Through the Class B boys track and field landscape, Kaden Kuntz has been the kid to beat. With the marks he's set this season, the Dickinson Trinity senior will be a clear favorite in several events at the state meet, which begins Friday, May 24, from the MDU Resources Community Bowl in Bismarck.
The senior enters this weekend's competition as the top seed in the 100- and 200-meter dashes with times of 10.84 and 22.08 seconds, respectively. In the long jump, Kuntz will be the No. 2 seed in the long jump with a leap of 22 feet, 8 ½ inches, just one inch behind Grant County-Flasher sophomore Connor Ottmar.
Kuntz is the defending state champion in the three events.
"For me, a long jump that would be nice for me is to get another 22, because in those pits, not everyone jumps their (personal record) in those pits. My goal is to jump a 22 in those pits," Kuntz said. "And then, hopefully in the 100, run a sub-11. It's a big goal of mine, or a big mark that I'd like to reach, is running in those 10 second-marks."
The stellar senior will also compete in the 4x200 relay as the Titans look to repeat their team state championship from a year ago. Last season, Dickinson Trinity collected 80 team points, 23 points ahead of runner-up Kindred.
"In my mind, nothing really changes," Kuntz said. "We still go there with the same goal we had last year, and that's to try to do the best we can in every event and hopefully get another team title."
Placing third at state in the high jump and 110-hurdles in 2018, senior Aric Knopik is seeded first in both events this year. He will also be a contender in the 300 hurdles.
Freshman Caleb Hansen in the 3,200 and senior Issac Fridrich in the shot put are potential placers from a roster that features seven individual qualifiers. The team has also qualified in all four relays.
"We've talked about with the potential that we have going into the state meet, and that's always exciting because on paper, our boys and girls both look really good, but you don't just do the meet on paper," Trinity boys track and field head coach Craig Kovash said.
Girls look to remain in the top five
Looking to resemble its success from a year ago, the Dickinson Trinity girls track and field team will bring seven individual qualifiers in eight different events, and compete in three relay races.
"I think, since the beginning of the season, we've been focusing on the top five," Trinity girls track and field head coach Breanna Sisson said. "Knowing last season that we tied for fourth with Rugby, we were hoping that maybe we can take it one step forward and shoot for the top three. But our biggest goal is trying to make it in the top five."
Highlighting the Lady Titans' efforts is senior Masy Kuntz, juniors Kylen Kubas and Brinklyn Schumacher, and sophomore Kara Wanner. The foursome helped Trinity earn the top seed in both the 4x100 and 4x200 relays. At the Dickinson Trinity Last Chance Meet on May 14, the girls put up impressive marks in each event, posting times of 51.04 and 1:48.02, respectively.
"I think it's our chemistry and dedication to this sport," said Kuntz of the relay team's success. "Every single day, we come to practice with our heads straight and we're here for a mission, we're here to get things done. All four of us can agree that our number one priority at the track meet is to place high in those relays. That's our No. 1 goal right now."
In addition to the two relays, Dickinson Trinity's best result in the 4x400 was the third-fastest time in the state.
Kuntz is a high seed in the long jump, where she captured fifth last season. The javelin features the most Titan qualifiers. Senior Bre Tessier in the third seed with a throw of 125-03, while Schumacher and Kubas will also compete in the event.
"She's been consistent all year, usually throwing over that 120-mark," Sisson said of Tessier. "I think that consistency is going to help her at state. She seems very level-headed and usually the pressure doesn't get to her. She's going to be one of our bigger field-event performers."
Farewell will be bittersweet
A power in Class B track and field over the years, Dickinson Trinity is in prime shape to continue its run of excellence with a veteran coaching staff and younger talent coming up the pipeline. However, six boys and three girls will see their high school track and field careers come to an end in what will be their final athletic competition with the Titans.
"The experiences I've had here have been great," Kaden Kuntz said. "The teachers, the coaches, they've all been great to me, and I can't thank Trinity enough for what they've done for me. Once a Titan, always a Titan. I'll always be here for Trinity. ... It'll be a bittersweet moment."
Masy Kuntz added, "It's definitely bittersweet. I've made so many amazing memories here at Trinity with my friends, my teammates, in sports with my coaches, but I'm also really excited with what the future has to hold. So, bittersweet would be the word I'd use to describe how I'm feeling right now."