Creston head boys track coach Pat Schlapia hopes the phrase “quality over quantity” rings true for his team this year.
With just 18 athletes out this year, the roster is thin. But, four of those athletes return with state meet experience, including a pair of athletes who have placed at the state meet.
“What we may lack in numbers, we make up for with quality,” Schlapia said. “I think we can mix and match a lot of things. I think the events we’re going to be in, I think we can cause some major damage, competing for the top spot.”
The Panthers’ strength this year will lie in the middle distance and distance events.
Senior Brandon Phipps returns as a three-year state meet qualifier in the 3,200 meter run. As a sophomore, Phipps placed fourth in the 3,200 meters and seventh in the 1,600 meters.
Junior Jay Wolfe has placed in the 800 meters each of his first two years, finishing third as a freshman and sixth as a sophomore. He also anchored last year’s state-qualifying 4x400 and 4x800 relay teams.
Senior Maxx Walters and junior Bryce Briley also return with state meet experience for the Panthers.
“We expect a lot from our seniors we have coming back,” Schlapia said. “No matter what event they’re in or what ability they are. We’ve got a very talented group of juniors and sophomores. The state people we have coming back, some of them have been competing since freshman year at state.”
Adding to an already strong crop of middle distance and distance runners is sophomore Cooper McDermott, who made a big impact in his first season with Creston during cross country.
“He had a very successful cross country season this year with six individual titles,” Schlapia said. “I look at Cooper and Brandon, and it was nice to have one outstanding 3,200 meter runner, and now we have two outstanding 3,200 meter runners. Plus, those two make our 4x800 even stronger.”
It will leave Schlapia with a dilemma — does he run Phipps and McDermott in the 3,200 meter run or in the 4x800 relay. The two events are back-to-back in the meet schedule.
“That’s a nice problem to have,” he said. “We’ve got major quality in both those events.”
Making that problem a little easier to swallow is the fact he has some versatile athletes on the roster.
“There’s no limit to what some of these kids could do,” Schlapia said. “Maxx might go anywhere from a 100 to an 800 at times. These guys are going to be doing some different things.”
Schlapia said he expects a lot from senior Trevor Luther in the discus this year.
“He’s got some big goals he wants to accomplish in the discus,” Schlapia said. “He’s been looking real good in the discus so far.”
Senior Evan Nielsen, sophomore Seth Maitlen and freshman Cody Tanner provide depth in the throwing events.
Returning this year after being sidelined for much of last year is junior Alex Tamerius. After injuring his knee playing soccer last year as a dual-sport athlete, Tamerius is competing in just track this year and will specialize in the short sprints.
Maitlen, Nick Walsh and Chris Foster will all be expected to take a step up this year as sophomores.
“Seth is going to be doing a lot of throwing for us and doing some sprints,” Schlapia said. “Nick Walsh is looking real strong for us. He’s going to fill some spots for us. He may even do some 400 hurdles. Chris Foster did some high jumping for us last year and will fill that spot.”
Tanner, Brody Frain and Tyler Peters will likely fill some spots in the lineup as freshmen.
“We’re excited to see how things go,” Schlapia said. “These early season meets, it’s kind of a building block to the season. Each meet, each week we want to build up and grow with each one. Once we get to the end of April and the first part of May, that’s when we want to be peaking.”
The Panthers open the season Tuesday at Red Oak for the Hawkeye 10 Conference Southern Division Meet. Creston will host the postseason Hawkeye 10 Conference Meet on May 8.
In a coaching change this year, former co-coach Steve Birchard returns as assistant coach. Former assistant coach Mark Evans will now serve in a volunteer role with the jumpers and hurdlers.
(* — returning letterwinner)
Seniors — Brandon Phipps*, Trevor Luther*, Evan Nielsen*, Maxx Walters*, Alex Chapman.
Juniors — Alex Tamerius*, Elijah Johnson, Jay Wolfe*, Bryce Briley*.
Sophomores — Seth Maitlen*, Cooper McDermott, Chris Foster*, Travis Purdy, Nick Walsh*.
Freshmen — Cody Tanner, Brody Frain, Tyler Peters, Nathan Cox.
April 1 — at Hawkeye 10 Conference Southern Division Meet (Red Oak), 4:30 p.m.
April 4 — at Winterset, 4:30 p.m.
April 8 — at Glenwood, 5 p.m.
April 11 — at Clarinda, 4:30 p.m.
April 15 — at Chariton, 5 p.m.
April 17 — Panther Relays, 5 p.m.
April 22 — at Ballard, 5 p.m.
April 24-26 — at Drake Relays
April 29 — at Carlisle, 4:45 p.m.
May 2 — at Red Oak, 5 p.m.
May 8 — Hawkeye 10 Conference Meet (Creston), 4:30 p.m.
May 15 — at State Qualifying Meet (TBD), 4 p.m.
May 22-24 — at Coed State Track Meet