By NICK McQUEEN
With 42 out, the Thomas More Prep-Marian boys' track and field team won't have trouble filling events.
It will just be a matter of who goes where for Monarch coach Matt Dumler.
On the girls' side, it's a different story.
Only 17 are out, and few will actually see varsity action -- especially early in the season.
And, because of a band field trip, the Monarchs will only have 20 total for both squads when they compete in the season opener Saturday in the Alex Francis Classic at Lewis Field Stadium.
But with a young group on both sides, Dumler is excited to get things going.
"It will really be a few weeks before we see what we really have," Dumler said. "They're working hard, and they're excited. We're just going to see what we can do."
The Monarch boys do return six state qualifiers from a season ago. Sophomore Andrew Hess returns after qualifying for state in the 3,200. Juniors Nick Schmidt and Cameron Fouts were members of last season's second-place 400-meter relay team, while Schmidt and sophomore T.J. Flax ran on the fourth-place 1,600-meter relay team. Also returning are junior Sam Dreiling, a state-qualifier in the pole vault last season, and senior Skyler Urban, who placed sixth in the triple jump.
"They're going to be stronger than what they were last year," Dumler said of his returning qualifiers.
Plus, many from the rest of the roster have varsity experience, and there are a few freshmen who will compete for varsity spots after standout eighth-grade seasons.
On the girls' side, varsity experience is at a minimum, but the Monarchs do return four state qualifiers from a season ago. Senior Kayla Walker and sophomore Melissa Pfeifer ran legs of last season's 3,200-meter relay state championship, while Pfeifer also was a qualifier in the 800. Senior Samantha Younie returns after qualifying in the triple jump, and senior Mikaela Flax is back after her trip to state a season ago in the 400.
"Melissa Pfeifer is running extremely well right now in practice," Dumler said.
Plus, sophmore Kaylor Gottschalk returns in the jumps, and Dumler said she has looked solid early on.
"We also have some freshmen that will be able to step in and score some points," Dumler said. "We really won't know what we have as a team until about the third competitive week, which is the Ellsworth meet."
The high school portion of Saturday's opener begins at 11 a.m. Then, the Monarchs will have a split squad in their second outing. Some will travel to Russell, while others will compete in the annual K.T. Woodman/Pre-State Classic in Wichita.
"We're looking for the young kids to compete well. Looking for them to go get a taste of high school track," Dumler said. "We're just looking to get their feet wet."