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Carroll County High School’s track and field team returns five state-qualifiers from last season to this year’s squad: seniors Andrea Hardesty, Devin Gray, Evan Mefford and Dylan Jack and sophomore Taylor Byrd. However, the team overall will be very young and smaller in numbers than usual.
Head coach Joe Creager said he has 35 students signed up so far this year, including three middle school students. Last year, he had 80 students, not including any middle school students. Until this year, the team had increased every year of Creager’s tenure.
Creager has been reaching out to the K-fourth grade students to come out for the elementary school races to help build the program. He said he will be relying on the middle school students to help fill spots in the individual events, freeing up the high school students for the relay races. Athletes are only allowed to participate in four events, including relays, per meet.
Creager said the lack of turnout from the football team also hurt his numbers in the relays and field events. The team will be loaded with freshmen and sophomores, with a handful of juniors and seniors to round them out.
Before he took over the role, Creager said the team had had multiple coaches for just a year or two at a time. Having recent consistency in the head coach position “has allowed kids to come back out year after year” because they know in the fall who the track coach is going to be.
Joining him on the sidelines this season will be his wife, Danna Creager, and Dan McCrocklin. Danna was the assistant cross country coach this year and will help with the long distance runners. She is also pole vault certified, so she can help take those athletes to practice at Henry County this season. The head coach said, last year, he was the only person pole vault certified, so practice was canceled for the rest of the team when the pole vault athletes practiced.
Originally from Indianapolis, McCrocklin participated in the shot put, discus and javilin when he was in high school in Connecticut. He will be focusing on the throwers.
Creager became head coach four years ago when the seniors were freshmen and has seen them grow over their four years together. “The returning seniors are going to be a good solid core,” he said, noting Hardesty, Jack and Mefford have all been to state competition twice. In addition, Gray recently broke the school’s indoor 1500 meter record at this year’s Mason Dixon Games and is determined to break the school’s 1600 meter and 800 meter records.
Carroll County opened their season with a home meet Tuesday night. Their other two home meets will be on Tuesday, March 27 and Friday, April 20.