North Platte found strength in numbers last year.
After a record 2015, the Panthers only qualified three events for the Class 2 Missouri State Track and Field Championships — all relays. More than half of the contributors from those quartets graduated, leaving coach Brendan Cary with an opportunity to build up a younger team.
“I think we’re looking great,” he said. “We’ve got great numbers, lots of excitement about what we can do and a lot of new faces so it’s going to be a lot of testing out in the first couple weeks to see where people are at and see where they can best be used at. It’s kind of exciting for us coaches just watching these new people find their new roles and figure out some are going to changes roles from where they were at in junior high.”
North Platte just missed a team state trophy in 2015 behind record-setting sprinter Regan Nash.
In 2016, the Panthers’ 4x400 team ended up with their lone state medal and state points, finishing fifth. McKenna Fulton and Gracie Roach — both juniors — are the lone returners from that group.
Fulton and senior Lauren Payne were on the state 4x800 team while Roach was on the state 4x200 team with four graduated seniors. In addition, Fulton (300 hurdles) and Roach (high jump) just missed individual berths out of Sectional 4.
On the boys side, departed senior Eric Brown was the lone individual sectional qualifier for North Platte. The 4x400 team of Caleb Crumley, Van French, William Morse and Corbin Green — all now juniors — also reached sectionals but finished about 2¾ seconds away from a state berth, placing sixth at Sectional 4.
“We’re not so worried about where we’re sitting at compared to everybody else right now,” Cary said. “We’re worried about just getting better and finding how do we improve, what can I do to be better that’s not just run fast?”