Effingham senior thrower Nate Boggs shattered a school record last year in the shot put with his distance of 54 feet, 0.5 inches, and placed seventh at the IHSA Class 2A state meet at Charleston in the process.
This year, boys track coach Terry Harbaugh hopes to increase the number of state qualifiers without Boggs on the roster, and he believes he has just the group to do it.
"I am really happy with the kids who came out," he said. "A big team at the state, that's how I see it. I want to go into each meet with people saying, 'Oh no, Effingham is here.'"
Senior Taylor Fatheree and exchange student Kohdai Nishida should have a lot to say about that. Fatheree returns as a distance runner for Harbaugh's squad, and had an impressive showing at the year's first meet in Carbondale on March 2.
"Taylor has been been training hard," Harbaugh said. "He's doing quite well right now."
In both the 800 and 1600 meters, Fatheree crossed the finish line in fourth place, and did so among some of the top runners across the state.
"The 800 to 1600 races are pretty important," Harbaugh said, "and Taylor is going to be the main person point-wise in that group all season."
Nishida was a bit of a question mark for Harbaugh coming off a solid soccer season, as the coach had only heard rumors about his talents.
So far, Nishida has lived up to those rumors.
"I didn't know what Kohdai could do," Harbaugh said. "I knew he was a talented soccer player, heard he had good speed. It was nice to see him to do so well."
Nishida finished sixth in the long jump with his distance of 21 feet 2 inches, but he wasn't done yet. Nishida finished 17th in the 60-meter dash with a time of 7.52, contributing to an eye-opening first meet.
Senior Thomas Lasher will combine with Nishida to give the Hearts a solid one-two combo in the sand pit with his triple-jump abilities. He will also be used as a long jumper this season, but his talents in the triple jump could have him in May's state final.
"He did over 20 feet in almost every meet practically," Harbaugh said. "He's a really good kid."
Aside from Fatheree and the jumpers, Effingham's relay teams were surprising bright spots in Carbondale. The 4X400 relay team of Logan Howell, Tyler Myers, Colin Hecht and Leevi Baker placed eighth at the SIU Invitational with their time of 3:46.83. Close behind was the 4x200 relay squad of Myers, Howell, Caydin Vaughn and Trent Barnhart, who's time of 1:41.73 was good enough for 12th.
"All my relays will be really tough this year," Harbaugh said.
Effingham will turn toward some newcomers to make a splash in 2013, with freshmen Drew Vasquez and Colin Hecht taking the lead. Hecht finished 12th in the 400 with his time of 56.36, a number that had Harbaugh more than pleased.
"That's a surprising time as a freshman," he said. "I thought that was pretty good."
Also looking to contribute for the Hearts will be Patrick Siner, C.J. Schmidt, Matt Herboth and Ben Percival. Siner took first in the 800 meters at Tuesday's freshman/sophomore meet at Mahomet with an impressive time of 2:20.01. Not far behind, Schmidt took third with a 2:32 mark. Percival lettered as a sophomore, and finished 41st at Carbondale with his time of 26.20 in the 200.
Senior Clark Williamson should be solid in the pole vault, having cleared 13 feet last season. To replace the departure of record-setting Boggs, a trio of sophomores are ready to meet the challenge.
"Billy Arndt, Evan Boggs and Khole Moran, that's pretty much our throwing team," Harbaugh said. "Billy has been throwing around 40 feet, I look for him to go about 45 or 46 when he gets the kinks worked out."
With such a talented roster, Effingham figures to score more than last year's three points at the state meet. Harbaugh believes the Hearts should challenge for the Apollo Conference title, and be more of a factor from May 23-25 in Charleston.
"I see us placing at least second or third in the conference," he said. "I see us qualifying Taylor, Thomas, Kohdai, probably one of the relays, maybe both for state."
After such an impressive first showing at Carbondale, Effingham will look to take the next step toward accomplishing its goals today at Eastern Illinois University for an indoor invitational.
Braden Layer can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or at firstname.lastname@example.org