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TMP track starts season today

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

Thomas More Prep-Marian junior Mikaela Flax said her squad is taking 2013 as a new year. Last year's results were last year's results. All they can do now is work hard and try their best, she said.

However, it's hard not to look at last year's state results and do the math to see TMP's chances.

The Monarchs have brought home state trophies the past three seasons, but none of them were the heaviest one. The TMP girls finished second the past two seasons and third in 2010.

Last year, the Monarchs lost to Rossville, 74 to 48, but Rossville graduated 64 of its points, with the remaining 10 coming from its 1,600-meter relay which included three current graduates.

TMP, on the other hand, returned 40 of its 48 points -- the most of any Class 3A girls' team.

However, head coach Matt Dumler said that doesn't mean TMP should be anointed 2013 state champions right now.

"You can't look at last year's state track meet and say, 'This is what everybody else scored and this what we brought back so it should put us ahead,' " Dumler said. "That's not really the way track works. Every year is a new year. We've got to start from scratch, from the base, and work our way up."

TMP starts the season today at the Russell Invitational.

Dumler said it's difficult to predict girls' athletics. Any team can have a strong freshman-sophomore group that takes the state stage by storm.

He said it's important for his squad to work hard to even have a shot at competing for a state trophy, let alone the first-place trophy.

"It's a new year," he said. "We've got to compete and perform."

With that said, Dumler said he feels good about this year's squad.

TMP's top returner is senior Heather Ruder, an eight-time gold medalist and four-time silver medalist.

Ruder hasn't lost in the 1,600-meter run or 800-meter run in her prep career at state, and she has two golds and a silver at 3,200 meters. She also placed second in the 400-meter dash her freshman and sophomore seasons and in the 3,200-meter relay last year.

Other returning state qualifiers include senior Allison Pfeifer, who placed sixth in the 1,600-meter run and was a part of the 3,200 relay; Flax, who placed ninth in the 300-meter hurdles; senior Megan Gottschalk, who finished sixth in the pole vault; junior Samantha Younie, who failed to record a distance in the triple jump last season; and junior Kayla Walker and senior Annie Mindrup, the remaining members of the 3,200 relay.

With a talented crop of new faces, Dumler said he doesn't know where everyone will fit yet. He said he isn't even sure what events Ruder will do.

"They are going to allow us to move some of our veterans around," Dumler said.

Dumler said one freshman, Bailey Hageman, should make a difference immediately in the hurdles.

"She was running really quick times -- times that would have placed at most high school meets and probably would have gotten her to state," Dumler said.

On the boys' side, the squad could post some surprises. After all, it's a completely new team after it nearly doubled in size from last season.

The squad grew after a large incoming freshmen class arrived and a number of football players joined to better prepare themselves for fall sports.

Dumler credited his new assistant coach, John Montgomery, who also is the head football coach, for getting some more kids out.

"Coach Montgomery was real instrumental in that," Dumler said. "He talked to some of his football players and told them it will help them get their footwork down and get them stronger."

Dumler said he expects the newcomers to make an impact, especially in the throws.

Senior Anthony Walters and sophomore Parker Cox have done well so far, Dumler said.

"(Cox) has hit the weight room and broken a couple records down there," he said.

Dumler said junior Jeffrey Richmeier should do well in the sprints and jumping events as well.

TMP's lone returning state qualifier is Rodney Deus.

Deus broke the school record in the 100-meter dash last season and finished second and third in the 200 and 100 at state, respectively.

Deus said he expects improvement this season.

"I want to do better than I did last year," Deus said. "I want to break the record again and get to state and do better than I did."

Deus was sick Wednesday with the stomach flu, but he hopes to be healthy enough to compete today.

Deus said he thinks the 400-meter relay will be faster this season.

He said sprinters Carlos Duenes and Nick Schmidt have shown a great deal of improvement already.

"Carlos came back faster," Deus said. "Nick, his starts were already good last year, but now his starts are crazy."