FAIRMONT - Track and field teams spend hours preparing every week, no matter the opponent, to perform their best when the starter's gun goes off.
During Friday's 58th Sentinel Relays, the Fairmont Cardinal boys track and field team is not focused on their competition, but Mark Fruechte, Justin Barnes and Evan Ward are hoping to perform their best under the lights.
After years of being the underclassmen running with older teammates, Fruechte - a senior - will get his opportunity to be the experienced upperclassman this time.
PERCHED CARDINALS — Fairmont track and field standouts, from left, Mark Fruechte, Evan Ward and Justin Barnes pose for a photograph during practice on Tuesday at Cardinal Track in Fairmont. The talented trio hope to display their high-scoring skills during the Sentinel Relays track and field meet on Friday in Fairmont. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
Fruechte is the only returner from the Cardinal boys team that qualified for the Class A state meet last year, and is hoping that the relays will be the jumpstart he needs to reach that level again this season.
"There are always so many teams, the stakes are high. I just want to improve on my honor-roll times if I can," said Fruechte. "I'm not even sure what teams are going to be there, I just come and run."
Fruechte has reached the honor roll in the open 400-meter dash with a time of 52.1 seconds and has been a part of the honor-roll times in the 4x200 and 4x400 relays. Fruechte, Barnes, Payton Schlomann and Zach Brown reached the honor roll in the 4x200 with a time of 1:35.7, while the 4x400 team of Schlomann, Joey Peterson, Ward and Fruechte raced in at 3:36.83.
"Last year at sections, DaMarko Thomas (Madelia/Truman/Granada-Huntley-East Chain) and I had a really close race in the 400. So I'm looking forward to that race and to hopefully improve my times," said Fruechte.
Barnes might not know exactly which events he'll be participating in, but like Fruechte, is looking forward to the competition.
"This meet (Sentinel Relays) has a lot of history and tradition, and that makes this meet extra exciting," said Barnes. "There is also usually a lot of really good teams here, and the competition is really close and pushes you harder."
In the last two meets alone, Barnes has competed in 13 events, but no matter which events he participates in, Barnes will be a big contributor for the Cardinals.
"Barnes is the jack-of-all-trades. He is a great leader and will do whatever events I ask him to, which for a coach is great," said Fairmont head coach Bob Bonk. "He's our top points scorer so far this season, and has a goal of reaching state that he could be able to accomplish."
So far this season, along with running an honor-roll time on the 4x200, Barnes also has reached the honor roll in the high jump with a personal-best finish of 6 feet, 2 inches.
Like his teammates, Ward has been a big contributor to Fairmont's team scoring each week. Unlike Fruechte and Barnes, Ward will have two more years to continue his prep track success.
Ward has started his sophomore season well, earning an honor-roll time of 41.89 in the 300 hurdles.
"I think it'll be great to race in the hurdles against some good competition and see where I'm at," said Ward.
Along with his skills in both the 110- and 300-meter hurdles, Ward also has proven himself in both the sprints and middle-distance races.
"I think that Evan has really come on. To be one of our top three scorers with Mark and Barnes is impressive," said Bonk. "He focuses really well and has become a big part of our team."
The trio will look to improve their times on Friday as the critical part of the season starts.
"It's weird to think that the season is almost over," said Barnes. "This season, it's been harder to get back to where we were last year, and we haven't had much practice time in some areas."
With May finally here, there is a chance that spring will finally catch up with the Cardinals speedsters.