Creston head boys track coach Pat Schlapia wants his team to pick up every nickel and dime it can find.
And if the Panther save up enough, those nickels and dimes will turn into quarters and dollars.
That approach paid off for the penny-pinching Panthers last year, as the team’s fourth, fifth and sixth-place finishes in individual and relay events at the Hawkeye 10 Conference Meet in Red Oak last year added up, propelling Creston to a second-place finish behind Glenwood, marking the team’s best finish in Schlapia’s tenure as coach.
“We’ve been stressing we have the people who can challenge for those first place medals, but we also want the ones challenging for those fifth and sixth places,” Schlapia said. “We talk about those nickels and dimes turn into quarters and dollars. All those points, all those placewinners will be very important for us.”
Creston opens the season Friday at Winterset, after the Hawkeye 10 Conference Southern Division meet at Clarinda today was cancelled because of weather.
The Panthers return 15 athletes from last year, 12 of whom earned varsity letters. Within that group of returners is the potential to pick up a few quarters and dollars along the way throughout the season.
Seniors Briar Evans and Travis Miller, junior Brandon Phipps and sophomores Bryce Briley and Jay Wolfe all return with state meet experience.
Evans qualified in the high jump last season, but has also competed in the shuttle hurdle relay at state in the past. Miller was a part of last season’s 4x800 relay team that qualified for the state meet along with Wolfe and Briley.
Phipps finished fifth in the 3,200 meters and seventh in the 1,600 meters at state last year, while Wolfe jumped onto the scene with a third-place finish in the 800 meter run as a freshman.
Schlapia said he expects his team to get a good start scoring-wise in meets, with some of the Panthers’ best events coming in the first few events.
“Once we get to the running events, the 3,200, the 4x800 and shuttle hurdle are the first running events,” he said. “I think we’re going to be getting off to a real good start in the running events. We’re going to have some major points to build on.”
The Panthers will need to replace some of the scoring they earned in the field events last year, as Collin Bevins and Ben Landers both leave voids in the field events.
Evans returns as a scoring threat in the high jump.
Schlapia said he hopes athletes like Theo Hartman and Trevor Luther can step up this year to replace some of those points.
“We really hope for them to step up even more this year, because those field events kind of set the table for us,” he said. “Long jump right now is just kind of a smorgasbord for us. We’re trying out different guys.”
With Luke Neitzel, Evans, JD Routh, Maxx Walters and Alex Tamerius, Schlapia said he expects the sprint group to have a successful year of scoring points.
Including a freshman class of five athletes, there are 10 total newcomers on this year’s Panthers squad.
Senior Jacob Johnston, juniors Kruz Adamson, Nathan Haley and Zack Peppmeier and sophomore Brant Hudson are all out for the first time.
Those upperclassmen newcomers give the Panthers added depth.
“We’ve got some boys out for the first time that will be able to fill a position,” Schlapia said. “Kruz, Zack and Brant are out for the first time. I think those guys have the potential of filling in some distance events for us.”
Schlapia said Johnston figures to play an important role in the hurdles and sprints, while Haley will likely fill another role in the shot put.
He expects the freshman group to help give depth in the field events and sprints.
Schlapia said Glenwood looks to be the favorite yet again after winning the 2012 Hawkeye 10 Conference championship, while Harlan will likely also be at the top.
But just like last year, Schlapia sees no reason his team can’t contend at the top again.
And if the Panthers save up those nickels and dimes, they’ll look to cash in again at the conference, state qualifying and state meets.
(* — returning letterwinner)
Seniors — Briar Evans*, Theo Hartman*, Jacob Johnston, Dalton Kromminga, Travis Miller*, Luke Neitzel*, JD Routh*, Tyler Mood* (manager).
Juniors — Kruz Adamson, Nathan Haley, Trevor Luther*, Evan Nielsen, Zack Peppmeier, Brandon Phipps*, Maxx Walters*.
Sophomores — Bryce Briley*, Brant Hudson, Elijah Johnson, Alex Tamerius*, Jay Wolfe*.
Freshmen — Chris Foster, Kole Lovely, Seth Maitlen, Travis Purdy, Nick Walsh.
Coaches — Pat Schlapia (head coach), Mark Evans (assistant coach), Mark Eblen (volunteer assistant).
March 29 — at Winterset
April 2 — at Glenwood
April 5 — at Clarinda
April 9 — at Chariton
April 12 — Panther Relays
April 16 — at Ballard
April 23 — at Carlisle
April 25-27 — at Drake Relays
May 2 — at Red Oak
May 6 — at Hawkeye 10 Conference Meet (Shenandoah)
May 9 — at State Qualifying Meet (TBD)
May 16-18 — at State Coed Track and Field Meet (Des Moines)