They are five seniors that have been through the battles. From running key events when they were sophomores to helping carry the team to a district championship last year, this year's crop will be the tone-setters for the Bulldogs' season.
Michael Colon, Dale Ham, Keena Hatcher, Tori Rose and Devante Larry all run different events and they all have their specialty.
"Those five kids are going to lead us this year," said Sikeston head coach Jerry Dement. "Of course we've got some other seniors and we've got some juniors and sophomores that are good contributors, but those five kids are the keys to our success this year."
The five have already been instrumental in leading the Bulldogs to a second place finish in the prestigious 15-team Murphysboro (Ill.) Invitational.
"Being the leaders of this team is a big role for us," said Colon. "Most of us score the majority of the points so we've got a big burden on our shoulders to do well in competition and do our best to bring up the team."
Colon is the team's top point-getter and most decorated returner. He finished second in the state in the triple jump last year and took seventh as a sophomore. He also ran legs on the state qualifying 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 meter relays. As a sophomore, he was on the 4 x 200 meter relay that took eighth in the state.
"Mike's versatility is very important," said Dement. "He can run anywhere from the 100, the 200 or the 400 legs on relays. He long jumps, he triple jumps. He's a very key contributor. A lot of that is the toughness he brings over from football. He and Tori both were physical football players and they played basketball. It all transfers into good work ethic and knowing what it takes to be good at things on the track."
Colon feels he can be a double-winner at state in both the long and triple jumps.
"My strongest events are my jumps," said Colon. "I honestly believe I can out-jump anybody in this area. The past couple years I choked at districts, but this year I'm jumping better than I ever have. So my goal is to be the triple and long state champ."
Colon's personal best in the triple jump is 44' 4 3/4". The school record is 47'5" set by Bryon Howard in 1991. Improving by three feet in the triple jump almost seems far-fetched, but Colon feels it's within his capabilities.
"I've just got to keep working hard and training hard," said Colon. "And if I just put it all together, I'll get it."
Colon, along with Rose and Hatcher have been members of the 4 x 200 meter team for three years. Larry has served as an alternate runner for the team. It's that familiarity that the group has with each other that makes the team formidable. That, and just being fast of course.
"In the 4 x 100, all we've got to do is nail our handoffs, we're a little shaky on that," said Colon. "The 4 x 200 is by far our strongest one. We've been running that since we were freshmen, all three of us. And we've got a fast sophomore in there. I know for a fact that we can win state in the 4 x 200."
Rose is another versatile runner who is known as one of the gutsiest members of the team.
Along with his relay leg, he also runs a leg in the 4 x 400 relay team and the open 400 meters, perhaps his strongest event.
"Tori Rose is the hardest worker on the team," said Dement. "He never misses. He's got a great attitude and the kids follow his example. He doesn't tolerate kids slacking off and he sets the standard. He's not a tremendously talented kid, but he's got good ability and more importantly he works hard. The kids respect his work ethic."
Rose showed his competitive nature last year in the Class 3A District meet in Perryville.
The Bulldogs were winning the meet going into the final race of the day, the 4 x 400 meter relay.
Sikeston was a lock to win the district championship if they could finish no worse than one place behind Perryville's top-seeded relay team.
Not only did the group do just that, but in fact, Rose overtook Perryville's anchor on the final stretch, and qualified for sectionals in the process by finishing third with a time of 3:33.60, a personal record by more than four seconds.
Hatcher may be the fastest member of the team. He was clocked at 4.37 in the 40 meter dash, but his best event in track is the 200 meter dash.
Dement says the impressive time in the 40 is attributed to Hatcher's explosiveness out of the blocks.
"Keena is probably our quickest kid off the mark," said Dement. "He's been a key contributor on our relays. We need to get his overall times down a bit. But he always runs a good solid leg and he's always there when we need him. He's been all-state in those relay events and he seems to be further along and in better shape this year than he ever was this early the last two years. So we're expecting good things out of Keena."
Ham is the team's main distance threat. He qualified for state in the 3200 meters, his strongest event. But he's also a dangerous 1600 meter runner.
"To be a good distance runner, besides having some ability, you have to have a high pain threshold," said Dement. "Because to be an elite in that event, you've got to run through a pain barrier for a pretty good length of time. Dale is good about blocking out discomfort, and he keeps pushing even though his body tells him to slow down."
Ham has run as low as 10:10 in the 3200 meters and he already has a top 10 time in the school's history.
"He's already run some good times this year," said Dement. "He's really working hard, he put a lot of time in over the winter. We think he's got a good chance to be a placer for us."
Larry is the team's 300 meter intermediate hurdler. He was a sectional qualifier last year after recording a personal best time of 40.47 to take second place at the district meet. "He is a self-made kid," said Dement. "He really works hard in practice. He's got a lot of pride and he's improved his work ethic from last year. He's just barely missed the last two years going to the state championships in the 300 hurdles. He's gotten a fifth the last two years. He's been up there as a relay alternate but he hasn't got to run up there. He's got his goals set high and he's doing a good job for us."
Larry has been striving to get his mark under 40 seconds, a time that would all but assure him of qualifying at state. Dement says if it doesn't happen, it won't be for lack of effort.
"You can't wear him out in practice," said Dement. "If I tell him to do something, he does it and he asks for more. That's one reason why he's getting better and better all the time."
Even though there are many other talented athletes on the team, Dement says these five are the top point-getters.
Colon says it's his, and the rest of his classmates' duty to nurture along the young, talented sophomores and juniors.
"Most definitely, because when I was their age I had seniors that brought me up and taught me everything," said Colon.
"And they're really talented, so it's my job to teach them the ropes. With them, we'll do a fine job this year."