The Manhattan High track and field team will begin its season today when it travels to Topeka for a meet at Washburn Rural.
The meet will mark the debut of Jesse Woodard as head coach, taking over for Gary Schwandt, who retired after last season.
Woodard said he has quickly learned of the challenges and rigors of the job, soon after taking over.
“The fundraising takes up a lot of time, and I did a head count at practice and I had 170 kids and we were short about 40 boys’ uniforms so we were scrambling,” he said. “That’s been one of the biggest challenges, and I think I need to learn to delegate because I’m still doing all the stuff I was doing, plus all the stuff Gary did when he was head coach.”
Woodard said Schwandt, who is in his final year as a teacher at the high school, has been a help to him, as his classroom is right across the hall. The new MHS coach said he has aided in ideas with fundraising and organization.
Woodard said the retired coach also left him a lot to work with.
“He didn’t leave the cover bare for me,” he said. “We have Mari Jo Massanet coming back and we have the defending champion in the long jump in Logan Mahan. We have some good young athletes and some ones that were injured last year.”
Massanet won’t be the only girl coming back with some state success, as Woodard said Alaina Schroeder will be one to watch, among others.
“Throwing is going to be a strength, but Alaina Schroeder placed very high in her long distance races at state,” he said. “Alaina is a competitive girl and it will be fun when she gets to state and races in some competitive races.”
Woodard said he also saw some positives results in the team’s first JV meet on Wednesday.
“We have some young girls in the sprints and we had a girl put together a really nice jump in the long jump in the JV meet,” he said. “So we have some young girls that could be pretty good.”
While the boys’ team returns some nice talent in the field, Woodard expects the talent to be good in other events as well.
“We obviously have some kids in the field coming back, but we have some very experienced hurdlers back and some guys that could factor into relays,” he said. “We’re going to have some points it’s just going to be interesting to see how all the kids compete, it will be fun.”
The Indians will have some big shoes to fill from the seniors that departed from last year’s squad, including ones that are participating in track at D-I schools.
But Woodard said the kids that are coming up seem ready to make an impact.
“It’s always tough when you lose a Reid Buchanan or a Sophia Alonso,” he said. “But we have some good kids around that are ready to go.”
As the Indians enter the meet today, Woodard said he will be looking just to get them going. He said he hopes to have the team peaking in mid- to late-May. Right in time for regionals and state.
“We’ve got a lot of kids doing a lot of different things, so we’re just saying let’s go run and let’s go from there,” he said. “We aren’t looking for their best results today, we are looking for something to work on.”