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Mac boys' track looks to sit alone on TRC mountaintop

OVER THE LINE: Maconaquah made it to the top of the TRC heap in boys’ track last season but had to share the title with Whitko. The Braves will look to rest alone on top in 2019 with runners like Greg Friend giving the team the boost it needs to improve not only in the conference but in the sectional as well.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

In a bit of a shock to Whitko’s TRC dominance in boys’ track and field the past few seasons, Maconaquah pieced together a team that managed to tie the Wildcats for the tops spot at the TRC Track and Field Meet.

While the result didn’t knock Whitko off the top spot like Wabash did in 2015, it did signal that the Braves were making a move up the ladder after being stuck in the middle of the pack in the first two years of TRC competition.

With a squad bolstered by new recruits after their success in conference, Maconaquah will look to take the top spot for itself this season.

Braves head coach PJ Hatcher said the team had been working the best it could given the difficulty in getting outdoor practices in early this season.

“We’ve got more guys coming out this year,” Hatcher said. “This helps us have better focus and training.

“We’ve been inside a lot so we’ve been confined a bit but we’re doing our best to seek growth.”

Maconaquah returns several important runners in juniors Shemar Austin and Sam Bourne and sophomore Nolan Kelly along with senior Jacob Edwards, juniors Evan Baldwin, Aaron Nice and Billy Miles and sophomore Bryant Teegardin.

Out for the squad this year is a large senior behind Edwards that includes Adam Bowman, Zack Bullock, Noah Edgington, Greg Friend, Nathaniel Grant, Chance Hagan, Jason Hamm, Porter Hunt, Paxton Kintner, Travis Kitts, Richard Reimer, Bryce Ward and David Sayger.

Dalton Farnell, Corey Jones, Jacob Rush, Bryce Smyth and Cole Wininger augment the junior group while a large sophomore group is out with Kelly and Teegardin in Zach Chase, John Dooley, Hunter Eller, Richie Leary, Carter Little, Corbin Middlekauff, Steven Ramer, Andrew Ramos, Garrett Spohn, Brock Vinson, Jordan Waldmann and Wesley Warren.

Several freshmen also join the squad in Corey Bockover, Corey Guinan, Matt Ingram, Kaden Law, Hayden Maiben, Nathan Myers, Bryson Walton and Luke Stage.

The field events will need to be shored up with only Kintner returning as a thrower and Dooley back for high jump with graduates Dalton Outlaw, Vincent Smith, Jacob Shaffer and Gemini Williams no longer available.

Hatcher said there were plenty of spots in the lineup that needed to be filled which was where the additional numbers would be helpful.

“We’ve got guys looking to fill voids and contribute,” Hatcher noted. “We need guys willing to fight for every point, strive for their best each day and compete.”

Among the areas on the track Hatcher said the team was working to fill in was whom would replace graduate Jordan Edgington in the middle distance events as well as what the squad had in the hurdle events outside of Walton.

“We have a group of guys that are very competitive, athletic and willing to work,” Hatcher said. We have to figure out where the best places are for guys on our team.

“In some events, it’s too early on and we’ve not had enough time outside to tell. We are trying to develop hurdlers and distance this season.”

One factor the team hopes to avoid this season will be the injury bug that hampered the squad throughout the season, costing the team several potential runners at the TRC and sectional meets.

The biggest question mark for the team will be when Austin is available, a runner who won the 400-meter dash at the Kokomo Sectional and sixth at the Warsaw Regional while being one of two runners to break the TRC record in the event last season.

Austin, who suffered a knee injury during football season, offers the squad versatility across several events with Hatcher saying the junior was in a good spot as was the overall team health.

“Shemar is working towards being able to go by mid-season,” Hatcher pointed out. “His health is good.

“Illnesses and injuries happen from time to time during the season but our training is going well right now.”

Outside of the TRC Meet, Maconaquah had several second-place finishes in multi-team meets last season and won the Mac Invite while finishing fifth at the Kokomo Sectional.

Meeting those marks was what Hatcher said the team’s starting point was and felt the team had the talent to not only match those goals but to go beyond them as well.

“We want to be at our best and compete at the highest level as the season ends and everything else will fall into place,” Hatcher said. “We’re going to do our best to repeat and be in top-five again at sectionals.”