By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
Carl Junction head coach Mark Robertson said he expects challenges on several fronts today as the Bulldogs attempt to defend their Big 8 Conference boys track and field title.
Injuries continue to a be factor as the Bulldogs try to determine their best relay lineups, he said. The 4x100 unit of sophomores Matt Magee and Alex McMullen, along with juniors Aaron Moore and Nick Thompson, have yet to hit their stride, he said.
“We’re just not quite smooth on our handoffs yet,” he said. “We’ve been stuck at 45.2 (seconds) for the last three meets.”
The Bulldogs’ other sprint relay teams consist of McMullen, Conner Rohmiller, Nick Kennedy and Nick Thompson on the 4x200 and Magee, Jesse Kinzer, Thompson and Rohmiller on the 4x400.
“It will be a big test,” Robertson said. “We’ll see how it goes. When it comes to the conference meet, everybody’s going to be tough.”
In the field events, the Bulldogs will be led by sophomore pole vaulter Christian Repsher, who cleared 14 feet in the Aldo Sebben Relays at Springfield and just missed breaking the school record with an attempt at 14-7, Robertson said.
In the throwing events, the Bulldogs are led by senior Jacob Wall, junior Brendan Berliew and sophomore Calvin Bremmerkamp.
Carl Junction’s closest challenger last year was Lamar, which finished second by 4.5 points. Tigers head coach Rodney Baldridge said he still sees Carl Junction as the team to beat.
“We’ve only seen Carl Junction at one meet and I know they’ve had some injuries,” Baldridge said. “I would say they’re the favorite. It should be an exciting meet. I haven’t seen Cassville or Monett, but I understand they have good teams as well.”
Lamar is led by twins Nick Jeffries in the hurdles and Nolan Jeffries in the sprints, twins Sam and Ben Bailey in the throws, and senior Zakk Yokley in the sprint relays.
Cade Payne, a sophomore, gave the Tigers added flexibility when he placed second in the 100 and 200 meters in the Lamar Rotary Track Meet. “Cade has really stepped up,” Baldridge said.
Josh Garfield, a junior, was moved into the 400 meters for the meet at Lamar and placed second behind Nolan Jeffries. “That wasn’t really a surprise,” Baldridge said. “Josh has run a good leg on our 4x800 all year. He high jumps and pole vaults for us, too.”
In the girls’ division, Carl Junction’s Brittany Rose broke the school record in the 300 hurdles Friday at the Girard (Kan.) Optimist Meet. Her adjusted time of 46.81 seconds eclipsed the mark held by Taitum Mead, who runs at Missouri Southern.
“She has been running great all year,” Robertson said. “Hope Joyner (in the 100 hurdles) has been smashing her personal best every times she runs.”
Other leaders include sprinter Sydney Koch, who has returned after an injury, and Emily Keeter, who runs the 800, anchors the 4x800 relay and runs in the 4x400. “She has gotten better every week,” Robertson said.
Lamar’s girls also have shown improvement, and the return of Katelyn Luce in the pole vault and sprint relays after an ankle injury should help as well, said Lamar girls coach Toby Luce.
“It’s hard to tell,” he said. “We haven’t seen a lot of our conference competition. They had a meet at Cassville on the same night as our meet. It should be interesting.”
Lamar’s girls placed third at the Lamar Rotary meet behind nonconference opponents Pierce City and Liberal.