NEW ULM - The New Ulm Eagles boys track team graduated 18 seniors last year, but head coach Anthony Ortmann thinks that this year's team might be able to do something no team has done since he took over.
"We might be able to send some individuals through sectionals and on to state," Ortmann said. "We have a couple of upperclassmen that were close last year and they are back and ready to take that next step."
Riley Drahota could be one those guys to make that step, as the senior almost made it through sectionals in the 400-meter run last year. He will be joined by fellow senior Aaron Stark in leading a strong 400-meter relay team. Stark will have a chance to advance to state individually as well.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Some of the key athletes for the New Ulm High School track team this year are, from left: 10th-grade sprinter Hailey Trautmiller, senior shot putter Mike Dickinson, ninth-grade sprinter Alyssa Kelley, senior distance runner Aaron Stark, senior hurdler Bree Friedman and senior sprinter Riley Drahota.
"Our middle distance running is definitely our strongest area this year on the boy's side," Ortmann said. "Mike Dickinson will get points in discus and shot put for us in just about all of our meets as well. He is also a contender to get through sectionals for us in the shot put."
On the girl's side, New Ulm will be stronger in sprinting than in recent years with an influx of young talent coming through.
Freshman Alyssa Kelley will lead the Eagles in the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints this year and eighth-grader Megan Hulke will also help in the 200-meter and 400-meter sprints. The Eagles also return sophomore sprinter Hailey Trautmiller this year.
"Hailey was a point scorer for us as an eighth-grader," Ortmann said. "She had a bad ankle last year because of gymnastics, but she is a talented young sprinter for us."
Captain Bree Friedman also returns for the Eagle girls in the hurdles and will look to have a good senior campaign.
New Ulm will look to make a push in a tough South Central Conference this year.
"Blue Earth Area and St. Peter will be good as usual this year," Ortmann said. "They will both push for making it to state. If we just make strides every week in practice we can surprise some people."
One thing that will help the Eagles will be putting points on the board in pole vault, an event that New Ulm did not have any competitors in last year. New coach Travis Raske will try to help the Eagles learn the tricks of the trade.
"We are hoping that someone will come through for us in pole vaulting," Ortmann said. "We have 15 pole vaulters this year and they are learning each day."
Ortmann believes that this year's team, though young, can make some noise later in the year.
"We do not have a big senior class this year, but they are great leaders and they are leading the underclassmen by example," he said. "We are building this program with hard work and we talk all the time about not cutting corners."
The Eagles will open their season this Friday at a South Central Conference meet at Minnesota State University, Mankato.