The Pirates are brimming with confidence heading into the 2017 season, during which they will chase their tenth consecutive conference title — a quest coach Mark St. Clair describes as “unheard of.”
The way Hannibal boys track and field coach Mark St. Clair begins talking about the standouts he lost to graduation this past year makes one begin to wonder if the list ever ends.
Christian Blaine, a three-time North Central Missouri Conference champ in the hurdles? He graduated. Dylan Powell, a four-time conference leader in the shot put? He's now on the football team at Stanford University. Connor Stoerger, a pole vaulter who placed ninth in the state last season? Now enlisted in the U.S. Marines.
“We lost some top-notch people,” St. Clair said.
With that being said, the Pirates are brimming with confidence heading into the 2017 season, during which they will chase their tenth consecutive conference title — a quest St. Clair describes as “unheard of.”
The Hannibal squad, which placed second as a team in Class 4 District 4 in 2016 only behind Parkway Central, is more focused on who remains rather than the contributors who have moved on.
Hannibal begins its new campaign with a meet at Mexico next Tuesday.
“We've just got to ask some of these kids to step up and maybe take on some roles they didn't have to take on before and events maybe they didn't do before,” St. Clair said. “We are who we are. It's just an opportunity, and we're just going to have to get after it in practice, show some improvement and let the chips fall where they may.”
Senior Shamar Griffith returns for his senior season after earning all-state honors when he placed seventh in the triple jump (44-08.00) at the Class 4 meet.
He also placed 16th in the 100 meters.
Griffith, who is committed to play football at Missouri Western State University this fall, said he intends to keep improving and cap his high school career with a bang. He will compete in the triple jump, long jump and 100 meters this season.
“Right now, I'm just trying to work on the fundamentals and the techniques because there's always room for improvement,” Griffith said of training for the triple jump, his marquee event. “I'm just trying to work on the little details that make a big difference when it comes to showtime.”
Also back to lead the way are seniors Jeremiah Weathers and Will Sewell, who were part of a 4x100 meter relay that barely missed a chance to compete at state a year ago.
St. Clair said he also expects to get points throughout the season from sophomore Danny Colborn, who competed into several events as a first-year athlete last season, and junior sprinter Billy Smashey.
Senior Brendan Watson and junior Ayden Nichols highlight a group of distance runners who hope to make their mark as well.
Nichols finished fifth in districts in the 3,200 meters last year and has a bigger prize on his mind this time around.
“To have state in mind, it is day-by-day,” Nichols said. “It's about coming out here and consistently doing the little things right. I really hope to see some big
benefits for that.”
In the absence of Powell, who anchored the Pirates throwers the past four years, junior Davion Tate hopes he and other rising talent can plug the holes.
“As a team whole, I think we're doing pretty solid,” Tate said. “We have our main goal ahead of us, but we break it up into increments until we meet that goal. My first goal is to get conference. After conference, make districts. But my goal overall is to make state.”