The Ottumwa track and field teams start their seasons today when they compete in the indoor Pekin Invitational at Central College in Pella.
The girls team will return all its state qualifiers from last season. They include Sydney Strunk, Kelsey Guyette, Chloe Davis, Charlette Flanders, Ashlyn Thompson and Katy Fish.
Strunk was the sole Bulldog girl to compete in an individual race last year, as she competed in the 400 meter dash. In addition, Strunk, Flanders, Thompson and Fish competed in the 4x400 Meter relay at state and King, Davis, Wolver and Guyette competed in the Class 4A Shuttle Hurdle Relay.
Some of Ottumwa’s main distance runners this season include Sarah Keith, Sydney Cloyd, Claire Carlson and Jessie Lott.
“We’ve seen a lot of potential in all aspects of our team,” Ottumwa girls assistant track and field coach Angela Cheney said.
She said the invitation will feature one individual race and a number of relays.
“That allows us to put girls on various teams to see where we have the opportunities to get the most points,” she said.
Meanwhile, the boys, thanks in part to an infusion of football players, is flush with senior leadership.
“I know we’ve got very good leadership with our older guys,” Ottumwa boys coach Jim Nickerson said. “This year we’re working all our sprinters with our football players.”
After being rendered to the sideline by a calf injury last season, Ottumwa cross country star Cody McConnell will return to the track.
“Right now he’s healthy and running well,” Nickerson said. “We’re looking for great things in the future out of him.”
McConnell will be joined by his younger brother Collin McConnell in the 3,200 meter run and the mile this season. Nickerson said Cody may run for the team’s 4x800 and 4x400 relay teams as well.
One senior Nickerson expects to see good things out of this year is Logan McCarty.
“He’s one of those guys you can put in a lot of different events,” Nickerson said.
Seth Griffiths, who mostly ran the 100 dash, also returns this year.
The boys have a surplus of runners who will run the half-mile including Isaac Ramos, Kaleb Norris, Jianwa Bennett, Shane Riley, Brandon Bullock, Connor Hanson and Karsten Van Velsor, who took second in the Class 4A state wrestling meet this winter. Nickerson said the parade of half-milers is nicknamed the wolfpack.
Based on last season’s statistics, the top two discus throwers will be Chris Peden and sophomore Aaron Roane. In addition, Nickerson said Jonah Wright and John Torres are the team’s top shot-putters.
Despite the abundance of seniors, the Bulldog boys do suffer from a lack of experience, as all four of last season’s state qualifiers — Zach Messer, Spencer Hammack, Ben Kramer and Patrick Peters — graduated last spring. Still, Nickerson has only pinpointed one possible weak spot.
“My concern is the quarter mile,” Nickerson said.
He said the only guy he had who had much experience in the 400-meter dash or the 4x400 is Andrew Altfillisch.