By AUSTIN COLBERT
There certainly isn't any sugar coating with Thomas More Prep-Marian track and field coach Matt Dumler. He knows what he has, he knows what the other teams have, and he knows getting out of Friday's Class 3A regional won't be an easy task.
"In the last 10 years, I don't know if I've seen one this hard. I've heard some people call it the mini state," Dumler said. "I fully expect that the four kids that get out of each event, it wouldn't surprise me to see most of those four kids stand at the podium at the state meet next week. This is a difficult one. But like we tell the kids, you can't run from the competition. You are going to see it somewhere. Might as well see it at regionals and head into the state meet knowing that you got a shot."
TMP will be in Phillipsburg for its regional Friday, beginning at 3 p.m. for field events. A total of 16 teams will be participating, including host Phillipsburg, the MCL boys' champions, and Norton Community High School.
The Monarchs took second place at the MCL meet last week, also held in Phillipsburg. The host Panthers won the meet and should be among the favored contenders at regionals. But the TMP boys will have a chance at top three, with a handful of its athletes in the running for a regional championship.
"That regional track meet is a funny thing. Nerves can get a kid or people stepping up," Dumler said. "The adrenaline is running, especially from the kids that are sitting in the fifth and sixth spot coming in. They know they have to chase somebody. And with the quality meet that we have coming up, it's not going to surprise me at all if kids sitting in fifth, sixth, seventh are the ones that get out of it."
Dumler feels confident that his main trio of boys will be headed to Wichita for the state meet next week: Senior Ryan Mayorga, junior Cameron Fouts and junior Sam Dreiling.
Fouts has had an exceptional year in the javelin and leads the regional by a large margin coming in. His top throw of 182 feet, 2 inches is a good deal ahead of Beloit's Dustin Reiter, who has a throw of 174-03, which is second entering Friday's regional.
Mayorga has continued to develop as a jumper, and will enter the regional with the second best mark in the high jump at 6-02, and inch short of Southeast of Saline's Mathew Helvey.
"Ryan Mayorga has kind of got his high jump figured out. He is really just a few little things away from jumping really big for us. He is going in with a really good shot. He is somebody that they are going to be chasing after," Dumler said. "Cameron, he's just got a lot of excitement. He's hit some really big throws. He broke our school record about a month ago and as he's tried to tweak a few things it's dropped. But then at league last week he hit a really big one again. So that's really encouraging to see."
Dreiling enters regional ranked second in the pole vault with a season-best mark of 14-0. Hoisington's Brandon Ball is the front-runner with a height of 15-0. Dumler knows Dreiling can do better. He was able to clear 14-6 at Russell earlier this season, but kept his hand on the pole too long and his hand hit the bar on the way down.
Senior Aaron Moore and sophomore Andrew Hess are also in the mix. Moore enters ranked seventh in the discus throw with a toss of 141-02. He will likely need to add about two feet to that distance in order to qualify for state.
Hess is the team's best distance runner. He is ranked eighth in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 10:44.00, and is part of the 3,200-meter relay team that currently sits fifth entering regionals.
"Hess is never a kid I am going to count out of any race he is in. He is such a strong runner," Dumler said. "He's got that little bit of cockiness and confidence in him that he's not afraid to run hard. He's not afraid to chase the leaders. If he takes 20-25 seconds off his two-mile -- I know that sounds really, really big -- but that's not going to surprise me if he does."
The best chance the Monarchs have on the girls' side is sophomore Melissa Pfeifer, who sits in fourth in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:30.80, about four seconds ahead of fifth place. Dumler likes where a few other girls are at as well, but also understands the competition is so high that getting out of regionals will be difficult.
Senior Mikaela Flax is seventh in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 49.60, but will likely need to shave a solid two seconds off the time to qualify. Fort Hays State University commit Samantha Younie is close in the triple jump, entering sixth with a jump of 34-1.5.
Dumler believes both the 400-meter relay and 3,200-meter relay will be in contention as well.
"As tough as the guys' side is, the girls is that much tougher ... Melissa is a girl we are looking at where we think she can get out and be really a leader for the team. A couple of the other ones, they've just drawn really tough fields," Dumler said.
"Come regionals time you can look at a kid and tell they are prepared and Melissa has that look right now. You can tell she is ready to go and she's got that desire. So she's got that half-mile coming up and it's a deep field. But I fully expect Melissa to be right there in the mix."