If the adage ‘there is strength in numbers’ holds true, Platte County will again have a banner year in track and field.
Last year was one of the most successful in Gabe Middleton’s 14 years and this year there are about 90 boys and 65 girls out for Pirates.
“Our numbers are great,” said Middleton, who is assisted with all of the athletes by Chris Stubbs, Jamar Parrish, Lauren Parrish, Courtland Ingram, Rachel Baker and Matt LaPointe. “I’m very excited about this year’s team. We had a lot of success last year. I think I can speak for all of our coaches when I say we really enjoyed coaching last year’s team. We have a lot of great kids returning and some young kids moving up that will really help us.
“We will definitely not be as deep this year, but we have the potential to win multiple state medals again. Our goal every year is to win a team state title. Some years that goal is more realistic than others but in order to be close, we have to have multiple kids competing at state and bringing home medals.”
The boys won a district title last year for the first time since 2011, while the girls took second to also bring home hardware.
A total of 33 athletes qualified for state — the most under Middleton’s watch — and that group brought home medals in 14 events.
The Pirates return Nick Bjustrom (distance), Keegan Cordova (distance), Evan McPhatter (distance), Devin Richardson (distance/sprint relays), John Watts (400 dash/long jump/sprint relays), Dakota Schmidt (javelin/sprint relays); Michael Smith (shot put), Jackson Letchner (distance) and Jacob Laures (pole vault).
That group includes several state qualifiers and medalists.
Watts, a Missouri Southern signee, was a runner-up in the 400 and seventh in the long jump, while being part of two all-state relay teams — the 4x200 and 4x400. He and Matthew Phillips are the only returners from those sprint relays that took second (4x400) and sixth (4x200).
Cordova and Richardson are the returnees on the 4x800 that placed third.
The girls are headlined by Isabelle Geddes, who was a state medalist in the 300-meter hurdles — also a qualifier in the 100 hurdles — and the lone member of 4x800 squad that was fourth.
The Pirates also returns Hayden Walls (javelin), Jaycie Stubbs (javelin), Erin Straubel (distance), Taylor Farr (sprints) and Karleigh Wise (triple jump/relays).
Wise is the lone returning member of the 4x200 state qualifying squad.
Based on grades last year, the Pirates looked to be loaded as the 4x400 had three of the four scheduled to return, but only Geddes is back. She has the same distinction in the 4x800, where the all underclassmen team of Isabelle Geddes, Jessica Clark, Lexi Elmore and Rebekah Geddes took fourth. Clark moved to North Carolina, Elmore moved a bit close, now attending West Platte. The elder Geddes would’ve been a senior this year but graduated early to enroll at BYU.
Those three join Mac Leet, TJ Guillory, Ahmaad Holt, Tori Farr, Keyondra Butler, Deandre Rollins, Liz Peterson, Jared Maksudian and Bryce Bearden as state qualifiers that graduated.