CHESTER -- CHS head boys track and field coach, Ben Hunter, is preparing for what he hopes to be a competitive season, despite losing some good athletes to graduation last May.
"We lost a good senior group," he acknowledged. "Most specifically, the majority of our talented 4 X 800 relay team is now departed, including Mitchell Colonel, Lance Bohnert and Zach Zappa."
Sprinters Jack Hathaway and Joey Reid will be missed, as well as jumpers Josh Haberberger and David Ashby, who also ran in several relay events.
"So, we lost a strong core, but our biggest hole right now is filling a 4 X 100 team that was extremely competitive last season."
Hunter's 17-man roster is young and has three seniors, two juniors, seven sophomores and five freshmen.
Seniors are Keith Kiner, Jacob O'Riley and Colin Wingerter. Kiner will compete in the jumps and sprints. O'Riley will be a sprinter, and Wingerter will be a jumper and sprinter.
Junior athletes are Trent Bierman and Chris Schwier. Bierman is a well-established distance runner, and Schwier will compete in the middle-distance events.
The seven sophomore Yellow Jackets are Gage Garniss, Tyler Holm, Justin Clendenin, Jordan Hughes, Caleb Parker, Nathan Fricke and Matt Korando.
Garniss will be featured in the hurdles and the sprints. Holm is a thrower. Clendenin is expected to compete in the jumps and sprints. Hughes is a distance runner. Parker will help shore up the sprinting department. Fricke will be a middle-distance runner, and Korando is expected to compete in sprints and jumps.
The Jackets will welcome five rookies to this year's squad -- Aiden Jany, Jacob Cowell, Freddie Alvarez, Avery Carpenter and Connor Wolff. This freshman group has been working hard and Hunter hopes that they will be able to help fill some of the holes crated by the loss of last year's graduating seniors.
Jany has been working as a Yellow Jacket sprinter. Cowell will concentrate on being a pole vaulter. Alvarez is a middle-distance runner. Carpenter will sprint for the Jackets and Wolff will compete in the hurdle events as well as the sprints.
"The majority of our team is made up of freshmen and sophomores, so we are going to be young," Hunter said. "On the other hand, we have strong athletes in both the freshman and sophomore classes. We should do well in the sprints and hurdles."
He said Gage Garniss, who will compete in both hurdle events, will be a contender for the 2019 IHSA state meet in May.
"Aiden Jany should be our top sprinter and is expected to make it to State in multiple events," Hunter added.
Hunter said Matt Korando, Colin Wingerter and Keith Kiner will win points in the jumping events, as Justin Clendenin and Jacob Cowell compete in the pole vault.
"Our lone thrower is Tyler Holm. Holm, a sophomore, has shown vast improvement since last year and I believe he will be very competitive this season."
Finally, Hunter said, Chester's distance events will be led by Trent Bierman in the mile and two-mile races and Jordan Hughes will be the 800-meter specialist.
"All of our other athletes are improving daily and are likely going to be contributing once the season competitions begin," he said. "Most will help with the relays and some younger athletes are still trying to find their niche."
Assistant track and field coaches are Steve Spears and Adam Guebert.