Steady improvement and a desire to succeed is what any coach hopes to see from their team over the course of the season.
The Muskie track-and-field team has done that in spades so far this season and took another giant leap in their development at the Last Chance Invite varsity meet held in Baudette, Mn. last Thursday.
Fort High racked up a multitude of medals and top-five finishes last week, which has pleased Muskie coach John Dutton.
“Baudette was just that meet that we needed as a team at this point in our season. The athletes are starting to build some confidence in their training and it is clearly visible in how much more aggressive they have become both on the track and in their field events,” he enthused.
"We posted more than a few PRs in distance and middle distance races, while our sprinters are all starting to shave time off their 100m, 200m, [and] 400m runs.
“All the jumping events are looking really good, and our throwers continue to look ready to compete in Thunder Bay,” he lauded.
“I am looking forward to our medal presentation at Tuesday's practice—lots of gold, silver and bronze to give out.”
It truly was another outstanding meet for the Muskies last week in Baudette.
Carson Noga again was a standout among the boys' contingent, finishing 1-2 in the 100m dash with Ryan Stewart with times of 11.78 and 12.11, respectively.
That was followed by Caelin Mayhew in fourth (12.24), Jesse Marschalk in 12th (12.94) and Sean Huziak in 13th (12.98).
Noga also had the top Muskie finish in the 200m race, snaring silver with a time of 24.09.
He was followed by Mayhew in seventh (26.15), Marschalk in 10th (26.77), Josh McGinnis in 11th (26.78) and Thre Windigo in 15th (34.38).
Matthew Watts was the lone Muskie in the 400m race, winding up ninth with a time of 1:04.85.
Muskie Owen Riches and Trent Wilson (Donald Young School) finished 3-4 in the 800m race with times of 2:29.06 and 2:30.78, respectively.
They were followed by Ben Olson in ninth (2:38.93), James Furlong in 10th (2:39.09), Watts in 12th (2:54.14) and Braydon Christiansen in 13th (3:01.07).
Wilson was tops in the 1600m race, nabbing silver with a time of 5:14.13.
Riches, meanwhile, fell just shy of the podium in placing fourth (5:18.13), followed by Furlong in ninth (5:35.73), Olson in 12th (5:56.00), while Watts wound up 14th (6:11.00).
Fort High also nabbed silver in both the boys' 4x100m (50.33) and 4x200m (1:43.65) relay races.
In the high jump event, Noga snared another silver with a height of 4'11".
Riches and Furlong tied for sixth with an identical height of 4'05“, while Olson wound up 11th (4'03”).
Noga then also snared gold in the long jump event, topping the field with a jump of 17'00".
That was followed by Furlong in third (15'08“), Huziak in fourth (15'04"), Stewart in fifth (15'03.50"), McGinnis in sixth (14'09.50"), Riches in 10th (14'00"), Christiansen in 14th (12'03.50"), and Nathan Spuzak in 18th (10'02”).
McGinnis and Wilson finished 4-5 in the triple jump event with jumps of 33'00.50“ and 31'02.50”, respectively.
They were followed by Christiansen in ninth (27'05.50").
Huziak and Stewart placed 2-3 in the shot put event with throws of 35'09.25“ and 34'08.50”, respectively.
And Huziak also topped the discus event with a throw of 114'02“, followed by Stewart in fifth (87'06”).
“Our two biggest strengths as a team are diversity and leadership,” Dutton noted.
"Our team is made up of a wide variety of athletes, where in the past we have been a 'sprinting team' or a 'throwing team'—this year's squad is made up of throwers, jumpers, and runners at every distance.
“We will be well-represented at NWOSSAA in every discipline and in every age group,” he predicted.
Grace Petsnick had the best showing among the girls, taking gold in each of the high jump (4'06“), long jump (15'05"), and triple jump (31'06”) events.
She also was the top Muskie in the 100m dash in placing seventh with a time of 13.93.
That was followed by Cassie Krawchuk in eighth (14.14), Joyce Wu in 10th (14.63), and Parker Boyd in 14th (15.84).
Wu was the lone Muskie competitor in the 200m race, winding up 12th with a time of 35.58.
In the 400m race, Krawchuk snared bronze (1:11.40), while Wu placed ninth (1:21.90).
Alexis Gate (Nestor Falls School) took fourth in the 800m race (2:55.38), followed by Muskies Ayiana Gagne in seventh (3:09.84), Anna Gagne in ninth (3:12.77), and Alacea Yerxa in 10th (3:21.77).
Gate and Ayiana Gagne finished 2-3 in the 1600m race with times of 6:37.10 and 6:37.89, respectively.
That was followed by Anna Gagne in fifth (7:07.68) and Yerxa in ninth (7:29.84).
Fort High then finished sixth out of six teams in the 4x100m relay race (1:07.76) but snared silver in the 4x800m one (12:01.34).
Ayiana Gagne snared silver in the high jump event with a height of 4'04".
Mikaelah Yerxa was tops among the Muskies in the shot put event, winding up 10th with a throw of 21'01.50".
She was followed by Julia Guertin in 16th (16'04.25").
And in the discus event, Alacea Yerxa wound up ninth (57'09“) and Mikaelah Yerxa was 10th (57'00"), followed by Guertin in 13th (50'06") and Boyd in 17th (44'08”).
“We are also fortunate to have some young gifted athletes training with the team, like Leah Seguin, Alexis Gate, and Trent Wilson,” said Dutton.
"Their many exceptional performances this season have helped to lift team spirit and inspired them to strive for excellence.
“But effective leadership is what helps us gel as a team,” he reasoned.
“Returning veterans like Grace Petsnick, Carson Noga, Ben Olson, Sean Huziak, and Alacea Yerxa work hard every practice, lead by example, motivate other team members to work hard, set goals, and persevere when training is tough,” he lauded.
The Muskies will resume action tomorrow at another junior high/varsity meet in Dryden, which also be the final meet of the season for the Grade 7-8 athletes.
Dutton has been pleased with the young athletes' performances this season, even if they are a smaller group in terms of numbers.
“This year's Grade 7/8 group is a small one but dedicated to the team, and I am very proud of their accomplishments,” he enthused.
"Most of our meets are varsity meets, which means that they are competing with students from grades 8-12, running in the same heats, throwing the senior weight shot and discus etc.
“I am very pleased to say they have done very well, and I look forward to seeing them back next season,” he added.
"I have already mentioned Trent, Leah, and Alexis, who come from district schools and travel into Fort several times a week to train with and compete along side our high school team.
“They will all be attending Fort High in September, but are already routinely winning medals at varsity events,” Dutton lauded.
With the NWOSSAA championships slated for next Tuesday and Wednesday (May 28-29) in Thunder Bay, and with OFSAA just around the corner on June 6-8 at Guelph University, Dutton noted that some of the biggest challenges his varsity athletes will have moving forward is staying mentally and physically prepared.
“I think that the team is in a good place right now, we are getting consistent strong performances at each meet while many are hitting PRs on a weekly basis,” he lauded.
“We have two main challenges as NWOSSAA and OFSAA approach; the first is determining which events will give individual athletes that best chance at success. Athletes are limited to three individual events plus relays at NWOSSAA, where up until now, many have been competing in five or more events in season competition,” he explained.
"The second challenge is having the athletes mentally and physically prepared to hit peak performances in Thunder Bay on May 28-29.
“With that in mind, we will continue to train hard, keep the focus on fitness and technique, and try to stay healthy,” Dutton vowed.