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Preview: New year, new faces for Trojan track and field team

West High head boys coach Travis (T.J.) Craig gives encouragement to Isaac Miller during the Exhibition Mile race Saturday, March 26, in Cedar Rapids, a part of Cedar Rapids Jefferson High’s John Ask Relays. Craig returns for a second year as head coach for the 2017 season. (North Liberty Leader file photo)

North Liberty Leader
IOWA CITY– Head coach T.J. Craig has a simple philosophy for the Iowa City West High boys track and field program as the 2017 season begins.
“Every year is a new year, with new and surprising developments,” Craig said.
It’s the second year for Craig at the top of the program and his 12th year overall. Last year, the Trojans were fourth in the Mississippi Valley Conference (MVC) divisional meet and placed 18th in team points at the Class 4A state meet. The Trojans took seven events to the Drake Relays and qualified six events for the state meet.
Craig returns four seniors: Max Hill, Derek Nugent, Blake Ealy and Nate Jelinek. Hill earned MVC All-Division Honorable Mention last year for the 110- and 400-meter hurdles and was a state qualifier in the shuttle hurdle relay. Nugent earned All-Division Second Team honors for the 4x800-meter relay with Jeff Garbutt, Nate Jelinek and Patrick Karanja, while Ealy was a state qualifier in the discus. Jelinek qualified for the state meet in the 4x400 with Austin West, Chris Low and Wali Parks, which earned an MVC All-Division First-Team slot and finished fourth in the state meet while the 4x800 relay finished tenth.
Dillon Doyle, Garbutt, West and Ryan Kadenge are back as juniors. Doyle competes in the jumps as well as 200- and 400-yard events and earned All-Division Honorable Mention in the high jump while Garbutt will run the 800 meters and was on the state qualifying 4x800. Kadenge was a state qualifier last year in the 4x200-meter relay.
Also back, bringing varsity experience, are sophomores Gabe Caruthers, Landon Green, Cole Mabry and Jerad Sams-Merriwether. Caruthers ran the 200- and 400-yard dashes last year. Green is a thrower who holds the freshman record in the shot put, Mabry was a state qualifier in the 400-meter low hurdles and Sams-Merriwether was a state qualifier in the high jump. Sams-Merriwether earned an All-Division Second Team slot in the high jump.
Craig noted 40 percent of the team this year is comprised of freshmen with approximately another 20 percent made up of newcomers looking to challenge themselves and develop athletically.
“All have a chance to compete and make a difference,” Craig said.
Despite the majority of his squad having little to no experience, the Coach is encouraged by what he’s seen in practice.
“We have a great, young, hard-working core and we wish to build on that with even more hard workers that have decided to come out for track,” he said.
The MVC is historically a challenging conference, yet Craig exudes confidence and optimism.
“I think every year West High boys track and field has a good chance to compete in a very competitive field. This year is no different,” he said. “With our good, young core and some older, veteran leaders, we are going to continue to improve each and every day.”
The Trojans have a legendary fan base Craig, his staff and his athletes appreciate.
“We are happy to have such a very supportive coaching staff, parents who care deeply about their success on and off the track, as well as the many supporters that continue to baffle us with their generosity and support,” he said. “We will do everything we can to repay that support with our great efforts.”
Tyler Meade, Josh Kidman, Ray Varner, Stephen Breitbach, Ty Haren, Neil Davis and Aaron Martin assist Craig this season.
The season opened Tuesday, Feb. 28, at Wartburg College with an indoor meet. The first outdoor meet is Saturday, March 25, at Kingston Stadium in Cedar Rapids and the Trojans’ first home meet is set for Saturday, April 8. The Trojans host the MVC Mississippi Division Meet on Thursday, May 4.

2016 Iowa City West Varsity Boys Track & Field Schedule
Fri. March 10 Indoor meet @ Cornell College, Mount Vernon 4 p.m.
Mon. March 13 MVC Indoor Meet @ UNI-Dome, Cedar Falls 4:30 p.m.
Tues. March 14 Indoor meet @ Iowa State University, Ames TBD
Fri. March 17 Indoor meet @ Central College, Pella 2 p.m.
Sat. March 25 Kingston Stadium, Cedar Rapids 10 a.m.
Fri. March 31 Kingston Stadium, Cedar Rapids 4:30 p.m.
Tues. April 4 North Scott High School, Eldridge 4 p.m.
Sat. April 8 Home Meet @ Iowa City West High School 10:30 a.m.
Tues. April 11 Cedar Rapids Prairie Invitational 4:30 p.m.
Thurs. April 13 Dubuque Hempstead High School 4:30 p.m.
Tues. April 18 Waterloo West High School 4 p.m.
Thurs. April 20 Iowa City, City High School 4:30 p.m.
Thurs. April 27 Drake Relays, Des Moines TBD
Fri. April 28 Drake Relays, Des Moines TBD
Sat. April 29 Drake Relays, Des Moines TBD
Thurs. May 4 MVC Divisional Meet @ Iowa City West High 4:30 p.m.
Thurs. May 11 District Meet TBD
Thurs. May 18 State Meet at Drake University, Des Moines TBD
Fri. May 19 State Meet at Drake University, Des Moines TBD
Sat. May 20 State Meet at Drake University, Des Moines TBD