Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 19, 2018

Track season off and running

By Justin Webster | Mar 09, 2018
Photo by: JUSTIN WEBSTER/Ledger photo Trojan runners are seen working on their starting positions at the end of Track practice Thursday night at FHS.

Golf, soccer, and tennis have yet to begin, but Fairfield track and field is almost a month into practice and will compete in a 28 school indoor-meet at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon today.

The Ledger sat down with track Head Coach Brian Dunlap Thursday after practice to discuss their challenges, their outlook, and who to watch for this spring as the Trojans try to dethrone the mighty Mt. Pleasant program to take the SEC crown.


Q) Do you like being the first sport to start practices? Is it an advantage or do the kids need a break?

Brian Dunlap: Yeah, we grab our kids as soon as we can in February and the weather isn’t usually cooperating and we still have kids out for basketball or wrestling, finishing up winter sports, but some of the kids haven’t been doing a whole lot so getting in shape and getting our bodies strong and fit and healthy is important so those kids are ready to go.


Q) How are you feeling as you start to see the kids?

Dunlap: We’re young and we’ve got a long way to go, but it’s early and we’ll learn a lot tomorrow to tell you the truth. (Fairfield is competing in an indoor meet at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon) We’re just finally starting to get our full squad here. The weather hasn’t been real great so we’ve been in the halls and in the gym. I’m excited about our potential, we’ve got some good kids returning. We have some new young kids that are going to help us out, but really it’s hard to say how we look this early.


Q) You are a warm-weather sport in a cold state, what’s the biggest challenge, weather itself?

Dunlap: It has been. It’s a challenge competing in -- we’ve had several meets in the 30s over the last few years and that’s tough on kids when they’re competing and trying to be their best. That’s tough, but they’re used to it and some of them were out in the snow the other day and we just try to be mentally tough and if we can do it in practice, then on meet nights we feel that we should be able to handle it. But sometimes you have to back off and keep your kids healthy.


Q) From your perspective, where does Fairfield track and field sit in the SEC, the region, and even in the state?

Dunlap: Well, Mount P has won our league on the boys’ side several years in a row and probably seven or eight years out of the last nine and they have a lot of good kids returning. They also have a good cross-country program.


Q) Are you in that second-tier then?

Dunlap: That’s where we’ve been. A solid second or third year-in and year-out, but we always want to challenge them and that’s our goal again to shoot for Mt. Pleasant. The good thing is we’ll see them Friday and Washington, too, who is always good. Southeast Iowa has a lot of talent, West Burlington and several other schools from the southeast give us good competition and that makes us better. That’s what we want to do, keep getting better.


Q) Who are you looking to lead? A grade or maybe a specific group? Is it more by performance or example?

Dunlap: We’ve got so many different kids in the different disciplines. There’s our distance crew who will have Mark Diers as a big part of that.

Gannon Courtright joins us for the first time and we’ll be sharing him with tennis which may get a little tricky. We’ll see how that works out. Obviously, he was our best cross-country boy this fall, so it’s always good to add a kid like that in there and we’ve picked up another couple of kids in the distance area that are going to help us out.


Q) You talking about the tall kid with a big dad? (Landon Kooiker)

Dunlap: Especially in the hurdles. Kooiker’s going to be a nice addition in the hurdles as you can see already and he’s going to be able to do a lot of other things. Jumping and running and he even throws so he’ll be a nice addition that will help us a lot. Our sprints will be primarily led by seniors. Hunter Drish, Max Sullivan and we’ve got a nice group of juniors, too in Kaden Jones, Kosta Papazoglou, Ashton Lankford. So, our upperclassmen are going to be important to us. They’ve been around and they know the drill so we’ll rely on them heavily.


Q) Being a multi-sport athlete is big at Fairfield, but do you have a battle with some of the kids only participating in track because they are staying in shape for other sports?

Dunlap: Yeah, that’s a factor. Kids don’t want to come out for track if they’re not super fast. Let’s face it, some of them are gifted with speed and some good athletes just aren’t fast.

They don’t want to come out and run a sport where speed is the king and “I’m not gonna win any races,” and “I’m not gonna be conference champion,” and “I might not even be able to help the team out,” but usually we can make kids better athletes.

I’ve seen a lot of kids come in as freshman that maybe don’t have high expectations for themselves in the program, but if they stick it out, train hard for four years of track and field and do all of their other sports, they can be pretty valuable contributors to our track team.


Pella only wins because they pile on kids and stack up the numbers, so participation is key, right?

Dunlap: Right. Numbers are a great start and of course if those numbers are great athletes as well, then you can really start to put together a track team.

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