Panthers strong again
First things first for Rugby High School boys track and field coach Scott Grochow.
Before he worries about whether his team can improve on last year’s second-place finish at state, Grochow wants to get into full practice mode.
“First thing we’re looking for is to get rid of this dang snow,” he said.
Once the season hits full gear, the Panthers should field among the best teams in the state.
Although the team lost a number of solid distance runners and other point earners at state due to either graduation or injury, the team still fields plenty of talent.
But more so than in past seasons, the team has a number of question marks.
Grochow has a number of upperclassmen out for the team that haven’t competed in past years. And while that group includes a number of good athletes, Grochow said it will be a process to find what events will be their strengths and how to use them to help the team.
“They’re kind of an unknown commodity,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out what to do with them and where they fit in.”
One known commodity for the Panthers is junior sprinter Nigel Hageness, who won the 100- and 200-meter dashes last season and anchored the winning 4×100 relay.
“One of the big things, he was injured as a freshman, that’s why he kind of burst on the scene,” Grochow said of Hageness. “That surprise factor is over. You’ve gone from the guy no one knows about to the guy everyone’s gunning for. As long as he stays healthy and stays after it, he’s going to have a good chance. He’s one of those young men who isn’t afraid to work. I think he’s got that chance to get better. He’s got that ability, hopefully he does.”
Hageness joins Mackenzie Koenig and Chris Hamilton as returners on the winning 4×100 team.
That same trio helped the Panthers place second in the 4×200 relay as well.
Sophomore Zach Miller placed in the triple jump last year, but a knee injury during basketball season will keep him from competing this spring.
Kyle Lovcik, coming off a successful basketball season, is one of the seniors who is on the team after not competing for a few years. Kris Leier, a senior football all-stater, is also new to the team.
Towner’s speedy Eli Luna should also help bolster the Rugby sprinting corps, and Devon Berg and Alex Senger will both be throwing for the Panthers this year.
Koenig and Tanner Bernhardt are also expected to contribute in the jumping events for the Panthers this season.
Same for Josh Michels and Nolan Hovland, who both placed in the high jump at the regional meet last season.
Getting contributions in a wide variety of events will be huge for the Panthers, according to Grochow. Until he sees many of the new faces compete on the track, he won’t know whether they can fill some of those holes left by graduation.
“I just really think it’s too early to say,” he said. “One thing we were able to do last year was cover a lot of areas.”
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