Boys track: Irish ready to reload
The Rosemount boys track and field team is no stranger to success and coach Jay Hatleli has a simple formula when trying to decipher how strong this season's team could be.
"They key in track is always to have good numbers; you have to keep the seniors out, interested and motivated," Hatleli said. "There are so many events to cover you need a lot of seniors contributing and another key to that is also getting a good crop of young kids every year. We feel like we have a really good situation where we have that. We have the experience with some really good older kids and a talented group of young kids coming up too."
Those factors will be important when the Irish open their season April 7 at Burnsville High School.
Hatleli has seen the formula play out over several seasons at Rosemount now. Just as important for Hatleli and the Irish, the individual athletes have kept an eye on how things have unfolded for the team in recent seasons.
Every season, Rosemount has to replace key seniors from the previous year. With the recent success, many of the departed seniors leave with state meet experience. This year is no different.
But Hatleli says his athletes are preparing for their roles long before they become key contributors.
"The guys want to be a part of something successful and contribute," Hatleli said. "The guys have been really good over the years of finding where the team will need them. It's not always where they wanted to be as seniors, but as freshmen and sophomores they see guys leaving events. They have a way of filling the gaps.
"One of the ways we keep it going is guys are leaving and we have guys that see those spots and work as freshmen and sophomores to fill in behind them and hopefully be ready for state as seniors."
Rosemount appears to once again have a solid nucleus of seniors and returning state athletes.
Andrew Hausmann, Chris Mergens, Chandler Dye and Brandt Berghuis all return after earning all-state honors last season. Hausmann, Mergens and Berghuis are seniors. Dye is a junior.
Senior Shane McCallum also ran at the state meet last season.
Berghuis, Dye, Hausmann, McCallum, senior Joe Bjorklund and senior Goaner Deng are returning all-conference athletes. Junior Conor Manning was all-conference honorable mention.
The Irish cross country team advanced to the state meet in the fall and the same runners will give the track team a strong distance group with McCallum, Mergens, junior Nathan Rock and Dye leading the way. Senior John Evenocheck, senior Tyler Henkemeyer, sophomore Trevor Capra and junior Calvin Lehn should contribute as well.
Rosemount should feature a strong group of throwers with Berghuis, who qualified for state in the shot put and hammer throw last year, and Bjorklund, who just missed qualifying for state.
Junior Myles Phillips and senior Clay Notch return in the sprint events.
"The expectations are always the same," Hatleli said. "We'll find out what we have, continue to improve and put ourselves in the best position to be in the hunt when it matters at the end of the season."
Despite the cold conditions, the Irish are already working toward another trip to the state meet.
"The weather's been a challenge, but it's a challenge for everybody," Hatleli said. "It doesn't do much good to complain about it. We're still getting done most of what we normally do. We're excited about it. We have some pretty talented guys coming back."
Experienced athletes coming back to mix with a new crop of younger performers. Sounds like the perfect formula for Hatleli and the Irish.