Strength in numbers has been the norm in recent years for the Fort Dodge boys track program.
This season appears to be no exception.
Featuring a roster of 69 athletes, including 18 returning letterwinners, the Dodgers will have plenty of depth and experience on their side.
"We have a lot of kids out again, which is nice to see," said FDSH head coach John McBride, who is in his seventh year at the helm. "Hopefully, we can find the right kids for the right events with those types of numbers. I remember my first or second year when we didn't even have 40 kids out, so that made it a struggle. My only goal in my first year of coaching was to win one event at every meet. Each year since, though, we've kind of raised the goals. We'd obviously like to take as many kids down as possible to Drake and state. We don't just want to qualify, but we'd also like to place."
Last year, Fort Dodge advanced seven different events to the state meet. Junior Cray Washington and sophomore Keegan Myers are each back after running for the Dodgers on the blue oval in 2013.
"I think our strength will be our sprint races," McBride said. "We have a bunch of good kids that will help fill out those events. Cray, Keegan, (JC) Hatcher, Zach Anderson and (Sam) Cook all have a lot of speed. We should be very strong in the 4x1 and 4x2."
Seniors - Tristan Shaw, Tanner Smith, Desmond Greene, Orion Cook, Sam Petersen, Damien Miller, Aric Lehrkamp, Nic Ganzeveld, Chance Heslop, Berch Fritz, Jake Porter, Riley Prescott, Zach Anderson, JC Hatcher, Brandon Schoenfeld.
Juniors - Hunter Doyen, Andre Flores, Thomas Thompson, Isaiah Degen, Lance Williamson, Andres Cardona, Josh Diosdado, Nick Campbell, Cray Washington, Alex Jackson, Zach Lowery, Skyler Harris, Joe Crooks, Travis Grazier, Austin Read, Ismael Cardenas, Austin Porter, Erik Birnbaum, Miqual Clayton, JT Wigley.
Sophomores - Caydon Taylor, Calvin Clark, Dalton Niemeyer, Cole Detmering, Christopher Nichols, Keegan Myers, Chase Carter, Draven Ferry, Devin Summers, Max Bodholdt, Rutilio Zavalo, Jaymin Love, Sam Kolacia, Sam Cook, Keenan Cook, Willie Moretz, Kyle Beisch, Johnny Bice, Carter Bemrich, Kadyn Preston, Jacob Benton.
Freshmen - Maxwell Hanish, Keaton Dornath, Jessy Fisher, Chase Berdaus, Ryan Wagner, Jackson Thompson, Danny Kelly, Zach Collins, Ozzy Pattison, Tristan Earnest, Seth Fowler, Kolton Eberle, Tommy Garnica.
April 1 - at Des Moines Hoover, 4:30 p.m.; 3 - at Indianola, 5 p.m.; 7 - host Dodger Relays, 4:30 p.m.; 10 - at Des Moines Lincoln, 4:30 p.m.; 12 - at Jim Duncan Relays, 8:30 a.m.; 15 - at Waterloo West, 4 p.m.; 17 - at Cedar Falls, 4:45 p.m.; 24-26 - at Drake Relays, TBA; 29 - at Mason City, 5 p.m.
May 1 - at Waterloo East, 4:30 p.m.; 8 - at CIC Invitational in Waukee, 3:30 p.m; 15 - at Class 4A district meet, TBA.
Washington finished seventh in the Class 4A state 200 as a sophomore, while also advancing to Des Moines in the 100. In addition, he anchored the Dodgers' state-qualifying 4x100 and 4x200. At last year's Waukee's Warrior Relays, Washington tied Brad Klein (2001) for the school record in the 100 (10.7). Washington also represented FDSH in the 100, 4x100 and 4x200 at the 2013 Drake Relays.
"Cray definitely has something to build on now after making it down (to state) two years in a row," said McBride. "I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do."
Myers was another member of Fort Dodge's 4x100 and 4x200 quartets during his freshman campaign.
"Myers has been pushing the 20-foot mark in the long jump, but we're still looking for a high jumper," McBride said.
Alex Jackson and Thomas Thompson, both juniors, are being counted on in the distance races. Senior Nic Ganzeveld is slated for the 800. Sophomores Johnny Bice and Sam Kolacia will likely participate on the 4x800, while juniors Lance Williamson and Andre Flores will be hurdlers and long jumpers.
Seniors Jake Porter and Riley Prescott will throw the shotput. Prescott and junior Zach Lowery are the top options for the discus.
"Jake and Riley were both very disappointed all through football and even wrestling they didn't qualify for state last year," said McBride. "They want to get down (to Des Moines) and place this season."
McBride also knows the importance of Mother Nature cooperating.
"The weather hasn't been as bad as last year," McBride said. "I've been looking at the long-range forecast and hoping for a 180 difference."
Mike Zinnel, Rod Riessen and Andy Kavanaugh will serve as assistants for McBride.
FDSH makes its 2014 outdoor debut Tuesday at Des Moines Hoover. The Dodger Relays are set for April 7.