It will take a remarkable effort by the Brainerd Warrior boys' track and field team to replicate what it accomplished last year.
Brainerd finished sixth in the Class 2A state meet, the highest placing in program history. Six state meet participants who graduated from that team are now competing, or red-shirting, this spring at various colleges.
"When you lose the caliber of athletes like that they're going to be tough to replace," Warriors coach Rod Reuer said. "But with hard work and staying healthy you never know.
"Track is a sport where someone can come in brand new to the program and, with a little training and determination, can turn out to be a good athlete for you. T.J. Struss came back out for the first time since seventh or eighth grade and was flat-out fast."
Struss is one of four senior state qualifiers back. He, Colby Ring and Alex Rahn are back from the seventh-place 4x100 relay. Thomas Ruttger returns from the runner-up 4x800 relay.
"The strength of our team maybe has changed from last year when we were a strong distance team," Reuer said. "Now our strength lies in our sprints. That's where most of our returning experience is back.
"T.J. definitely is one of the top sprinters in the conference and section in the 100 and 200. On (the 4x100) relay we have to find that fourth guy to be pretty competitive. That relay ran well last year. They put it together in the section meet and beat teams they hadn't beat all year and continued that through the state meet and set a school record at the state meet.
"Thomas will be one of the best 800 and 1600 runners, coming off his cross country experience the past two or three years, and last year's state meet in track. He definitely will be our top distance runner and will be one of the top distance runners in the conference and section."
Seniors Reuer is counting on immediately include Pat Mangan (distance), Gil Millette and Jacob Westphal (hurdles), Chris Swanson (sprints) and Scott Ramey and Jared Erickson (throwers).
Juniors in the mix early include Jimmy Dean (distance) and Sam Pagel (throws).
Sophomore Danny Lauer (sprints, high jump) and freshman Dakota Swenson (hurdles) are prospects who should score points.
Sixty-plus boys, about 10 fewer than last year, have been working out since March 9.
"There may a be few more after spring break," Reuer said. "Then it becomes a matter of having new kids stepping up and filling spots. We've got a lot of juniors. This is their time to step up and take varsity spots, like Caleb Goodew, James McLean, Steve Smith, Taylor Strange and Carsten Nelson. We've got some athletic kids in the program. Now's the time to step up and become that varsity competitor."
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at mike.bialka@brainerddispatch. com and at 855-5861.
Warrior boys' track and field
Head coach: Rod Reuer, 14th year (3 at Page, N.D., 1 at Napoleon, N.D., 10 at Brainerd)
2008 finish: Section 8-3A True Team champion, sixth in True Team state meet, CLC champion, second in Section 8-2A, sixth in state meet
Returning state meet participants: T.J. Struss, Colby Ring, Alex Rahn, Thomas Ruttger
Assistant coaches: Dave Herath, Chet Stevenson, Steve Kimble, Kris Smith, Carl Schirmer, Howie Jacobs, Deryl Ramey, Dan Clabo.
Co-ed track schedule
March 21: Invite at St. Cloud State 9:30 a.m.
March 28: Conference indoor at St. Cloud State 10 a.m.
April 9: Brainerd Time Trials 4 p.m.
April 17: at Moorhead Invite 2 p.m.
April 21: at Little Falls quadrangular 4 p.m.
April 24: at Hamline University Elite Invite, St. Paul, 6 p.m.
May 2: at Wayzata Relays 10 a.m.
May 7: Section 8-3A True Team at Sauk Rapids 3 p.m.
May 12: Brainerd quadrangular 4 p.m.
May 15: Class 3A state True Team at Stillwater 4 p.m.
May 21: Conference championship at Brainerd 2:30 p.m.
May 27: Section 8-2A prelims at Alexandria 3 p.m.
May 30: Section 8-2A finals at Sartell 11 a.m.
June 5-6: Class 2A state meet, Hamline University, St. Paul
Seniors: Taylor Comstock, Santiago Continenzo, Jared Erickson, Jeff Lauer, Pat Mangan, Gil Millette, Alex Rahn, Scott Ramey, Colby Ring, T. J. Struss, Tom Ruttger, Chris Swanson, Jacob Westphal
Juniors: Jimmy Dean, Jeff Emery, Kurt Fahlen, Caleb Goodew, Jordan Hoffman, Taylor Hradsky, Chris Knutson, Coyer Mackner, James McLean, Carsten Nelson, Sam Pagel, Lewis Paulson, Alek Rudstrom, Andrew Sabir, Mike Schmidt, Steve Smith, Cole Stegora, Taylor Strange, Aaron Thompson, Philip Yeh
Sophomores: Ben Connoy, James Cowell, Jeff Fiebelkorn, Kris Garin, Nate Gervanek, Jordan Hayes, Garrett Heath, Matt Huesmann, Jacob Jordan, Charles Kassulker, Mike Kassulker, Sam Lastovich, Dan Lauer, Joe Nelson, Nate Parsons, Adam Paulsen, Jeremy Smith, Zach Taylor, Josh Votruba, Jesse Zahn
Freshmen: Tyler Aldous, Jorgen Bjerkness, Zach Dehning, Jackson Dols, Jacob Goodew , Damon Grilz, Jacob Kassulker, Chris Lundgren, Riley Nelson, Dakota Swenson
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