The Benton High School boys track and field team has a solid nucleus of athletes returning for the new season, and the squad will hit the ground running this week in practice.
Even though basketball just ended a week ago, Jason Hobbs, the head track coach, said his athletes are ready to go.
The Rangers will open their season March 30 at home with the Spring Fling invitational.
"We are going to whip them into shape and get them in the weight room, as well," Hobbs said. "Spring break is next week, but we'll practice over that period, too."
Carson Lewis suffered a wrist injury during basketball season, but Hobbs says he will compete this season.
Lewis won the 400 at the SIRR Conference Meet last season and took fourth in the long jump.
"He's our best guy," Hobbs said of the senior. "I think up at the sectional meet he got fourth and still ran his fastest time at a low 52. He's trying to break 50, and we've already talked about that. He's just a heck of an athlete."
As one of the team's most versatile competitors, it's about finding the right mix of events for Lewis.
"The problem is he could pretty much do any of them that he wants," Hobbs said. "We just have to find ones that are spread out where he doesn't get worn out."
Senior Joey Craig placed second in the long jump at the conference meet last year.
"He's our better long jumper," Hobbs said. "He'll do the triple jump, and he'll run the 1,600 relay and some other sprint relays."
Hobbs believes his squad should be very competitive in a number of events.
"Lewis in the 400, and both he and Joey Craig doing some long jump," Hobbs said. "The distance events should be pretty good, but that's a carryover from Coach (Brent) McLain and how well he works with the guys. He takes the distance runners from the boys and girls teams and works them out. The hurdles with Joey Sample, and the discus and shot with Gabe Craig."
Although Sample is injured right now, Hobbs expects him back a little later this season. Distance relays could be a strength, too.
"We're hoping when we get Sample back to full strength, we could put Mason Wills, and Sample and Avery Potter, along with Parker Sieveking for the 3,200 relay."
Wills, a senior, should be a major contributor this season.
"Mason did a really good job in the mile," Hobbs said. "He also did well filling in on the two-mile relay and some other things. This is his fourth year running, and he's got a lot of senior leadership, which showed on the basketball court. I expect a lot of great things from him."
Devon Despotopulos should make some noise in the 100 and the 200 meter dashes.
"We started him off in hurdles in the 110 and the 300," Hobbs said. "Then, we thought maybe the 100 and 200 because he's got some quickness. It took him a while to get used to coming out of the blocks for sprints and not going over hurdles. He did a pretty good job, but he was kind of learning it. He works hard and gets better and better. I think he could show something (this spring)."
Hobbs is just waiting for the weather to warm up so his guys can get outside.
"On our side of the conference, you've got Herrin, and they're pretty good," Hobbs said. "For us, it's just getting out there. Our kids do a really good job of getting out there and competing. That's the number one thing. We want to try to compete for conference and get up there as high as we can."