PERRYVILLE - The 2002 MSHSAA Class 3A, District 1 track and field meet will begin on Saturday at Perryville High School with events beginning at 11 a.m.
Sikeston, the defending district champions on the boys side, is once again one of the favorites along with host school Perryville.
"It should be a very tough meet with a lot of balance, but I think in the end it will come down to us and Perryville," said Sikeston head coach Jerry Dement. "There's 15 teams in it with four from down here and the rest up in Jefferson County. There's some pretty good programs that we're going against with Perryville, Herculaneum, Park Hills, North County and Ste. Genevieve. Those are all pretty decent programs so I look for it to be real competitive."
The Bulldogs only had one first place finish in last year's meet, but they managed to point at least once in 15 of the 18 events to garner enough points to win.
Dement expects more of the same this year.
"Our forte has been our balance and scoring in a lot of places and I think we can do that -- that's what we're aiming for," said Dement. "Our field events have been a big strength for us and they're going to have to carry us Saturday. I think our relays can all score and we're going to have to do some things on the track, which I think we have a chance to."
Of the field events, Michael Colon (triple jump), Ryan Gibson (pole vault) and Kevin Keller (shot put) are returning all-staters. Andrew Lambert (jumps) and Justin Lowes (throws) also qualified for state last year.
"Most of our experience is back in the field events with Lambert and Colon in the jumps and Keller and Lowes in the throws," said Dement. "I've got a pole vaulter back and a young one that's doing really well. They're all going to have to carry us on the boys side."
The 4 x 200 meter relay team of Tori Rose, Colon, Felante Larry and Keena Hatcher are seeded first in that event. Three of the runners were on the all-state team last year with the freshman Larry being the only newcomer.
"We've got some relay teams that are going to have to come through," said Dement. "If they run like they're capable then they'll do fine."
Dale Ham qualified for the sectional meet last year in the 3200 meters and Sam Klimmek also looks to compete in the distance events.
Freshmen Max Hanson (pole vault) and Tyler Woodson (110 high hurdles) are both considered threats to place in the district meet.
On the girls side, Sikeston finished in third place last year behind the strength of three standout seniors (Amanda Metzger, Erica Barnett and Jennifer Hampton).
Dement says he doesn't expect his young girls team to fare quite as well this year.
"I think we're shooting for the middle of the pack in all honesty," said Dement. "We've got a very young team with just two seniors and I think that would be a respectable finish for them. We have a few girls that I think can move on."
Sikeston's top returner is sophomore Rachael Vining, who was a sectional qualifier from last year in the long jump. She also competes in the triple jump and the 300 meter hurdles. Dement pointed out some other athletes that could also make some noise this year.
"We've got a chance in the 100 meter dash with Tyrese Wims and Beth Clayton," said Dement. "We've got a relay team that's seeded up there high. Of course, Rachael is a threat to go in at least three events, particularly her jumps. Her hurdles and one of her relays she'll have a chance also. Paige Kaiser in the pole vault and one of our throwers has a chance to do something. But team wise we got third last year which was a real nice finish. This year realistically we'll be in the middle of the pack."
The meet is scheduled to wrap things up at 5:35 p.m. The meet won't get ahead of schedule at any point, but it could run behind.