Back on track: Blue Jays ready to run
The Jamestown High School track and field team's season is slated to begin Saturday, March 20.
The last time the Blue Jays competed was at the 2019 Class A State Track and Field meet where they finished 10th.
The nearly two-year competition drought will soon be over.
"To be able to have hope to have track meets again is pretty exciting," co-head coach Mike Dietz said. "We have pretty decent numbers out. We have some good athletes -- there's just such a great unknown. That's going to be the great mystery and one of the things I am looking forward to is seeing how everybody competes."
The Blue Jays will officially kick off the season this Saturday with a home dual meet against Mandan. The meet will be held at the University of Jamestown's Foss and Larson Center. Parents and fans will not be permitted to be in attendance for the meet but the entire event will be livestreamed.
Dietz said not having had a season in nearly two years and losing the Class of 2020 seniors to graduation, has thrown a bit of a wrench into the first few weeks of practices but added that he and co-head coach Ken Gardner are starting to get a handle on who will be competing in what events this season.
"We're taking it a little easier on the kids at first just to see what they are good at and find what they want to do," Dietz said. "We'll try to get kids into some open events -- get some times, get some marks -- and figure out who can do what.
"Indoor helps give us a little bit better idea where kids are physically and the mental part will come through with being able to compete again."
But many of those on the team have never competed at the high school level.
Gardner said, especially after not having a season last year due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, the team will be running on little experience heading into the team's first season in nearly two years. Out of the nearly 60 boys competing, 27 are freshmen. Gardner said the Jays will need to find the balance between using the younger energy with the more seasoned athletes at upcoming meets.
"We've got three all-state cross country runners, Ben Anteau, Gavin Haut and Chandlar Rott, coming back to compete as seniors," Gardner said. "I think we're going to be relying heavily on that crew to be scoring some points.."
Anteau finished third at his final state cross country meet last October, while Haut, a University of St. Thomas cross country commit, finished sixth. Rott cracked into the top-20 for the Blue Jays.
Gardner's eye hasn't just been on his crop of all-staters.
"Other than that we've got a couple of juniors -- Devin Beach in the jumps and Thomas Allmer in the throws -- that are showing some good performances in practice. Hopefully, they take that leap and get to that next level," Gardner said.
Dietz is hoping his three all-state senior girls can take the Blue Jay girls team to the next level.
Meghan Ford became the third-ever female athlete to compile three-straight state cross country titles last fall. In track, Ford has qualified in the 800 meters, the 1,600 and the 3,200 every year since seventh-grade.
"This season I'm hoping to break a couple of state records in the 800-meter, 1600-meter, 3200-meter," Ford said. "I think I should be in good shape by May, but I want to kind of take each meet as it comes and have small goals for each race I run until I feel I'm in good shape."
Dietz said having Ford and junior Maddy Orr, at his disposal is going to be a great help when it comes to the distance events. Dietz said he is also excited about senior returner Kaelyn Nygaard in the hurdles and junior Annie Nabwe in the sprinting and field events.
"We had some who were going to try different events last year and weren't able to," Dietz said. "Really it's a great unknown with what we are going to do but ... I think that we can be right up there in the top three teams out of the West. Other girls are going to have to step up and perform really well."
Out of the WDA, Dietz said Bismarck Century is the team to beat as the Patriots have talent and tradition on their side. Dietz said that historically the WDA has proved tough team-wise so if the Jays do well in the WDA, the head coach expects his team will be able to pull out a top-five finish at state.
Fargo Davies is the powerhouse out east having strung together a three-year state title run.
"We're just hoping that we can continue to compete the entire season," Dietz said.