'We plan on winning': PBL boys track and field starts season with indoor meets

PAXTON -- The Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School boys track and field team looks to renew a couple of streaks in the 2018 season.
Prior to last year, PBL was a five-time sectional champion and a three-time conference champion, but last year, the Panthers placed fourth in the IHSA Class 1A Paxton Sectional and second in the Twin Valley Conference Meet as Watseka won the championship in both meets.
"We plan on winning conference again. We plan on winning sectionals again," PBL head coach Dustin Franckey said. "I told them on day one that I want to be in the top 15 as a team in the state. That's going to take a lot of guys qualifying out and scoring at the state meet. It should be a fun season."
Garrett Bachtold was one of two PBL athletes to reach the state meet last year. He finished the state preliminaries with a vault of 11-6.
"Garrett's been working hard. He works year-round, pretty much. He took a little bit of time off after the state meet last year to kind of regroup. He works his tail off," Franckey said. 
Bachtold entered this season with the school record in the pole vault at 13-0. At the Armory Meet held Wednesday, Feb. 21, he reset the record at 14-6.
"Raising the school record by a foot and a half in his first meet says a lot about what he's done in the offseason to get to where he is now. He's going to vault well this year," Franckey said. 
"I'm excited to see what he's going to do. We're looking at kind of mapping stuff out and making sure he has enough recovery time. He is definitely focused and doing what it takes to take that next step and compete at a very high level at the state level."
Kody Harrison finished with a time of 4:47.45 at the state preliminaries last spring.
He was also part of a PBL High School cross country team that, last fall, reached the state meet as a team for the first time since 2007.
"We've got almost every single one of the cross country kids out, which is to be expected," Franckey said. "We've got a lot of young guys from that cross country team who will contribute this year. They know exactly what we want to accomplish this year."
The PBL High School boys and girls track and field team are, according to Franckey, in their second year of being in a combined program.
Assistant coach Tom Rubarts works with the jumpers, head girls coach Alex Goudy works with the throwers, Franckey works with the distance runners, and assistant coach Mike Tipsord works with the sprint crew.
"We're pooling all of our specialties together and really trying to get the kids as much coaching as possible in their respective events, so I'm really excited to see what sort of results we get on the boys' side and the girls' side when we can concentrate all of our focus as coaches in our specialty areas," Franckey said. "It'll be a fun year for everyone."
Jake Rich returns to the shot put and discus after finishing third in sectionals at the shot put last year. 
T.J. Jones finished ninth in the long and triple jump while Jonathan Muller competed in USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships last July, finishing 34th out of 63 participants in the men's long jump age 17-18 division with a leap of 21-6.
"We bring back a lot of very talented folks, and we've got a lot of young folks who are really blossoming right now, so I'm really excited with everyone who's out," Franckey said. I'm really excited to see what they're going to do this year."
The sprint crew finished seventh in the 4x100 relay and sixth in the 4x200 relay in sectionals last year.
"They're just, overall, some fast guys," Franckey said. "All the data that we've collected so far in our workouts show that they're faster than they were last year. They know what we want to accomplish this year."
After returning to the University of Illinois's Armory indoor facility at 7 p.m. Wednesday, the Panthers will go back to the Armory for the Rantoul Indoor Invite at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 10.
"That'll be a fun one," Franckey said. "We'll see some (Class) 2A and 3A schools. We'll see what it's like."
Another meet at Armory will follow at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 14, before PBL participates in the Charleston Invitational at Eastern Illinois University at 8:15 a.m. Saturday, March 17.
In those meets, Panther athletes will try to qualify for the Illinois Prep Top Times Meet, which will take place at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington at 3 p.m. Friday, March 23.
"We've kind of mapped out, more so this year than we have in years past, who's going to run what at what early indoor meet to try to qualify out so we can descend on Illinois Prep Top Times and have a good showing," Franckey said.
In the second week of the outdoor season, PBL will participate in the Falcons Invite at Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School at 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 6.
"We've got a friendly rivalry with GCMS," Franckey said. "They got us in football. They had a heck of a football season. I'm excited to see their track team. They got us in basketball, and I'd like to go ahead and at least try to get them in track, but we'll see. They compete very well every year. I'm looking forward to see what (GCMS head coach) Mark Ward puts on the track."
The Panthers will travel to Tolono Unity and St. Joseph-Ogden on April 20 and 27, respectively.
"The distance squad is really hungry to see some of these downstate guys," said Franckey, whose cross country team went up north to Lisle for sectionals. "We're really excited to get a lot of these Friday night meets."


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