First and foremost, Great Bend High School head track and field coach Bo Black is quick to point out that he has a young team.
“On the boys’ side, it’s a really young track team with the exception of (senior) Chon (Chavez),” Black said. “We had a really strong JV group last year, freshmen and sophomores that are now sophomores and juniors. We’re trying to build around those kids. From experience standpoint, we’re still pretty young.”
That’s not to say that there aren’t senior leaders among the group. Last season’s Class 5A state qualifiers — Chris Burley and Chavez — will look to get back to Wichita State University’s Cessna Stadium on May 24.
“Chon Chavez is a senior, and we’re expecting big things out of him on the boys’ side,” Black said. “Another guy would be Chris Burley at the pole vault, a senior and state track meet (qualifier) last year. He’ll have a good year again.”
Great Bend will put its team to the test today at Junction City at 3:30 p.m. to open its season.
Chavez set a personal best in the 3,200-meter run at the state meet, clocking in at nine minutes, 51.66 seconds to capture fifth place. He finished sixth in the 1,600 with a time of 4:39.31.
Burley’s personal best of 14 feet, six inches set a school record last year. He finished fourth at the state meet with a vault of 13-6.
They aren’t the only returning state qualifiers for Great Bend.
Lady Panthers pole vaulters junior Selam Ball and senior Hannah Middleton finished fourth and fifth, respectively, at the state meet last season.
“On the girls’ side, we’re still pretty young,” Black said. “Selam Ball and Hannah Middleton are probably our best returners. We’ve got some good pole vaulters.”
Sophomore thrower Jayce Brack qualified for the state meet as a freshman, finishing 11th in the shot put with a distance of 45-0 1/4.
“Jayce Brack is a thrower for us who had a great freshman year (in 2012),” Black said. “Nick Warren is another one. He’s a junior now, and he’s started off looking good early.”
Junior Darion Yager earned a trip to Wichita to compete in the 300 hurdles. He finished 14th.
“We have a lot of kids out, and they’re working hard,” Black said. “Like all of the spring sports, with the weather, we’re trying to find a place to go, but so far, it’s been good.”