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Boys track preview: Trying to keep it going

As far as recent success goes, the Rosemount boys track and field team has some big track shoes to fill.

The Irish have been a mainstay at the state meet the past several years.

It's now up to a new group of athletes to keep the tradition going and coach Jay Hatleli thinks this year's squad is ready to rise to the challenge.

"We're optimistic this year, as everybody is," Hatleli said. "We've got a lot of kids, a lot of talent, a good coaching staff, good weather. We feel good about the whole situation heading into the season."

The sunshine has led to warm weather and a bright outlook from Hatleli. And make no mistake, the early spring weather is certainly playing a part.

"We're pretty far ahead of the game from where we normally are, and getting access to some facilities," Hatleli said.

While Hatleli believes the talent is in place to continue Rosemount's success, the points might come from different places.

"Obviously, from year to year things shift," Hatleli said. "You lose key guys every year. One thing we've had to do and should be able to this year is, in some areas you lose irreplaceable guys, but you get better in other areas. This will be a different type of team. When you put all the pieces together, the overall strength of this team should be comparable to other years."

Senior Zach Vraa returns after placing second in the state in the 110-meter hurdles last year. Vraa and senior Andrew Anderson were on the 4x200 relay team that placed second in the state.

Juniors Goaner Deng and Andrew Hausmann, and sophomore Chandler Dye ran in the state meet last year.

Junior Brandt Berghuis competed in the state meet in the shot put last season.

Along with jumpers Brandon Wolf and Jordan Maeck, Garrett Bothun, Jake Nelson and Tony Marthaler in the pole vault, the depth of scoring could improve this season.

The distance crew will be led by athletes who ran cross country in the fall, such as Dye, Nathan Rock and Shane McCallum.

"I would say our greatest team strength is our overall team depth," Hatleli said. "I don't know if we will dominate in any one area, but at the same time we won't be weak in any area."

With Vraa, Anderson, Deng and Hausmann all with the ability to compete in sprint events, the Irish could again put together strong relay events. However, Hatleli isn't ready to make any decisions on how to piece together his relays.

What the coach does know, is with his quality stable of athletes, the Irish will have strong relays.

"With a good collection of guys, I think at some point we'll be about to put something together," Hatleli said. "But we don't know what that is yet. It will really depend on how many guys improve as the season goes along, but we think we'll be able to put top-level relays on the track."

With strong returning talent and hope in the newcomers, Hatleli doesn't expect his squad to miss a beat when it comes to the high expectations put forth by Rosemount teams of the past few years.

"I would say our goals are the same as the last four years, we want to win section and state championships," Hatleli said. "We tell the guys we wouldn't set that as a goal if it wasn't realistic. We're not throwing it out there because it's fun to say. We wouldn't say it if we didn't think we had the talent to show up and do it."