Dexter track and field expecting big season, excited about renovated stadium
The Dexter track and field team has high expectations for the upcoming season.
With four returning all-state medalists, the Bearcats hope to make some noise at state, but the team might be more excited about the refurbished Charles Bland Stadium.
“One of the highlights this year is having a new track and hosting two home meets,” Dexter coach Kim Waldner said. “I can’t remember the last time we hosted a meet. Last couple of years, it was hard to keep athletes healthy with leg problems. Dexter has done a fantastic job getting a phenomenal track facility. It’s a fast track!”
Not only was a new track installed at Charles Bland Stadium, but the Dexter R-XI School District created separate triple and long jump runways and pits, a pole vault runway and a javelin runway.
The improvements were made possible by a $15 million bond issue passed by voters on April 2, 2019. The bond helped pay for improvements at all of the district’s schools.
The excitement for the stadium improvements was demonstrated by the number of students who came out for track this season.
“The track team keeps on growing year to year,” Waldner said. “We started with 83 kids and almost two weeks later we still have 70 kids out running.”
The Bearcats open the season with the Dexter Open at 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, March 24. They will host another open meet at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 5.
Senior Austin Guy placed fourth in the high jump, the 4x200-meter relay team placed fifth and senior Margo Nea took sixth in the 1600-meter run in the Class 3 Track and Field Championships last spring in Columbia.
Guy jumped 6 feet, 2 inches, 2 inches short of state champion Peyton Davis, of Centralia.
Guy and fellow seniors Cole Barker and Drew Soule return from the 4x200 relay. They finished in 1 minute, 31.61 seconds in the 4x200. They finished 0.39 of a second short of their school record time.
“That relay should make a strong comeback despite losing Seth Rogers due to graduation,” Waldner said.
Nea placed sixth in the 1600 in a personal-best 5 minutes, 28.65 seconds.
Nea competed in two other events, placing 11th in the 800 and helping the 4x800 team finish 15th. She posted a personal-best 2:29.92 in the 800.
“Margo Nea has been training hard in the offseason, putting in 40-70 miles a week,” Waldner said. “She will repeat her all-state performance and has a great shot at the top three spots.”
Barker missed qualifying for state in the 200. He finished fifth at the sectional meet in 21.92 seconds. The top four finishers advanced to state.
“Cole has been running winter/indoor track and has improved in multiple areas,” Waldner said. “He will be a contender in the 200, 400 and long jump.”
Other returning seniors are Dylan Homan, Gabe O’Neal, Josiah Payne, Shawn Robards, Parker Vanslyke, Alexa Werneck, Lydia Whitaker and Hannah Whitlow.
In addition to Nea, Gabby Brown, Rachel Lin and Avery Neely return to the 4x800 team that advanced to state. Brown, Lin, Dulcie Pullen and Werneck are back for the 4x100 that qualified for the sectional meet.
Brown advanced to the sectional meet in the 400.
Jimmy DeBerry has joined the coaching staff along with Waldner and assistant coach Jill King.
“It’s been nice to have another coach out there with so many kids,” Waldner said.
Waldner expects contributions from her underclassmen.
“We have some freshmen out this year that will be expected to fill some spots,” Waldner said. ‘They are fast and hard workers. The freshman long distance group all ran cross country and have potential in the upcoming years. We had sophomore twins move in, Josh and Lucas Alday and that’s a huge addition to the throwing events along with Shawn Robards.”