After finishing second and 10th at this year's state meet the CCHS track team expects to continue to improve

After the most successful season in recent history, it would be easy to rest on your laurels.

Instead, Crook County Head Track and Field Coach Ernie Brooks expects his team to continue to build for the future.

“I’m excited man,” Brooks said. “We have great kids and great parents that help. We have been building for the future and we have a great program.”by: PHOTO COURTESY OF DOUG SMITH - Laken Berlin won the state championship in the long jump. The junior was also part of the Cowgirls third place 4x100-meter relay team.

Continuing to build the program may be a difficult task as the Cowgirls finished second at this year’s state meet and the Cowboys finished in 10th. Still that’s exactly what Brooks intends to do.

The team has shown steady improvement over the past few years, and with large numbers of returning lettermen, Brooks expects that trend to continue.

However, that doesn’t mean that some members of this year’s team won’t be missed.

The program is losing two of the most dominant girl athletes in school history. Hannah Troutman and Kathryn Kaonis have had a huge impact on the recent success of the program.

Troutman qualified for state in the shot put, javelin, and discus, while Kaonis went to state in the shot put.

As expected, the two finished one-two at state in the shot put. The only possible surprise was that Troutman won, while Kaonis, the school record holder, finished second.

“We said all season that whoever had the shot put in their hands last would win, and that’s exactly what happened,” Brooks said. “Those two girls will be hard to replace. It will take years before we have anything like that happen again. That’s kind of a once in a lifetime event.”

Troutman also placed fourth in the javelin at state.

However, the two throwers are far from the only weapons that the Cowgirls had this year and most of the rest of the girls team is LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Nathan Carmack (center) races at state in the 1,500. Carmack is one of several returning Cowboys with state meet experience.

Junior, Laken Berlin, won the long jump by a quarter of an inch and ran on the Cowgirls' third-place 4x100 relay team. Berlin also qualified for the state meet in the 100. Joining Berlin on the relay team were Danielle Michael and sisters Audrey and Maddie Bernard. All four members of the team return next year as does Kaeli Hancock who won the Intermountain Conference JV District Championships in both the 100 and 200.

Maddie Bernard placed eighth in the 100, while Audrey ran the 400 at state. Besides being a sprinter, Michael is also a pole vaulter and placed fourth at the state meet with a school-record leap of 10-00.

Chelsea Thomas, who ran the 800 at the state meet, also returns.

“A lot of the core is returning,” Brooks said. “But it’s going to be tough. We move into a new league next year (Tri-Valley League) and they are one of the top leagues in the state. It’s going to put the grinders on us to raise our bar and you know, we need to step up.”

The Cowboys also return a solid core of athletes. However, like the Cowgirls, they will lose some key performers.

Grayson Munn, a two-time district champion in both the 1,500 and 3,000, graduates as does Luis Rivera who won the district championship in the 800 each of the last three seasons.

Munn placed at state in both the 1,500 and 3,000, while Rivera placed in the 800. Both also ran on the school-record setting 4x400 relay team, which finished fifth at state.

Jesse Santiago, another member of the relay team, also graduates, but most of the rest of the Cowboys' top athletes will return.

Between the boys and girls team, Crook County took 13 people to state and 11 of them placed. Of that 11, six return next year.

“We want kids at state, but it’s not necessarily just go to state and have people say ‘thanks for coming,’” Brooks said. “We want all of our kids to make some noise and that’s exactly what they did this year.”

Key returners for the Cowboys include Sam Santiago, the fourth member of the relay team. Michael Seyl, a surprise third-place finisher in the 300 hurdles, also returns as does 1,500 meter qualifier Nathan Carmack.

Zach Smith, a stalwart in the shot put and discus also returns.

However, that is not the only talent that the Cowboys have. Freshmen Emmett Bailor, Stephen Dalton, and Shane Viescus should make a huge impact moving forward.

Dalton finished the season as the team's No. 1 100 meter runner and as a member of the 4x100 relay team. Bailor just missed a trip to state in the 800, finishing third at district with a time of 2:01.75. Viescus showed huge improvement near the end of the season and placed fifth at district in the 400 with a time of 53.75.

Brooks noted that the team had 40 freshmen on the roster and there are several other freshmen who also have bright futures.

Adding to the optimism about the future, the Cowboys will have a new track facility next year.

SMAF Construction began tearing the old track apart on Monday and Brooks is excited about the upgrades the team will see.

“We want to make it a destination for other teams to come to,” Brooks said. “We’ll have a new track, great weather, and a great team. It’s going to be a lot tougher league for us, but if we put the training in — if we play other sports — if we are in the weight room, if we do all those things, next year will be a good season.”

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