MHS track and field looking to have bounce-back year

By Maria McIlwain

Manhattan track and field is hoping to start new streaks.

The girls team ended a streak of six straight Centennial League titles, while the boys had won seven straight before two years ago.

“I’m looking forward to some improvements,” head coach Jesse Woodard said. “It has its ups and downs, but I think we have a great group of kids this year, and we’re looking to make some improvements on last year and see where we can go from there.”

Woodard thought his young team matured as the season progressed last year, and most of the Indians returned for another season. He feels the boys will be strong in the field events. Brandon Cook placed at the state meet in discus last year, and Woodard expects contributions from Josh Haus in discus and javelin, as well as Tom Haug in the high jump and John Haug in triple jump.

“I think if you look at our marks, we gradually got better overall,” he said.

On the girls side, Woodard is impressed by both the distance runners and sprinters. He thinks seniors Cara Melgares and Temetris Johnson will lead the distance and sprint groups, respectively.

“That’s what we’ve come to expect,” Woodard said. “Our seniors who have been out for four years to really be our main contributors.”

Johnson hopes to return to the state meet after missing out last year. She runs the 100- and 200-meter races as well as relays and the occasional 400-meter race.

“At the state meet, you have all these people,” she said. “You don’t really know them, but they still cheer for you. You see people from other schools throughout the meet, (and) you kind of make friends. It’s a big gathering. You feel proud of yourself because you’re actually there, at a college, running on their track.”

Johnson enjoys the opportunity to lead as a senior. She loves everything about track.

“Right now, it kind of feels like a regular season, but I’m starting to embrace that this is my last year,” Johnson said. “It’s time to put in work and make sure everything goes well for my future endeavors.”

Last year, Johnson learned about time management, balancing a job, school and track, but she thinks it has prepared her to have a strong season.

“I think it has caused me not to take anything for granted,” she said.

So far this season, Woodard wants to emphasize technique and details like relay handoffs.

But he said it’s hard to get out on the track because of the cold, which creates an injury risk.

Woodard wants everyone on the team to have specific individual goals.

“I always tell them, ‘Don’t just say I want to run faster,’” Woodard said. “Put a time down because every time you see that, it’s going to help you say, ‘Hey, I need to do something at practice to try and achieve that goal.’”

However, the team goals are the same as always: win the league and regional meets and build up to the state meet.

“We don’t want to peak in April,” Woodard said. “We want to peak at the end of May, the last three weeks. Because those are the ones that count for us. Get as many qualifiers to state, and then see if we can some medals. And then if you get enough medals, maybe get on the podium at the end of the day for the team.”

The Indians’ season starts on Thursday with the Topeka West Invitational.

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