Young Wave track stars look to strike big
Just because they’re young, doesn’t mean they won’t make an impact this season.
Despite graduating a large senior class, the Greenwave boys track and field team will be relying more on their younger talent to pave the path toward success in 2016.
“We are extremely young this year; however, I am very impressed with our young talent,” Fallon coach Steve Heck said. “The freshman class last year was very talented and really bought into the program. They have come back as sophomores this year very motivated and improved.”
While Heck doesn’t have a lot of returning upperclassmen, a few standouts will be counted on to lead the team. Twenty-one of the team’s 39 athletes are underclassmen, but senior Tristen Thomson and junior T.J. Mauga return to help guide the Greenwave.
Heck said Thomson, who is the only state individual qualifier returning this year, has stepped up with the leadership role. Thomson will be running the 800-meter and 1600-meter runs as well as participate in the relays.
“He has been training hard in the off season and looks extremely strong right now,” Heck said of Thomson, who’s getting looks from NCAA Division II schools. “We expect Tristen to be one of the top athletes in the state in the 800 and 1600.”
Mauga returns with experience in the discus and shotput, and will be looking into improve from last year. Heck looks forward to him battling with Dayton’s Zack Hawley, one of the state’s best.
“TJ put up marks in the discus last year,” Heck said. “He is also much improved in the shot and should have a great chance to qualify in both events for state.”
The senior Cordes brothers, Sean and Taylen, seniors Michael Anderson, Davis Koenig and Dustin Hopkins, and junior Trevor Davis return this year. Sean Cordes and Davis ran the state-qualifying 4×800 relay team while Anderson started to hit his stride last year in the long distance events. Koenig and Hopkins will lead the jumping events while Cordes will also compete in the throwing events.
“We are young, so initially, we will be focusing on assessing our talent and finding where they can have success in our league,” Heck said. “As the season goes on, we will be looking to bring everyone along to a level where they can compete at the region meet and hopefully qualify for state. Qualifying as many kids as possible for state is always our goal.”
Heck said that several members of the team have shown improvement from last season already. John Kirkland and Nathaniel Klein are showing promise in the jumps. Jordan Booth will be strong in the hurdles and pole vault, while Broder Thurston ended 2015 on a high note in the 400.
Juniors Billy Coleman (throws) and Justin Marlin (throws), and sophomores Trevor Brown (hurdles), Drake Copley (sprints), Clayton Steelmon (sprints), JR Demillo (mid-distance), Dawson Frost (distance) return with experience, as well.
“To be competitive, it is going to come down to our upperclassmen taking on the leadership role, Heck said. “We have a great core of upperclassmen with a lot of talent. They need to help the younger athletes and show them what our program is all about. If the younger kids will buy into the program, we should be successful.”
In addition to a freshman class that includes 10, Heck said several new upperclassmen joined track this season. Senior Mario Ugalde will run the distance events, junior Conner Nelson will compete in sprints and jumps, junior Cade Vercelloti will run sprints and hurdles, along with high jump, and junior Jacob Borgess returns after missing last season. Borgess will compete in the sprints and pole vault.
“We lost a tremendous group of seniors last year. They will be a hard group to replace,” Heck said. “We do not have a lot of returning upperclassmen, but the ones we have are very talented and are good leaders. I am also pleased so far with some new talent coming in. We have a good looking group of incoming freshman and we have also picked up some impressive new upperclassmen. I think the team realizes they have some big shoes to fill, but that just leaves them a lot of opportunity to make a big impact on the team. I am very optimistic about the potential this team has.”
As for the season outlook, Fallon hosts three events, including a league meet on Saturday at the Ed Arciniega Athletic Complex. The annual Elks Invitational is March 26 and the Conclave of Awareness is next month.
For Fallon to be a force in the north this season, Heck said Elko remains the team to beat. The rest of the division looks strong, too. Dayton, like Fallon, lost a strong group of seniors while Spring Creek has been on the rise lately.
“They are the defending region champs and have tons of talent and a lot of depth,” Heck said of Elko. “They are well coached and always have a strong program.
“You never know from year to year who is going to get an influx of talent so it is always fun to see how things develop over the first few meets.”
The ultimate goal, though, is to not only capture the regional crown, but also win state, which Fallon has done twice since 2011. But with the realignment in the south allowing larger schools in the division, Fallon will need qualify as many as possible, foremost, and score big points.
“There are some strong programs up here in the north and we will be competing with schools more than twice our size down south,” Heck said. “We will need to get big points from our stars at the state meet, but getting as many kids as possible qualified for state is key to scoring well as a team.”