A year ago, the Ankeny Centennial boys’ track team placed sixth in the Class 4A state meet, the school’s highest finish ever.
This year, the Jaguars could be even better.
“They’ve set some high goals for themselves,” Centennial coach Nate Smith said of his 122-member squad. “Consistency with their training, focus and races will help them reach their potential.”
Centennial boasts seven returning state qualifiers, including three of the state’s top performers in distance runner Camden Cox, hurdler Riley Moss and sprinter Ryan VanBaale. That trio is part of a talented senior class that Smith will be relying heavily upon.
“Our upperclassmen have shown great leadership during the indoor season,” Smith said. “They seem to be focused and on point with practice and their meet preparation.”
VanBaale, a Northern Iowa recruit, placed second in the 100 at last year’s state meet, posting a time of 11.16 seconds. He also ran on the third-place 4×200 relay that was clocked in 1:27.81, setting a school and city record.
Senior Brendan Hoy is also back from that relay.
“Ryan is looking to get back to the finals at the state meet,” Smith said. “Brendan, Jensen (Gates) and Sam (Snyder) all come back with Drake and state relay experience. There are also some other sprinters ready to contribute–Liam Murphy, Josh Decker, Gabe Godwin and Avery Gates to name a few.”
Moss was the state runner-up in the 110 hurdles with a time of 14.62 seconds. Following the graduation of state champ Joah Banks of Cedar Rapids Prairie and five other finalists, Moss enters the season as the hurdler to beat in Class 4A.
“Riley has posted some fast indoor performances,” Smith said. “He has the school and city record, but he wants more out of the season.”
Moss also helped the Jaguars to a state title in the shuttle hurdle relay as a junior. It was the first championship for Centennial and the first relay crown for the city since 2004.
Fellow senior Jake Pinegar also ran on that squad, but the Penn State football recruit underwent knee surgery in the offseason and may not be back for the Jaguars.
“With Jake out, Nathan Reinke has looked strong over the hurdles as a sophomore. He placed seventh at the Dickinson Relays (on March 6), and that was a good start,” Smith said. “We have many young hurdlers who have been practicing hard and showing progress. Coach Dittmar has done a nice job with the hurdlers.”
Cox will again be the leader of Centennial’s distance group. The Southern Utah recruit qualified for last year’s state meet in three events, placing sixth in both the 800 and 3,200 and finishing ninth in the 1,600.
“Camden has already PR’d in the 1,600,” Smith said of Cox, who won the event at the Dickinson Relays in 4:22.44. “But he’s looking for more than just the school record. He’s going to be exciting to watch this season.”
Senior Ahren Davis is the team’s other returning state qualifier. He anchored the Jaguars to a 22nd-place finish in the distance medley relay a year ago.
“Ahren has posted a solid 800 already this indoor season, and he’s been our guy in that 400 to 800 range for races,” Smith said. “Curt Peters is looking to get back at it after missing most or all of last season. Jonah Vicker is looking to make his mark on the 3,200. And Jayden Oshirak ran 4:37 last season in the 1,600, just missing the qualifying mark for state.”
The Jaguars will open their outdoor season at the Nevada Invitational on March 27.