Following a few fatal injuries and near-misses, pole vaulters will be required by the Minnesota State High School League to wear helmets this spring.
Brainerd Warriors boys' track and field coach Rod Reuer said it has been recommended the last few years that vaulters wear helmets and he endorses the regulation.
"We were seriously contemplating having kids wear them anyway this year," Reuer said. "With the accident at the university (of Minnesota), all of a sudden it has made it much easier to enforce."
Reuer said a few vaulters wore helmets at the season-opening Huskie Classic at St. Cloud State University and didn't appear to have a problem.
Boys' track and field
Head coach -- Rod Reuer, seventh year (3 at Page, N.D., 1 at Napoleon, N.D., 3 at Brainerd)
2001 finish -- Second in CLC, third in North Subsection 8, Class 2A, fourth in Section 8, Class 2A
Returning state meet participant -- Justin Grunewald (3200 run)
Assistant coaches -- Howie Jacobs (hurdles), Chet Stevenson (boys' shot put, boys' discus), Dan Clabo (girls' shot put, girls' discus), Dave Herath (boys' distance), Alison Ohe (girls' sprints, relays), Kandi Brick (jumps), Carl Schirmer (girls' distance).
(Meets 4 p.m. unless noted.)
16-at Alexandria triangular
27-at Moorhead Inv.
30-at St. Cloud Apollo Inv.
4-at Hamline Relays 9:30 a.m.
7-TRUE TEAM SECTION 3 p.m.
14-CLC at Little Falls 1:30 p.m.
17-State True Team, Blaine
23-North Subsection at Alexandria, 3 p.m.
1-SECTION 10 a.m.
"They're lightweight, almost like a skateboard helmet," Reuer said. "It's a matter of putting it on the head and keeping it there. I've seen state championship vaulters wear them. If they can wear them, and it doesn't affect them, I don't see a problem with it.
"I don't know if a helmet would have prevented the tragedy (at the university). Helmets do prevent things that can happen, like banging the crossbar on your head, falling off the pit or getting hit by the standard."
Sophomore Justin Grunewald is the Warriors' lone returning state entrant. He was runner-up in the section 3200-meter run and went on to finish 16th at state.
Last fall, Grunewald placed 32nd at the state cross country meet.
"It was a great learning experience," Reuer said of the state track meet. "It motivated him to come back and improve on his effort. It had a great effect on him this fall in cross country.
"Coming into track, after two state experiences, he's fired up. He has high goals in sight. He's worked hard to attain what he's reaching for. Qualifying for state has made him that much more hungry to get back and do better."
The Warriors will open the season without 3-time state participant Mike Weiss, who has decided to play baseball. Weiss was on the third-place 4x200 state relay as a freshman, on the fourth-place 4x400 state relay as a sophomore and last year was ninth in the state discus and 11th in the state shot put."
"Mike played baseball as a youngster," Reuer said. "He wants to give it a try. That's his choice. I support him either way."
The Warriors' experience and power is in distance events, led by Grunewald and several teammates who run cross country.
Others that Reuer expects to lead this spring are junior Zach Toms in the 400 and 800 dashes; junior Jason Roberts in long jump and relays; senior Devin O'Reilly in short sprints and relays; senior Jorgen Hartje in pole vault and triple jump; junior Luke Furda in pole vault and relays; junior Dustin Olejnicak in triple jump; senior Darren Clabo in shot put and discus; and seniors Brady Rutman and Louis Bedard in distance races.
"We will be missing Mark Bublitz, Cory Olson and Matt DesMarais after the indoor season as they will be heading to Germany as exchange students this spring," Reuer said, "but they are juniors and will be back next year."
Only about a dozen of the more than 70 boys on the roster possess varsity experience.
"With this type of team makeup we will have considerable learning to do and have to be patient in the early part of the season," Reuer said. "We have been pleased with the attitude and work ethic of the kids so far. They are willing to work hard and willing to learn the techniques involved in trying to learn new events.
"Track and field is much more than just running fast or long distance. There are eight jumping, throwing, hurdle and relay events that take considerable time and patience to learn proper technique in order to compete at the varsity level. With the inexperience of athletes coming in, it will take time to see how we develop.
"As in each year, I tell the kids that our track team is like a giant jigsaw puzzle. By the conference outdoor meet we want to have our puzzle in place, then take it as far as we can. That's the challenge we face each year. The fun part is seeing how kids develop over the course of the season and hopefully reach their potential."
Additional returning letterwinners
Seniors -- Jayme Burnard, Jose English, David Helmer, Andrew Henke, Ron LaMere, Brent Levig, Brian Losos, Dustin Matson, Josh Schirmer, Dan Thomas.
Juniors -- Josh Anderson, Cass Casper, Bruce Coonfield, Nick Dahlman, Jake Jorgenson, Steve McMullen, Brandon Town.
Sophomores -- Mike Elder, Seth Gogolin, Justin Grunewald, Ryan Heilman, Nate Lucas, Derek Matson, Aaron Morton, Jeff Sands, Jacob Smith, Justin Tautges.
Additional varsity candidates
Seniors -- Ken Courts, Drew Friebohle, Eric Hill, Andy Stanwood.
Juniors -- Scott Antolak, Bryce Cloutier, Darin Eller, Jon Forstner, Pat Freeman, Alex Hondl, Anton Johnson, Pat Kiffmeyer, Wes Schiller, Mike Walters.
Sophomores -- Neil Doucette, Brandon Freihammer, Sam Gervais, Wes Hendrickson, Alex Impola, Scott Lykins, John Nelson, Justin Ward, Tom Zelinske.
Freshmen -- Brandon Brown, Sam Cohoes, Jackson Hess, Nick Lesmeister, David Murray, Geoff Roberts, Travis Rose, Jon Serra, Aaron Thelen, Chris Woodard.
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