By Jeremy Behnke
Journal Sports Editor
NEW ULM - The New Ulm boy's and girl's track and field teams are packed in the middle of a very competitive South Central Conference. However, the Eagles have numbers on their side and that could be beneficial for several meets this season.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Junior Tanner Ogren and eighth-grader Sarah Preisinger are two key runners for the New Ulm High School Track and Field team.
The Eagles started their season on Friday at Minnesota State University with about 125 athletes out total for both teams. This gives the Eagles some much-needed depth for coach Tony Ortmann.
"The big thing for us this year is our numbers have really went up," Ortmann said. "Last year, from seventh through 12 [grades], we had about 90 out, this year we're at about 125. We're going to bring about 90 kids to a meet every week so a lot of our kids are going to be able to focus on certain areas and we're not going to have to use one kid in four events all the time. It's going to make us a little bit more well-rounded as the year goes on."
The New Ulm boys are highlighted by a mix of athletes, including sprinters Tanner Ogren, Brandon Hauser and Jordan Hillesheim.
While the sprinters will be a key spot for the Eagles, Ortmann said that they aren't the only ones who have the potential to make some noise this year.
"We have a good mix," Ortmann said. "I'm not going to say one area is better than the other. We lost some throwers and I was going to see what guys step up."
One thrower who will more than likely make the step up is Ryan O'Conell, who threw the shot put more than 40 feet at a time trials scrimmage earlier in the week.
The Eagles may have some questions in the distance races, but Ortmann is confident that the squad will find itself later this season.
"We lost a lot of our mid-distance guys, but our distance crew has a lot of depth and our guys are working hard," Ortmann said.
While the roster is young and may not have a lot of stars yet, Ortmann likes what he sees so far.
"We're very well-balanced and that's one thing that is nice this year," he said. "We've got some guys that I think will push through in the SCC [South Central Conference] and also in the section meets with guys like Tanner Ogren and a couple of our other runners."
The Eagle girls also have some competition at many of the spots. One area where the Eagles should be successful is distance running.
Last year, New Ulm brought up a number of younger runners to get them some experience. They found Sarah Preisinger, who as an eighth-grader now, should be a big threat for them in years to come.
"She placed in the SCC meet and we're excited to see what she can do for us," Ortmann said. "We've got a couple others in that distance crew that are really going to help us out."
The Eagles also return several sprinters and that will be beneficial to them also. Alyssa Kelley, Hailey Trautmiller and Makenna Kluis return to the team and the Eagles also added Sara Hoffman.
"I think we're going to be able to put together some solid relays with that group," Ortmann said.
Michaela Howk returns from an injury she had last year and will give the Eagles another option in some relays and sprints.
Like the boys, the girls don't have a roster full of stars. Ortmann sees the potential and he knows the quality of athletes and their experience is much better.
"I'm not looking at us and saying 'hey we're going to have those huge standout people,' but we're going to get some points in every single area and I think that's going to make us a much more well-rounded team," Ortmann said. "I'm really excited right now about the work ethic from our group and that's kind of something that we pushed four years ago when we took over the program. The kids have really bought into it and it's showing in our younger kids now that started in seventh grade."
The Eagles are scheduled to have their first outdoor meet April 3 in Waseca. They have home meets April 24 and April 28 and the SCC meet is May 13 in St. Peter. The Section 2AA meet is schedule for May 28 and 30 at Gustavus Adolphus College.