Dickinson High School officially marked its change in the athletic calendar on Monday, Feb. 25, as the Midgets track and field teams gathered for the first day of spring practice.
Fine-tuning their skills weeks in advance of the other spring sports leaping into action, the Midgets boys and girls squads continued to fill out as the winter season came to a close.
On March 22, Dickinson traveled to Williston to compete in the season-opening Thrivent Indoor Invite. With victories in eight events, the Midgets boys team won its portion of the meet with a team score of 162, nearly doubling Watford City and Williston, who finished in second and third, respectively.
"For the first indoor (meet), we sat and compared some times and distances to last year, and we were pleasantly surprised," Midgets boys track and field head coach Jay Schobinger said. "We had some really good performances, especially early on considering, other than our distance runners getting out and putting on some miles, we really haven't been outside to do much."
The team's early success is a byproduct of the size of the roster. Fielding 85 kids, a figure Schobinger believes hasn't been reached in roughly two decades, Dickinson has a chance to develop some depth that may pay some dividends towards the end of the season.
"I just know that we have a lot of kids that are kind of knocking on that door, and it will be fun to see which of those kids step up. ... We have a lot of kids that are showing some promise, so that's really nice," Schobinger said.
While there is reason to look forward to the team's potential, the Midgets feature a core of returning long-distance runners which is undoubtedly the boys' team's strength.
Last year at the state meet, sophomore Brady Yoder earned a sixth-place finish in the 3200-meter run and just missed out on collecting points with a ninth-place finish in the 1600. Junior Aiden Jung was not too far behind in the latter event, coming home in 13th. The duo joined sophomores Mustafa Taylor and Hunter Gregoire in the 3200 relay, where they captured 10th.
Two other state qualifiers back for the Midgets are senior Matthew Paintner and junior Jevon Kreidt to anchor the field events. Kriedt earned a state finish of 13th in the triple jump. Paintner was tied for 12th in the shot put. As for potential surprises, Schobinger named Trey Haugen as someone to look out for in the throwing events. The sophomore produced a throw of 14.17 meters in the shot put during the season opener, winning the event.
The one area where the boys will need to make up ground is in the sprints. The foursome of Taylor, Connor Hoenke, Isaac Frimpong, and senior Anton Heyes were the only others to earn points at state, taking fifth in the 800-meter relay. Hoenke and Frimpong graduated, leaving holes to be filled.
Frimpong's little brother, Nate, isn't worried though. After teaming with his sibling, Hoenke and Taylor to an 11th-place state finish in the 400 relay, Nate is optimistic that the Midgets can at least double the team's point performance from a year ago.
"There's some people that look like they could step up and fill the spot that my brother and Connor left," Nathaniel Frimpong said. "I think we'll do pretty good concerning the sprint relays, especially the (400) and the (800)."
Not to be outdone, the Dickinson High girls track and field team were also impressive in Williston, winning the meet after taking six events and amassing 168.5 points.
"I feel like we've had a really good three weeks of practice. I thought last week we went up and really competed in Williston," girls head coach John Tuchscherer said. "We had some really good marks, some really good times, some really good things for the first meet of the year, something for us to improve upon this first week. With the weather starting to cooperate a little bit, I think everybody is excited to get outdoors and start our outdoor season."
Tuchscherer takes over the head coaching position after spending time as the boys co-head coach. In addition, Dakota Hayes joins the program as an assistant coach, where she'll be help the mid-distance runners.
This season, the Lady Midgets will feature 12 state competitors from a team that finished 10th overall a year ago, highlighted by hurdler Peyton Selle. The junior captured fifth in the 100-meter hurdles and third in the 300 hurdles. Junior Audrey Rodakowski and sophomore Mattylyn Biel are also back in the fold, both of which helped Selle and now-graduate Emily Keller grab seventh in the 1600 relay.
Tuchscherer is still in search of some answers in the sprint races and says it will take some time to figure out who will run where. What's encouraging is, just like with the boys team, the girls received a large number of tryouts.
"There's a good core of runners that we have back, but also our numbers are good this year. We have 65 girls out for track, which is a good number for us," Tuchscherer said. "I think with the mix of returners and also some freshmen that are stepping on a varsity role, I think that can help us on the track."
Linking with Selle and Rodakowski, freshmen Hannah Vannatta and Claire Kreidt ran the 1600 relay in Williston, finishing second in the event with a time of four minutes, 32.33 seconds.
Vannatta, Kreidt, along with Jordan Reger and Staci Kempernich are all freshmen who could pose as contributors on the track and aid Dickinson in its strength: the field events.
Senior Meghan Ackerman captured a pair of top-8 finishes in the pole vault and triple jump while also competing at state in the long jump. Fellow senior Gabby Jung is back after being tied for fourth in the high jump.
Aiming to qualify at the discus throw for the first time, senior Alanta Tormaschy is coming off a ninth-place state finish in the shot put, an event she's qualified for in each of the last two seasons.
"It all starts with staying low and there's a lot that goes into it as far as staying down. All of that has to come together in the end, because if you mess up with one little thing, your whole throw is going to be off," said Tormaschy of her technique. "At practice, it's really important to focus on each individual thing.
"We've gotten a lot of practice and reps in as far as throws go, we've been in the weight room a lot, so I think that's going to help later on in the season."