Caleb Riordan | Ameritime Sports Writer
With the Spring sports season set to begin, the Festus Tigers Varsity Track team is ready to get back to work for the first time since the 2018-19 season.
Last season was taken away due to the flare-up of COVID-19. The Tigers have a loaded roster full of talent that they are ready to put on display. The expectations for this team are set high from the start.
“We always set out a goal of winning conference,” Head Coach Chris Partney said. “However, all of our athletes are aware that the conference meet is nice for bragging rights, but the real season is districts and beyond to State… As long as we are peaking at that time, we’ll take what comes our way.”
This team wants to see success in many areas, one of the biggest being the distance team. Ian Schram, Cullen Krieg, Jacob Meyers, Nathan Wolk, Ethan James and Anthony Pittman will most likely carry the load for the 4×8, 1600, 3200 and 800 races.
“Those six young men can do any of those events at a high level and will account for a large part of our production,” Partney said. “During the season and postseason.”
The distance crew is not the only difference-making talent this roster holds. Daylon Wagner, Cayse Martin, Arhmad Branch and Cayden Glaze will all look to make noise in the jumps category.
Aiden Grant is one of the top pole vaulters in the state according to Partney. He is also an accomplished javelin thrower and hurdler. Kaian Roberts-Day comes in as one of the team’s top hurdlers as well, but one of the challenges this team may face over the course of the season is a lack of depth.
“While Kaian is a great hurdler, we need to develop some depth there,” Partney said. “Some sprint depth would be nice as well. Staying healthy is the real key. As long as we stay healthy, our depth issues in some areas won’t be as problematic.”
The Tigers are going to experience a bit of a different schedule than they are used to due to COVID restrictions.
“The schedule has fewer meets and the meets we have are smaller, all due to COVID,” Partney said. “Therefore, the number of ‘great races’ to get our kids into are limited. We will see some very good schools and some very good athletes. Those races are key to get multiple qualifiers into districts like we would like to in some areas.”
While this team has high immediate expectations, they look to develop their young talent as best they can. There are some young Tigers that are going to come in and can potentially make an impact right away. Sophomore Reese Johnson has not competed since his eighth grade track season, but may be one of the fastest athletes the Tigers have to offer.
“He’ll be a 20 plus foot long jumper and one of our fastest athletes on the track from 100 to 400,” Partney said. “I think he’ll have more events he can excel in at conference.”
Sophomore Austin Johnson and Freshman Austin Schutte are in that young group as well. Johnson is next in a line of very good pole vault athletes at Festus and received high praise from Partney.
“Watch for him this year to come out of nowhere and do big things in high school,” Partney said.
He also mentioned that Schutte has a very bright future as a thrower and may even be throwing disc for the Tigers by conference.
The first track season in over a year is sure to provide some excitement. Look for this group of talented Tigers to make an impact and put their talent on display throughout the spring. We may even see a few of them make some noise in the postseason.