The fast track to success
Kaw Valley crowns a realistic possibility for DeSoto track teams
Editor's Note: This is the first of a three-part series that will preview the spring sports season at DeSoto High. Next week: girls softball.
Fresh off a Kaw Valley League championship, the first in school history, the DeSoto High girls track team has its sight set on a repeat performance, while the boys have a legitimate shot at competing for a league title.
The outlook is positive, according to first-year coach Matt Bohem.
There's talent, depth and plenty of potential, he said.
Bohem is in his first year as the head track coach, but he is no rookie to the sport. He's in his third year at DeSoto. Prior to that, he spent five years coaching track at Emporia High. In other words, he is a pretty good evaluator of talent.
"I'm real excited about this season," Bohem said. "There is a lot of potential in the athletes. If we work hard all season we'll have a great season."
Last year the DeSoto girls team dominated the league meet, scoring 150 points, 70 more than second-place Tonganoxie.
Erica Francis is a senior from whom Bohem is expecting big things. Last season Francis was the league champ in the discus, and should be considered the preseason favorite this year. She also throws the javelin.
Michelle Roellchen is the school-record holder in the pole vault. The senior is anxious to compete this year, the first season there will be a state-level pole vault competition for girls.
"In comparison, this group might not have the few outstanding athletes, but as a team will do well," said Bohem. "In past years we've had a few good athletes, but the team as a whole was not very strong. This year we have both the athletes and the team depth."
Bohem, in his first season as the head track coach, knows talent carries high expectations for lower classmen like sophomore Kira Moore. The high-stepping hurdler qualified for state last year as a freshman.
Mindy DeGroot is another second-year sensation for the Wildcats. DeGroot holds the girls school high jump record by clearing five feet.
Sophomore sprinter Ashley Carlson and junior Andrea Crall provide daily one-on-one competition for each other at practice, which will make each better when the real competition begins.
Junior Angie Matlock could compete for points in the distance events.
The boys placed third last season, but higher participation this year gives them a chance of competing for a league title, Bohem said.
"We have more boys out for track than last year," Bohem said. "We have more quality athletes than last year. Overall, we have twice as many kids this year as last."
One of those athletes is returning letter-winner Josh Goodin. The senior strong man throws shot and discus, and qualified for state in the shot last year. This year he will be looking to place in Wichita.
Senior Josh Haub, who competed last month at the state wrestling meet, hopes to run away from the competition in the 100- and 200-meter races. The sprinter will also be relied on to help to anchor the 4x100-relay team.
Griffen Lee is another sophomore who qualified for state as a freshman. The long-distance runner is the favorite to lead the team in the 1,600-meter race.
Last fall Lee broke his leg playing soccer. He is still in therapy but should be ready for the start of the season.
"The workouts we've been doing have been really tough, and so far the kids have gone out there and got the job done," Bohem said.
Chris Wiker, a senior hurdler, will be counted on to continue his steady performances of past seasons.
In all, 79 athletes are out for the teams this year. These numbers should be an indicator of the rejuvenated spirit existing in the program.
Tonganoxie should provide the Wildcats' stiffest competition for the girls. Perry-LeCompton, last year's champion and Tonganoxie will give the boys a run. The first meet is the Blue Valley Northwest Invitational on March 31.
Two big meets will test the mettle of the track teams: the Shawnee Mission North Relays and the K.T. Woodman meet in Wichita.
The Shawnee Mission North Relays is one of the premier track meets in the state. The teams will not be separated into classes and everybody will compete on an open field. The K.T. Woodman meet will allow the Wildcats to compete with fellow Class 5A competition.
"Those two meets give the kids an opportunity to step up the level of competition," Bohem said. "At these meets the competition across the board is so high it pushes the kids beyond what they think they can do."