Panthers aim to be strong in 'totally new' situation

The Monticello boys track and field team, first row from left: Cord Nietert, Sawyer Brokaw, Connor Sauser, Chesney Capron, Alex Oswald, Caleb Rickels, Brock Westphal, Hayden Tomkins and Rylan Cooper. Second row: Cooper Wickman, Connor Hynick, Zach Chapman, Carson Cox, Walker Spence, Grant Hospodarsky, Zach Yates, Ian Temple, Preston Ries and Levi Temple. Third row: Davin Wickman, Jayden Orcutt, Conner Jordan, Caleb Sauser, Elias Etzel, Dylan Ponder, Harrison Ahlrichs, Bryce Cleeton and Jacob Miller. Fourth row: head coach Greg Williams, Carter Kurt, Ty Tallman, Brayden Cleeton, Eian Weber, Caden Ungs, Kyle Shady, Jasper Nietert, Ian Lorenzen, Ty Jesenovec, Nathan Sauser and assistant coach Donnie Kremer. Not pictured are Dylan Roher and Malcolm Clark. (Photo by Pete Temple)
Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     A comment from 32nd-year Monticello High School boys track and field coach Greg Williams could sum up the thoughts of every spring sports coach in Iowa.

     “This is totally new to all of us,” Williams said.

     “This” is a season being conducted one year after every high school spring sport in the state was shut down due to COVID-19.

     Williams said it is the equivalent of having two years of freshmen on the team.

     “It will take them a few meets to figure things out,” he said.

     Fortunately for the Panthers, there are plenty of leaders to help them learn and improve. Four seniors played big roles for the team two years ago and have already shown significant promise this season: jumper/hurdler Caden Ungs, thrower Brayden Cleeton, and mid- to long distance runners Jasper Nietert and Zach Chapman.

     Ungs has already tied a school record in the high jump, with a 6-foot-7 leap in Monticello’s season-opening home meet March 29. Cleeton won the shot put event in a meet at Kingston Stadium April 1. Nietert and Chapman have both been among the top Panther runners in cross country, and Nietert was a member of Monti’s State-qualifying distance medley relay two years ago.

     Two other distance runners – junior Carter Kurt and sophomore Harrison Ahlrichs – will provide depth in those events.

     So it’s not surprising that field events and mid-distance events were listed by Williams as team strengths.

     The Panthers have 40 athletes out for the team, and hope to be competitive in the River Valley Conference, along with potential favorites Bellevue, Mid-Prairie and Northeast of Goose Lake.

     As for the larger meets, Williams said: “We hope to qualify four events to the Drake Relays, win the conference championship and finish in the top 10 at state.”

     He is assisted by Donnie Kremer.



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