(David Jenkins, Staff)
A team led heavily by their jumpers, the Sikeston boys track and field team is facing big question marks after graduating a trio of jump standouts. Individual state champion Cal Lane, Domonic Fondon and Demetrius Jackson were all a huge chunk of that 44 points that gave the Bulldogs their first boys state championship in school history.
"That's where our questions are know," Sikeston track coach Terry Flannigan said. "We lost some horses that were some thoroughbreds and they're going to be hard to replace. They're off doing pretty good in college right now so, that tells you how good they were.
"That was a dream come true," Flannigan said about their state title. "I was so proud of the kids because they fought all year. They adhered to what we were trying to do. They bought into it and it showed."
Lane single handedly scored 26 points in his three events at the state competition last year; placing first in the long jump and triple jump while finishing third in the high jump. Fondon and Jackson added five and three points respectively in the triple jump to give the Sikeston team a total of 34 points.
Although their jumpers my have carried the load last year, they're confident they have the returners they need to get back to state.
"There is expectations," senior hurdler Tanner Bryant said. "A lot of people like to say that last year we won just because we had certain people. We had a lot of talent, you can't lie about that. But, we have a lot of talent this year. We have a lot returning. I'd be disappointed if we didn't place in the top three."
Bryant himself will be relied on heavily.
He will be running in both the 110 and 300 meter hurdle events as well as compete in the pole vault and possibly finding a place in a relay event, where the Bulldogs were strong last year.
"We're looking to have a lot of things coming from Tanner," Flannigan said. "He's going to be a big, big part."
Losing relay runners Fondon and Chris Simmons will also be a void needed filled. Along with Fondon and Simmons, CJ Council, Ismail Johnson and Darryl Howard made up eight points in last years championship in the 4x200 and 4x100 relay events.
Council, Johnson, Howard, Bryant and Trey Johnson will be the staples of the relay events this year; a place that Flannigan is putting a lot of stock in to.
"Those guys are going to lay the foundation," Flannigan said. "They will bring leadership and right now they're not working too bad. If they will pull these other one's along, then I think we'll be pretty decent."
Flannigan thinks that the crop of young runners he has received will produce a lot over the upcoming season. Just as long as he can convince them of the way things are done.
"We're trying to find someone to slot in there," Flannigan said. "We got a lot of young kids and a few newcomers and I think we're going to be alright once we get them into shape and get them to buy into the program again and do the little things."
As far as the girls team is concerned, Flannigan is expecting the same things from standout relay runners Vonterria Applewhite, Tyanne Townsend and Frankasia Howard.
He has already saw a few young runners that will fit in well with his seasoned veterans.
"We've got a couple that can run really well," Flannigan said. "We're going to find one or two that we can slot in there. I've already noticed a few of the young ones so, if we can fill them in, we can make our relays competitive again."
Sikeston's first meet will be at New Madrid County Central High School on March 25. Charleston and Caruthersville will be there as well.