It’s what stood between the Fallon boys track team and a third consecutive state title last season.
This year, however, the Greenwave are poised to reclaim their position atop the podium at May’s Division I-A state meet in Carson City.
But first, the rookies must get their feet wet and the veterans back in form. The season starts at 9 a.m. Saturday with a home meet at the Edward Arciniega Complex against Dayton and Fernley.
“We were a little disappointed last year because we thought we could have pulled it off,” Fallon coach Steve Heck said. “We figure we have another good chance at it (this year).”
Standing in Fallon’s way, though, is perennial power Elko along with the up-and-coming tandem of Fernley and Dayton.
“Year-to-year it’s tough to tell,” Heck said. “Elko always puts together a strong program. Dayton was really young last year and with what they’re bringing back should be pretty good. Fernley has a pretty strong team.”
Although Elko, Fernley and Dayton figure to give Fallon a run, the Greenwave has been the class of the North the past three season.
Leading the way this year is Nathan Heck, who broke out last season with a second-place finish in the pole vault (13 feet, 6 inches) at the state meet, and had a pair of seventh-place finishes in the 110- (16.43 seconds) and 300-meter (43.32) hurdles.
He returns as one of the state’s top vaulters in any division, and his offseason work has increased his height and also put him in position as one of the state favorites.
“The vault in our division is probably the best in the state right now,” Steve Heck said. “Looking at what’s coming back, he’ll (Nathan Heck) ranked right at the top. If Jordan continues to progress … he should be in the mix.”
In addition to Heck, Jordan Schultz returns to the pole vault pit after suffering a gruesome ankle injury last season. Schultz’s return gives Fallon a pair of vaulters contending for a state bid.
Although Heck and Schultz excel with pole vaulting, they also give Steve Heck options on the track. Heck is the top returning hurdler, while Schultz will run hurdles, sprints and relays.
As for the sprints, Trent Tarner and Cameron Kissick lead the way for a deep crop of runners. Tarner took fifth in the 200 (23.03) last season and sixth in the 100 (11.74).
Joining Tarner and Kissick are Jake Ernst, who also placed seventh in the triple jump, Schultz, Cole Service and Dakota Schelling. The depth also allows Steve Heck to mix-and-match with the 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams.
“The sprints have been one of our strong points the past couple years, and we expect it to be again this year,” Steve Heck said. “We got a lot of young kids coming up. Trent Tarner will be one of the top sprinters in the I-A this year.”
In years past, Fallon’s distance runners struggled to maintain the pace with the competition from Elko, Truckee and South Tahoe.
This season, though, the Wave bring in several runners who led the cross country team to its first state appearance in more than 40 years.
Nathan Schank is a staple in the distance races, finishing fifth in the 800 and is also expected to contend in the 1,600. Joining him, though, are Tristen Thomson, Josh Moulton and Sean and Talen Cordes to name a few, who are also preparing to compete in the 3,200.
Despite the depth of the distance runners, their coach, Mitch Overlie, was not allowed to coach this season leaving Steve Heck to organize the sprints, hurdles and distance workouts.
“Our biggest weakness in the distance is I don’t have a coach right now,” Steve Heck said. “I think they showed in the cross country season that they are capable.”
As for the other field events, Fallon returns a quartet of high jumpers including Mike Nash, Tomas Diaz, Thomson and Charles Fulks.
The long and triple jumps, meanwhile, are the pride of the Fallon track program. Beau Marshall, who qualified for state last year, returns along with Ernst, Evan Bitter, Hunter Woller and Caleb Orong.
Schelling, Justin Hatfield and Carson Rigby lead the way in the shot put and discus.
“I think we are hungrier than last year,” Steve Heck said. “I think we were a little complacent last year, and I don’t think that’ll happen again. We really won’t know until we see the (Las) Vegas schools.”