The Great River Conference Track Meet is coming up on March 30th at Foley's indoor facility. The Pine City Dragons are getting ready for another season.
Here's our track preview with head coach Jared Clementson:
What are you most excited for this year?
I am excited for the growth in numbers our program is having. I am excited to get to know all of the newcomers and reconnect with the returning athletes. I am excited to see everyone’s athletic and personal growth throughout the season.
How is the roster shaping up?
We have 105 kids out for Track in grades 7-12. Last year we had 75 total kids out. We have 59 girls and 46 boys out. This is an increase of 17 girls and 13 boys from last year. Of the 105 athletes on the team, 57 of them are senior high and 48 of them are junior high. A lot of the growth of our team over the past few years has to do with the increase in JH participants. We have also gained a few new upperclassmen as well. On the girls side, we are returning 14 letterwinners and the boys are returning 10 letterwinners from last year.
Who are a couple athletes that will stand out?
On the boys side, our top 5 returning scorers are Logan Vinaja, TJ Rank, Dawson Clifford, Tryston West, and Tommy Ryan. These five guys helped lead last year’s team to our 4th straight conference championship and all five went on to compete at the Section 5A meet. They will continue to be the backbone of our team.
On the girls side, our top 5 returning scorers are Alaina Steele, Kensi Tayele, Ellaina Johnson, Grace Grubbs, and Dorothy Miller. These five girls helped lead last year’s team to our 5th straight conference championship and all five went on to compete at the Section 5A meet. In order for our girls to win their 6th straight conference championship, these five girls will need to continue to lead the way.
Alaina Steele competed at the State meet last year where she placed 5th in the 800m. She also competed in the State Cross Country meet in the fall. She is looking to make her third trip to the State Track Meet in June.
Any upcoming milestones for your team?
Our girls team has won the GRC the past 5 years straight and the boys have won the past 4 years. We are aiming to extend those streaks to 6 and 5 respectively.
What are your goals?
As is every year, our biggest team goal is to win the Great River Conference Championship. We also have a goal to send 20+ kids to the Section meet and get a few kids to the State Track meet at Hamline University on June 7-8.
It our goal to have both teams continue to earn Academic All-State Team honors as they have in the past. Another goal of mine is to teach these student-athletes to be kind, helpful, healthy, motivated, and goal-oriented people throughout their lives.
Favorite upcoming games, matches, or meets?
Some of our favorite regular season meets are the Chengwatana Invite, Foley Invite, and True Team Section meet in Esko. These meets have great competition and help us to gage where we are against other top teams and competitors.
Our favorite meet has been the GRC Championship meet. This is because we put a lot of emphasis on the team and this meet is all about sacrificing and doing your best for the betterment of the team.
Anything else you want people to know about your team?
Our team has a wide variety of kids with a wide variety of ability. One thing that I find is, regardless of ability, they are dedicated and come to practice ready to put in the hard work. With such a large team, this is essential in helping practices to run smoothly.
We have an amazing coaching staff. Our varsity assistants Joan Thieman, Zach Stoltz, and Brietta Clementson have many years of experience and do a great job of working with our athletes. Our JH coaches Sherry Graber and Val Kunze are also very experienced and are great with mentoring our athletes. We also have a few volunteer coaches, Jared Polzine, Brandon Sell, and Aaron Pulkrabek, that have aided with working with our athletes in practice as well. I am very thankful for each one of them and I know our athletes appreciate them as well.