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BHS spring previews: Boys track and field: Many of Bemidji's top athletes return

The Bemidji boys track and field program includes more than 45 athletes this spring. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — In recent years the Bemidji boys track and field team has been very strong in the distance events and Lumberjacks head coach Steve Sneide doesn’t see that situation changing any time soon.

“I think we have plenty of talented athletes coming back from last year’s team,” Sneide said. “I think we have many of our top guys back.”

Among those athletes are Gunnar Nelson and Sam Carlson who formed 50 percent of last spring’s 4x800 relay unit. Joining the duo were Nick Gubbels and Elias Hendrickson and collectively the group experienced a tremendous 2013, capping the season by placing second at the state meet in Hamline.

Posting a school-record time of 7:47.92, the squad ran the third-fastest 4x800 relay time in the history of the state meet. Unfortunately for the Jacks, however, Eden Prairie had the second-fastest time of 7:47.61 and BHS had to settle for second place in the state competition.

“Last year we were 0.3 seconds away from winning the state and we have Sam and Gunnar coming back,” Sneide said. “The 4x800 relay will be a focus this spring and we will find the right kids to fill in those spots. Our philosophy always has been to put kids in events where they will be successful and we will find the right kids for the relay.”

A year ago the Lumberjacks also advanced to state in the 4x400 relay, placing 13th with a school-record time of 3:24.63. Returning from that squad is Wakinyan Moore.

“We want to get back to state in the 4x400 and I think we have many kids who can run that distance,” Sneide said. “We know that we can produce good 400 runners. We have built a culture at Bemidji High School in the distance events and kids want to be in the 4x400 and 4x800. Through the years we have had success in those events and now many kids want to be a part of those relays.”

Among those potential distance runners are Logan Hatfield, Nate Gubbels, Billy Freyholtz Caleb Appleton and Payton Christofferson but Sneide has more than 50 kids out, including 10 seniors, 13 juniors and 19 sophomores, so he will use the early season to assess the potential of each athlete.

“We lost many quality kids from last year but we also have many quality kids coming back,” the coach said. “We know what we have on the top end and our job will be to find the right spots for the other kids. We’re getting the numbers up in the program and now we will develop those kids.”

Sneide is hoping that the right fit for many of the kids can be found in the field events and the sprints.

“In the past few years we’ve been weak in the throws but this year it appears that we have more kids who want to throw and when you have competition you will become better in the event. And we are looking forward to seeing how these throwers will do.

“We also don’t have many kids who are true sprinters,” the coach continued. “It is tough to find sprinters in northern Minnesota but we will do our best to develop sprinters.”

Sneide does think that the Jacks will be solid in the other field events.

“Logan Hatfield (long jump) and Andrew Steffes (pole vault) both placed high in the section last year in their field events and are among the top returning kids in the section,” the coach said. “And I think we’ll be in good shape with Nate Gubbels and Tanner Phillips in the hurdles. We’ll just have to see how the kids develop and, keeping everyone healthy will also be important.

“Injuries are always things we battle with, especially early in the year when you have tobattle the elements during training,” Sneide continued. “Last year we didn’t hit the track until May and, considering the conditions, we had a great season. But you wonder how successful it could have been if we had had an early spring.”

Sneide is excited about the number of athletes he has to work with and their willingness to learn.

“You could tell from the first week of practice that the kids want to work hard and that bodes well for the future,” Sneide said. “I look at high school track as a progression. We set realistic expectations for the new kids, keep them encouraged and let them understand where they fit in.

“You never know how far they can go and how far hard work and putting in the time will take them,” the coach added. “I’m excited about this year’s team.”

The schedule

Boys Track

Coach: Steve Sneide

3/22 Lions Inv (BSU)

3/25 Paul Bunyan Inv. (BSU)

4/1 Little Amik (BSU)

4/8 BSU Invitational 1 p.m.

4/11 at Moorhead Inv. 2 p.m.

4/17 BSU Relays (at BHS) 1 p.m.

4/22 at Thief River Falls Inv. 3 p.m.

4/25 at Hamline Elite 4 p.m.

5/1 at Detroit Lakes Inv. 3 p.m.

5/8 True Team (at Buffalo) 2 p.m.

5/19 BHS Invitational 3 p.m.

5/28 8-2A prelims (at Rocori) 3 p.m.

5/30 8-2A finals (at TRF) 9:30 a.m.

6/6 State meet (at Hamline) TBD

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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