Blair Oaks set to open track and field season

Track season really boils down to what happens at the state meet.

With Blair Oaks set to enter its second season in Class 3, the Falcons and Lady Falcons realize just how precious state success is.

“It definitely makes the state meet more prestigious because it is so tough getting there,” Falcons track coach Nathan Holtmeyer said. “Our goal has always been that we focus on the state meet and our goal is to get people to the state meet and anything can happen.”

Added Lady Falcons coach Marc Keys: “Just change our philosophy, our ideas of scoring lots of points at state, to can we qualify to state, can we qualify to sectionals? That’s pretty good.”

Still, Blair Oaks boasts a few athletes that figure to have legitimate opportunities for top state finishes.

It starts with John Karsten, a senior who finished second in the discus last season. The good news? The 2013 champion, Chillicothe’s Alec Whiteside, graduated. That leaves the door open for Karsten to earn a state title.

“He’s mentally and physically ready,” Holtmeyer said. “He’s been thinking about this for 365 days. When he gets back to that state meet, he wants his revenge on that.”

Then take a look at Jessica Clark, a senior pole vaulter who took third in 2013 after a pair of second-place finishes in 2011 and 2012.

“That would just be a great end of the story,” Keys said, commenting on Clark’s quest for that elusive state title. “Working so hard and then finally getting it. It’s an adventure and you have to enjoy the journey. There’s a lot of good vaulters. At the state meet that’s the one event where you’re literally 10 or 15 feet away from almost 1,000 people. It’s an exciting event to watch. You want to see your athlete do well. I know she’ll vault well, she’ll prepare well and we’ll see how it shakes out. It will be a fun journey.”

Rounding out the trio of state contenders is junior Chase Duren. He took fifth in the 300-meter hurdles last season.

“We’re really looking for big things from him,” Holtmeyer said.

That’s not to say there aren’t others who could prove to be all-staters come the end of the season. And there will be others who will make it to state, quite an accomplishment in itself.

The Falcons appear to be threats in the relays. Duren, Brad Thomas and Dominic Jamerson could be some names to watch there.

“All our relays made it to state last year,” Holtmeyer said. “I think we should be able to repeat that, depending on where we put people. I always say our 4x400 will definitely be our strong suit.”

“We’re just hoping all those boys get in that top eight.”

Jason Otto is a someone to keep an eye on in the distance events.

As far as the Lady Falcons, Keys expects big things from distance runners Alyson Jones and Megan Graessle.

“We did well in cross country, so I think our distance group will be good,” he said. “I think Alyson Jones is going to make the next level and compete at the state meet. It’s hard to project that far, there’s so many things that can happen. But that would be an individual that I could project to do (well). She was very good last year, but build on her success in cross country and could do even better in track. Megan Graessle will do well. That would be someone based on her performance in cross country.”

Keys also mentioned the 4x800 relay team and sprinter Abbey Eskens as others to watch out for.

The journey starts at 1 p.m. today at Linn. Blair Oaks was scheduled to open the season March 25 at Russellville, but bad weather postponed the event to a day that didn’t work for Blair Oaks. The late start allows the Falcons and Lady Falcons only about six weeks before districts.

So the tinkering with the lineup will have to be expedited.

“What’s best for the individual is going to be what’s best for the team,” Holtmeyer said. “We probably won’t get our full lineup until May. We move kids around a lot. We’ll have our basic blueprint, but we move so many kids around that that’s why you’ll see more success for us at districts and sectionals because we want to make sure we’re not missing any hidden secrets.”

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