More than 80 Rush City student-athletes in grades 7-12 will don the Tiger colors on the track circuit this year.
“We’re very strong in numbers; 80-plus kids is great for a small school,” head coach Mike Vaughan said.
The strength in numbers allows the Tigers to field competitive athletes in every event. Both the boys and the girls teams have both finished at or near the top of the heap in several scored meets so far.
The Tigers graduated their only state meet qualifier, Demario Peterkin, who represented Rush City in the 100, 200 and 400 a year ago, but several returners were very close to qualifying, and could very well move into the state-berth spots this time around.
Junior Riley Sykes finished third at the Section 5A championship in the shot put, one spot away from advancing. One of the two athletes ahead of him has graduated.
“(Sykes) went to some camps over the summer, and he’s bigger and stronger than he was last year,” Vaughan said. “He’s got his eyes on state, but also the school record.”
Sophomore Kaylyn Bowen finished fourth in the 400, and third in the 4×800 along with sophomores Jamie Guptill and Elena Herberg, and junior Sydney Fulcher. Bowen, Guptill and Herberg did advance to state on a 4×800 team in 2015.
Outside of the relays, Herberg has specialized in the 1600 early on, and Guptill has demonstrated a range of talents that includes the shot put, high jump and triple jump in addition to middle distance races on the track.
Senior Dylan Groshens qualified for the section meet in the 110 and 300 hurdles races, and has picked up early wins at both distances this spring. He is also strong in the horizontal jumps.
“We’ve really started to make a tradition out of track at Rush City High School,” Vaughan said. “The kids enjoy the sport and there’s a lot of camaraderie.”
Other seniors to watch include middle distance runners Brooke Nekowitsch and Lydia Moe, sprinter Sami Smith and throwers Jessica Zmuda, Samantha Ciesinski and Abbegale Sandstrom. Hurdler Noah Griser and sprinter-throwers Zane Draper and Braiden Hora are the other seniors on the boys team.
Vaughan notes that the 2017 team is one of the youngest he’s had recently, with freshmen and junior-high athletes making up a large bulk of the roster.
Pine City is the favorite to win the boys and girls titles in the Great River Conference.
Key dates for the team include the home invitational, Tigerama, May 2, the True Team section meet at Pierz May 9, and the subsection championship at Milaca May 23, through which Tiger athletes can qualify for sectionals ay St. John’s May 31.
Besides Vaughan, the Tiger coaching staff is multi-talented and includes Erika Matzke Stoltz (jumps), Mark Bingham (throws), Kirsten Bjork (sprints), Deb Meissner (distance), Christine Keegan (distance), Gage Keegan (pole vault) and Dave Voller (hurdles).