Fairfield boys’ track team bolstered by newcomers
With 16 seniors and more bodies overall than in recent years, the Fairfield boys’ track and field team is in position to make significant strides this spring.
The Trojans are 41 members strong — up from 33 at the beginning of last season — and return six previous state qualifiers to the 2013 team.
“We’re going to have some seniors leaders, and I have a nice group of kids to work with. The numbers are up, and they seem to be working hard,” said Fairfield head coach Brian Dunlap, who is in his 15th year as head coach.
The Trojans lost their only state place winner in Corbin Harwood, who claimed fifth place in the Class 3A 110-highs, but no matter. Dunlap expects the hurdlers, led by senior Jonny Swanson, to once again be the team’s breadwinner this spring.
Swanson returns to the 110-highs after finishing 22nd in the event at the state meet last season, and he’ll lead an experienced group in the shuttle hurdle relay.
“We’ve had a nice run of hurdlers. Even with Harwood gone, I think Swanson will be in his league this year,” noted Dunlap. “Every year we seem to have a steady hurdler, and the two other guys from the shuttle hurdle crew will be much improved.”
Those two include sophomore Nick Jackson and junior Austin Francisco. Together, the four qualified for the state meet, where they finished 20th with a time of 1:02.51 last May.
Dunlap said he’s looking at several runners to replace Harwood on the shuttle hurdle relay.
“We’ll have to find the fourth member of the shuttle hurdle, but we have some candidates in [Daniel] Schwarz and some freshmen who will challenge for that spot as well,” he added.
The Trojans also return several sprinters from last season’s squad, including seniors Justin Hammes and Dillon Fry, who was a state qualifier last year on the distance medley relay. Hammes will stick primarily to the 100- and 200-meter dashes to help fill the void left by state-qualifying graduates Zach Vivier, and Max and Braz Johnson. Fry will still run 400s, with the occasional 200 sprinkled in.
A third senior, Mason Carnahan, is back after playing soccer exclusively last spring, and he’ll be joined in the sprints alongside junior transfer Jonathan Hoehne. Junior Kooper Dahlstrom, the team’s long jumper, may also provide depth in the sprints in addition to his jumping duties.
Sophomores Alex Christensen and Narenda Martin and freshman Jordan Reid are expected to contribute in everything from the 100- to 400-meter races, as well. Another top underclassmen, sophomore Dakota Nye, made the district finals in the 100-meter dash last season but is out indefinitely following shoulder surgery.
“We’ll be using a lot of sophomores and freshmen,” said Dunlap.
The distance crew is once again small in size, but what it lacks in numbers the runners make up for in talent and work ethic, starting with senior Alex Love.
Love was the anchor leg of the state-qualifying distance medley relay one season ago, and he also often put up the fastest time on the Trojans’ 4x800.
“He had a respectable year running the 800 [last year], and I think his best is yet to come,” Dunlap said. “He always kind of comes on late in the year, and I hope to see those kind of times earlier. I think he has the potential to be a sub-2 minute half-miler.”
Junior Riley Hammel, another fixture on last season’s 4x800, returns to provide a boost at the middle distances, and freshman Zach Martin has already staked his claim to the 800 with a stellar opening time at the Demon Indoor in Iowa City.
Dunlap also said he sees great potential in returning sophomore Zane Richmond, who will spread his time between the 800 and 1600 this spring. Richmond made significant strides in the mile last season before peaking at the district meet with a time of 5:09.
And although defections have been a concern for the distance crew this year, Dunlap remains optimistic thanks to the addition of a few new faces: seniors Aaron Gevock and Brandon Taglauer. Gevock hasn’t ran for Fairfield since going out his freshman season, while Taglauer is brand new to the sport but has made a name for himself on the cross country courses in the fall.
“I see Taglauer as our miler and 2-miler, and Gevock will be more a half-miler and miler,” said Dunlap. “It’ll be nice because last year we threw a lot of points away in those races. We left the races relatively empty.”
But the biggest addition this season won’t be on the track at all.
Schwarz, the current school record holder in the high jump at 6-feet, 5-inches, takes over his familiar spot in the field after sitting out last season due to disciplinary reasons.
Despite the missed year, Dunlap expects Schwarz to put up the same jumps that earned him a seventh-place medal at the state meet as a sophomore.
“I’m sure he’s capable of those kind of things as a senior,” said Dunlap. “It’s great to get the school record holder back.”
The throws remain the same as seniors Jake Mineart and Gabe Jaquez return with experience in both the shot put and discus.
The Trojans kick off the outdoor season March 21 at the Washington Relays in Washington. Until then, Dunlap will attempt to figure out where all the team’s pieces fit.
“With all the new additions who weren’t out for track last year, there are still a lot of unknowns. We’ll find out a lot about where we stand over the next few weeks,” he said.