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Cardinal boys tracksters looking to youthful future

VETERAN LEADERS — Fairmont track & field competitors, from left, Ethan Grunewald, William Saari, Hudson Artz, Connor Artner and Kainen Craig, will lead the Cardinals into their season-opening meet Thursday at Wilson Field in Blue Earth. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — A youth-filled roster is ready to load into the starting blocks for Fairmont.

The Cardinal boys roster lost a lot of experience missing last season because of the COVID-19 break in spring sports, but now there are big numbers of underclassmen ready to fill roles.

This season, the Cardinal boys track & field roster is made up of four seniors, five juniors, 11 sophomores, 19 freshmen and two eighth graders. Senior Connor Artner and junior Hudson Artz will help lead the young team as captains.

“I know we’ve got guys that work hard,” Fairmont head track & field coach Bob Bonk said of his young roster. “I do know that we have some speed. We have some new guys that haven’t been up before that are fast. And I think we’ll have some nice sprint relays. … Hudson Artz is probably the head honcho right now as far as, as being a really proven competitor, but I’m sure that some of those new guys are going to definitely score a lot of points.”

With the youthful roster, Artz is the lone returner with state experience after taking part in the Cardinals’ state champion 4×400-meter relay in 2019.

The revamped Cardinal roster will face a season unlike any other, with a limited number of meets and no large competitions on the schedule.

Even in the smaller meets, each team will have a limited number of competitors in each event, leaving Bonk less of an opportunity to learn about his new athletes during competition.

Fairmont’s coaches will get their first look at the youthful team during Thursday’s quad meet against Blue Earth Area, Jackson County Central and Luverne at 4:30 p.m. in Blue Earth.

Fairmont will host its first meet of the season in a dual meet against Martin County West at Bob Bonk Track at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 13.

As the season begins, the end of it is still in question. It is yet to be determined whether there will be a True Team state meet, or what the sub-section, section and MSHSL state meet will look like.

“I think a lot of what might happen in in May or June, is still undecided, It’s gonna depend on COVID really,” Bonk said. “One proposal for True Team is like, the week that would normally be the section True Team meet, everybody has a meet, and they just send in the results. And then you get your 12 team state qualifiers from that. That’s better than nothing.”

“The problem, of course, is you might be running with a 20-mile an hour headwind or tailwind, and that makes a huge difference. You know, you might have 65 and sunny somewhere and 48 somewhere else and raining. So that’s still very much up in the air. And then the state would be up in the air, too. I mean, if, if you do somehow select your 12 teams for state, again, using that four-team max or five-team max, there might be like, three quad meets, and then you just send in the results. I don’t know what’s gonna happen and if there would be anything at the end of the season, we typically have sub-section, section and state. There’s nothing scheduled on that right now. But it could happen, and the state meet would be June 19.”

Bonk said after missing last season, the team is going into the 2021 campaign knowing there are no guarantees and focusing on getting better each day.

Bonk said the entire assistant coaching staff of Brad Johnson, Mat Mahoney, Scott Geerdes, Crystal Hanson, Stew Murfield and Chris Voss has returned and will play a major role in the shortened practice schedule.

Bonk said with the season’s late start and shorter practice time before meets begin, he knows not to expect greatness immediately.

“The times, the distances probably won’t be as good as we’re used to, especially the first few weeks, I think that would be an unfair expectation,” Bonk said. “You know, there are some that are going to, you know, be doing some pretty spectacular things right away, but it’s good to take some time and know that everybody’s in the same boat.”

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