BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Bloodhound boys track squad has some of the best numbers they’ve seen in quite a few years and co-head coaches Mike Schneider and Chad Hannum think the Hounds will be able to score more points throughout the season.
The two are splitting coaching duties this year, with both being career firefighters on the Fort Madison Fire Department working on different shifts. Both coaches also have sons competing this year.
“We’ve thought about doing this for some time,” Schneider said. “We just looked this year and said it might be the right time to do it. We’re excited for the opportunity and we’re hoping to be able to score some points this year.”
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One of the biggest holes to fill will be that of Elijah Barnes, who finished fourth at state last year in the shotput. Barnes regularly set personal bests throughout the indoor and outdoor seasons last year and just recently qualified as a National Junior College All-American for Indian Hills Community College with a 6th place finish at nationals last week. Barnes finished 9th at state in the discus in 2018. The top 8 medal.
Junior Jayden Fedler and senior Alec Craft will be a big part of filling that gap. Todd McGhghy has signed on to be the throwing coach this year. Last year Andrew Troxel was the throwing coach and helped Barnes and Lady Hounds’ Leigh Johnson both to medals at the state meet. Troxel left FMHS for his alma mater in Wisconsin where he’s now the head coach. Sophomore Ethan Deacon will also throw this year.
Junior Matt Hellige, who runs with the Hounds in a shared program with Holy Trinity Catholic, has been handling the long-distance events for Fort Madison for the past few years. Hellige ran at state in the 3200-meter run finishing 22nd overall.
“Matt’s just a very dedicated runner and we hope to get him back to state this year again.” Schneider said. “He’s been working with Jairo Scruggs, who helps him with cross-country, too, so we’re looking for good things in the distance events this year.”
Hellige finished 58th out of 140 runners at the Class 1A cross country meet this past fall.
The Hounds won’t have a lot of leadership, but could make up for it with some quick underclassmen. Three freshman sprinters have caught the coaches’ attention including Gavin Wiseman, Jake McGowan, and Tate Johnson in sprints and Hayden Wolfe could help get points in the distance events. Freshman Garrett Hannum will provide some depth in sprints and middle events.
“If that freshman class sticks together we could see some great things out of them as they learn to run varsity track,” Hannum said.
Seniors Trey Kuntz and Dom Frantz will be bringing some new leadership to the squad in sprinting. Junior Quinton Ross, Brock Califf, and Gage Fullenkamp will also anchor some sprint events.
Justin Cain, another Fort Madison Firefighter, has also joined the coaching squad to help with jumping.
Cain said McGowan and possibly Mikey DiPrima could try to steal some points in the long jump, triple jump, and possibly a high jumper for the first time in a while for Fort Madison. Cain was a pole vaulter for his high school in the Quad Cities.
The Hounds got their first taste of competitive running this past Saturday at the A.D. Dickinson Relays at UNI in Cedar Falls. With the Hounds having just two weeks of practice following basketball and wrestling season, Hannum said the event went well.
“I was happy with the way they ran at the UNI meet considering who they were running up against. Those are big schools and athletes can specialize there so those kids run track all year.”
Schneider said he thinks the Hounds will be competitive in the sprints and dashes, but he said they’re a little light in the 800 runs and relays. He said Wolfe could step into that role as the year goes on.
The boys travel to Central College for the Pekin Indoor Invitational on Thursday before heading to Monmouth College on Saturday for another indoor meet before starting the outdoor season on March 21 at Washington’s Case field.