WAYNESVILLE – This season's goal is to produce several top competitors at the Missouri Track and Field Championships.
A year ago the Waynesville High Tigers track squad finished with its sixth Ozark Conference title in eight years, adding a third place finish at districts. But injuries in the sectional round "kept us from moving some key kids on to the state meet," coach Mike Rawlings said before explaining how talented the 2012 roster was.
Miles Migliara qualified for the state championships in the 800 meter run and 4 X 100 meter relay. Dominic Jones placed fifth at state in the long jump competition, but also qualified for the triple and high jump events at sectionals. Jalon Malone, Malcom James, Steven Spellman and Aren Martin – the Tigers' leading points scorer – also qualified for either the sectional or state rounds.
Unfortunately those student-athletes have since graduated or transferred, but several returners will bolster another Ozark championship-caliber team this spring.
The enthused coach listed seniors Desean Stokes and Lenardo Walton, and sophomore Varon Martinez, each of whom participated in either the state or sectional meets, as the top returners on the current roster.
"There a lot of boys who have been in the program the past couple years that we will be depending on to step up to fill some big shoes on the varsity level," Rawlings added.
In addition to returners, several new participants have emerged.
"There are lots of new faces out for track this year," Rawlings said. "Many of them are athletes from other sports that are running track for the first time."
While only time will tell which events will best suit the novice track athletes, there are several individuals who must find a specific niche in the early portion of the 2013 schedule.
"We are just trying to place [new athletes] in the best spot for both them and the team," Rawlings said. "I can see many of them moving around into different events during the first few meets to see where they will be most successful."
Waynesville's first scheduled events are listed as open meets, which will allow team members to compete in multiple events. Coach Rawlings said he will use these events to determine which athletes will participate in which events in the latter portion of the season.
"As of now there is a tremendous amount of daily competition in the sprint, jumps and distance events," Rawlings said.
Page 2 of 2 - The fairly new head coach is not exactly a novice at coaching the sport. Rawlings has assisted the Waynesville track and field team for 17 seasons, which has made the transition to head coach "smooth."
"I am very excited to be taking over the program after 17 years as an assistant," Rawlings said. "I have worked with all members of the coaching staff for many years and they are great at what they do."
As for his excitement for the season, Rawlings is as ready as he's been to see his student-athletes in "competitive situations."
A testament to the Tigers' gritty nature, the athletes insisted to practice outside in sub-freezing temperatures and razor-sharp frigid winds a week ago.
"The weather hasn't been kind to us this spring but we have tried to make the best of it," Rawlings said.
The team's first meet is scheduled for March 18 at 4 p.m. in Rolla. Waynesville will then participate in an open meet in Camdenton on March 19 at 4 p.m. before competing at home March 21 at 4 p.m.