They have come by the dozens–spanning six grades and even coming from other sports.
There’s no pigeon-holing the roster of this year’s Muskie track-and-field team as roughly 40 athletes have arrived on scene to give coach John Dutton his largest and most multi-dimensional contingent in many seasons.
“Last year, we usually took 16 total to the meets–we have 20 Grade 9s alone this year,” marvelled Dutton, whose squad gets its first test tomorrow at one of three meets being hosted by the International Falls Broncos this season.
“We don’t have very many seniors, nine or 10, but we’ve got 11 Grade 7-8s,” Dutton added.
“[And] all my cross-country running girls have come out to run track.
“They’re going to do very well at the distance races and they can high jump, too,” he noted.
Dutton still is sorting out which of his athletes will compete in which events–a process that will continue to unfold throughout tomorrow’s meet.
“I’m taking everybody even though it’s a varsity [Grade 10-12] meet,” he said.
“I always take the Grade 9s, anyway, and I’ve told the Grade 7-8s they can do one running event tomorrow,” added Dutton, who has a team of mostly female competitors except for about seven or eight boys.
“It will be good for them to lay down some base times,” he reasoned. “Most have never even been on a real track.”
With so many bodies around, Dutton is grateful for the assistance he’s getting from some noted alumni and his more experienced veterans.
“Jacob Empey is back around coaching long jump and triple jump,” Dutton said about the former OFSAA competitor who graduated last year.
“[Grade 11 participant] Sekina Scheibler has been a great help to the discus throwers and shot putters, helping them fine-tune their technique,” he added, referring to the 2015 OFSAA gold-medalist in Midget boys’ discus.
“The seniors have really been leaders and have been a great help with the early-season training.
“We’ve been going since Valentine’s Day and with this size of a group, we can cover all the events,” said Dutton, who also has had Muskie junior boys’ basketball coach Angela Petsnick coming out to help the runners.
“It’s going to be fun and I’m enjoying every practice.”
Dutton said the unseasonably mild weather of late has been a godsend, as well.
“We’ve never been outdoors in March before, and we were out there for the last two weeks of the month and never looked back,” he noted.
“Last year, the first International Falls meet was snowed out and our long jump pit was frozen until May,” he recalled.
“This gives the kids that much more practice.”
The team will be back in the Falls for a junior varsity meet April 21 and then another senior meet on April 25.
Then it’s a double road trip to Dryden for a two-day meet May 12-13, followed by the Harry McMaster Classic on May 18.
The NWOSSAA championships are set May 23-24 in Thunder Bay.
“I’m optimistic and I think this year is going to be a good experience for the kids,” Dutton predicted.