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BOYS TRACK: Irish will be led by distance runners

Rosemount's boys track coach Jay Hatleli enters every season with a couple of goals.

The first goal is to fare well at the true team and Lake Conference meets.

The second is to advance as many individuals to the state meet as possible.

A year ago, the Irish did all that -- and more. Rosemount won the section championship and advanced to the state meet for the second consecutive year.

In addition, five individuals and two relay teams advanced to state.

"We put a lot of priority on the true team meets," Hatleli said of his goals entering this season. "Beyond that, it becomes seeing how many guys we can get to state."

While the Irish have a few holes to fill in this season, Hatleli will have plenty of options to choose from as he weeds through 147 boys out for track.

"We have got a lot of kids to choose from," Hatleli said. "We have to figure out what kids can do."

Normally, Hatleli has 120 to 130 athletes trying out for the team. "This year is real big," he said. "It is a nice problem."

Hatleli thinks there are a couple of reasons why there are so many athletes interested in the sport in Rosemount.

"Track is unique in that it is an individual sport, but there is also the team," he said. "They like the team component and we emphasize it. They like competing for spots on the roster."

Monday's snowstorm and cold temperatures have been a challenge early in the season as practice got under way.

"We have a couple of things working in our favor this year," Hatleli said. "We have an extremely talented group of distance runners. Their cross country exploits have been well documented. They are all here and they are as good as they come."

Among those cross country runners are Jordan Carlson and Obai Hussein, who finished in fourth and fifth place respectively a year ago in the 800 at the state meet.

Other top returners include Elijah Buecksler, who throws the discus, Austin Eliason, Christian Willman and Andrew Anderson.

"Those guys are all young, but they are all growing up a little bit," Hatleli said. "They should be able to compete. We've got a really good group of sprinters and jumpers."

There are plenty of spots open for competition.

"We have to fill in some gaps where we lost through graduation," Hatleli said. "With those kinds of numbers, it makes it easier to rebuild."

Warmer weather will be welcomed by Hatleli, who is in his sixth year as coach of the Irish boys track team. The team starts out practice indoors, and then heads out into the wet and cold conditions whenever they can.

"We do as much as we can inside, but really that amounts to stretching and warm-ups," he said.