Running and throwing with a target on your back presents numerous obstacles.
Those obstacles, however, come in the form of the Northern Division I-A track teams aiming to knock Fallon off its pedestal. The Greenwave are the two-time defending regional and state champions and have their sights set on No. 3.
The boys and girls, though, both compete today and Saturday at the Northern DI-A regional meet in Yerington. Today’s action kicks off at 2 p.m. and Saturday’s meet starts at 9 a.m.
“If you look at our last two weeks, eveybody’s times are dropping now,” Fallon head coach Steve Heck said. “We feel like we are peaking at the right time.”
Since last summer’s realignment cut the northern state qualifers to the top four, Fallon cannot take any event for granted. The flip side, though, is each team is allowed to enter four individuals per event, which gives a deep Fallon team more opportunities.
“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” Fallon sprinter and jumper Tyson Ernst said. “It’s good, but it’s bad.”
In addition, the Wave sport many of the region’s top performers in numerous events.
The boys hold three of the top four times in the 200-meters (Trent Tarner, Ernst and Cameron Kissick) and 300 hurdles (Nick Marsan, Nathan Heck and Cameron Matzen), two of the top five in the 100 (Tarner and Ernst) and 110 hurdles (Marsan and Heck) and the top two teams in the 4x100 and 4x200 relays. In addition, the 4x800 relay is second and the 4x400 is third.
“I’m finally getting back to where I need to be,” Ernst said. “I’m feeling confident about regionals. We know what it’s like to win and we want it again.”
The jumps, a long-standing tradition, are another strongpoint for the Wave. The top three spots in the triple jump are owned by Fallon (Beau Marshall, Ernst and Jake Ernst), while three of the top six long jumpers (Tyson Ernst, Marshhall and Marsan) don the green and white.
“I feel great and I’m in the best shape of my life,” Marsan added. “We all want it. We’ve put in the work … it’s the hardest we’ve worked since we’ve been here. So we’re ready to go out and dominate.”
The mid-distance and distance events are anchored by Nathan Schank (No. 2 in the 800) and Tanner Boone (No. 2 in the 3,200 and No. 6 in the 1,600).
Fallon also carries the No. 2 pole vaulter (Heck), the third-best shot putter (Justin Hatfield) and two high jumpers in the mix (Tristen Thomson and Thomas Diaz).
Of course, at this point the statistics are academic and the athletes must perform in hopes of giving themselves a chance to capture a third straight title.
“We are really excited where we are at performance-wise,” Steve Heck said. “We’re not looking at the regional meet, we’re looking at the state meet. We’ve got to qualify a ton bodies. We got to have people qualify who are on the outer edge.”
A bonus for the jumpers, Steve Heck said, is a number of the top jumpers from rival schools will not compete at regionals, which gives Fallon a better chance of sending anywhere from three to eight to state.
“Asking for four kids to qualify is a dream, but it probably won’t happen,” he added. “Even getting three is huge point-wise.”
The Lady Wave, meanwhile, have a bigger hill to climb and are aiming to qualify as many to state as possible.
“I always have high expectations,” girls coach Paul Orong. “We have a great chance of qualifying a lot of kids. We have a lot on the bubble. We have to get over that hump.”
Elena Murray, an all-around force, leads the way. She is ranked No. 1 in the long jump, triple jump and 100 hurdles. In addition, she sits No. 4 in the 200 and No. 6 in the 300 hurdles.
Orong said Murray will compete in the long and triple jumps, the 100 hurdles and the 200. The 200 is Murray’s newest event, which she has only run twice this season.
“The thing with her is experience (in the 200),” Orong said. “We are just trying to get her through.”
Like the boys, the Lady Wave own the triple jump. Three of the top five distances this season belong to Fallon led by Murray and followed by Julianne Hale (No. 2) and Abigail Belblin (No. 5).
Two Fallon long jumpers (Belbin and Hale) litter the bottom five of the event. Hale, meanwhile, is No. 4 in the high jump.
“We’re trying to take all four of jumpers, especially in the triple jump,” Orong said. “In the North, we have eight of the top 10. The good part is some of the kids on the bubble have PR’d (personal record) in the last couple meets.”
Maddie Alegre, though, anchors the pole vaulters with the second-best height of the season, while Kelsey Reibsamen sits in fourth and Sam Heck is seventh.
Fallon’s throwing duo of Emily Coleman (shot put) and Savannah Lamb (discus) each are sixth in their respective events.
Coleman is 1 foot behind the fourth-ranked thrower, while Lamb sits only 2 feet behind the fourth slot. But it only takes one throw, and Orong is confident his throwers can rise to the challenge.
“It’s very reachable,” Orong said. “We always say, ‘You got to do it that day.’”