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story.lead_photo.caption In this 2019 file photo, Dominic Crisostomo of Helias practices pole vaulting before the start of a quadrangular meet at Adkins Stadium. Photo by News Tribune / News Tribune.

With no track and field season last year, it's all new this spring to the sophomores as well as the freshmen.

And for the coach.

"At this point, I should have learned the ropes a little bit," Helias coach Phil Pitts said as the Crusaders and Lady Crusaders prepare for today's traditional opening triangular against Jefferson City and Rolla at Adkins Stadium.

Pitts, the former Helias football head coach who is now the defensive coordinator for the Crusaders, has also served in the past as an assistant for the Crusader baseball team, is appreciating his time with a new sport.

"I enjoy working with all different kinds of athletes," Pitts said. "I'm getting to mesh with some athletes I wouldn't necessarily see when I coach football and it's been fun.

"I'm soaking it all up."

Pitts has surrounded himself with a veteran group of coaches who are helping him along the learning process.

"I have a lot of assistants who have either been head coaches or with this program a long time," he said. "You should always surround yourself with people like that, people who know as much or more than you do about something and just listen to what they have to say.

"I know there are things I still have to learn and be honest with myself if I make a mistake. If I do that, I believe by the end of the season, the team will be better and I will be better."

Pitts said the biggest change he's made with the program is an emphasis on getting into the weight room.

"You can only do so many sprints, so many jumps, so many throws in a day," he said. "You need to work on your technique, I know that, but you might as well get stronger as well. I think that will help us later in the season."

On the boys side, senior Dominic Crisostomo in the pole vault figures to be among the top Crusaders.

"He's put his heart into this season and I'm looking forward to watching him go out and succeed at a high level this season," Pitts said.

Crisostomo will also be in some sprint events.

Dylan Kopp and Will Heckman, both seniors, should provide strength in the throwing events. Connor Reinkemeyer, another senior, will compete in the javelin.

Grant Melloway, a junior, will be joined by sophomores Korbin Fischer and Mason Giesler in the sprints. Landon Hoelscher, a sophomore, is among the Crusaders in the hurdles, while sophomore Tyler Groose will compete in the high jump.

Distance runners for the Crusaders will include seniors Matthew Abbott, Grayson Knernschield and Will Grothoff, juniors Payton Kirchhoff and Noah Voss, and sophomores Patrick Conley, Brady Voss and Ethan Wilson.

"I feel pretty good about a lot of things," Pitts said. "We have lot of top-end kids who are going be impressive this season, we just need to keep working on our depth."

Depth will be an issue to be addressed on the girls side as well as the Lady Crusaders have just one senior — distance runner Natalie Schlup — on the roster.

"Our numbers aren't where we would like them to be, but we will work on that in the future," Pitts said. "We know we need to get more girls out."

Schyler Phillips, a sophomore, has been a standout in the pole vault and long jump in practice.

"Both of her marks would have finished in the top 10 in the state in 2019," Pitts said.

Mikah Edwards, another sophomore. has been posting strong numbers in the sprints and jumps.

"She has been impressive," Pitts said. "We think she can compete well when we get to the postseason."

Tori Schmidt, a sophomore, figures to be strong in the hurdles and pole vault. Alice Stiefermann, a junior, will compete in the throwing events.

Distance runners include Schlup, juniors Alexa Lamb and Ava Morrisey, and sophomore Riley Jaegers.

Action will begin at 4:45 p.m. today.

"We will start putting a team together as the season goes along," Pitts said. "It will be good to post some marks in a competitive environment.

"Our kids are itching to compete again."

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