin Kirckof, a conference champion in the 800-meter and 1,600-meter run and Tyler Steinmetz, a sectional qualifer in the pole vault.
“I think this year the conference is really up for grabs,” Seidl said. “I don’t see any team standing out in the conference, which means four or five teams will be within 10 points of each other for the title.”
In their first year as a co-op, Cornell/Lake Holcombe co-head coaches Jake Ebner and Tim Sime have the combined talent for their team to compete.
The team returns numerous letterwinners for both girls and boys, led by Jyle Jones, the Lakeland Conference champion in the shot put and discus.
Also returning to the team are boys letterwinners Charles Halpin, Tyler Matacyznski, Thomas Sippy, Travis Anderson and Taylor Bauch, among others. For the girls, all-conference selection Casey Peloquin, Hannah Ash and Jordon Dixon return.
Ebner and Sime expect new athletes like Chae Jones, Phillip Winchell, Bianca Winter, Thia Moreen and Lucy Sikora to make an impact for the team in 2012.
Even though the team brings plenty of numbers into 2012, they do have some big shoes to fill with the departure of several sectional qualifers including Ethan Hrdlicka, John Parkhurst, Jolene Anders and Chloe Gulich.
Both coaches said they hope the team can finish in the top-three in the confernce for both boys and girls.
The Cornell/Lake Holcombe track team is in action on Tuesday at Ladysmith.
Third-year Trojans track coach Brad Werner doesn’t have the depth that other teams do, but that doesn’t mean his team doesn’t have talent.
New Auburn returns five sectional qualifiers from last year’s team—Brett Baker, Tanner Nayes, Blake Miller, Tayler Brady and Allie Grimm.
Baker, Miller and Nayes were a part of the 800-meter relay team. Brady and Grimm were a part of the girls 1,600-meter relay team.
“(We can compete) in individual events, but not enough athletes for team scores,” Werner said.
Werner also said the team will be looking to newcomers Sean Rae, Miranda Boelkes and Nate Jackson to help make an impact.
The Trojans are in action next on Tuesday at Ladysmith.