Braves’ boys track team is an unknown

GLADSTONE — Coach Gary Whitmer has spent much of the pre-season trying to get a read on the Gladstone boys’ track team.

He has an opportunity to learn more about the Braves today when they visit Escanaba for a triangular meet which includes Menominee. The meet begins at 4.

“We’re kind of a mystery team,” he said. “It’s hard to tell what you have until you get that first meet in, but I feel confident things will fall into place.”

Sophomore Calvin Thibault returns as defending Upper Peninsula Division 1 champ in the 110 and 300-meter hurdles. Senior Jamie McKnight, who placed third in the 110s in last year’s Finals, also returns.

Thibault is also entered in the sprints, with McKnight in high jump and the 400 relay.

Other senior returners are Jake Strasler and Paul Barrios (distance) and Nick Dawson (pole vault and open 400). Joining them is newcomer and Northern Michigan University basketball recruit Reece Castor in high jump, long jump and possibly sprints.

“Our seniors are pretty good leaders and we have a lot of promising freshmen,” said Whitmer. “We have a pretty good mix of kids.”

Four of the Braves’ juniors are sprinters. They include twins Luke and Kyle VanBrocklin, Jarret St. John and Louis Berube.

Other returning juniors are Greg Chenier and Thomas Claycomb in the weight events.

Additional sophomore hopefuls are Lucas Hughes, Wyatt Madden and Frank Thibault (middle distance), Blake Servant (hurdles and discus) and Ethan Milam (high jump and long jump).

Promising freshmen include Giovanni Mathews (distance), Sasha Olsen (middle distance and pole vault); John Hansen (pole vault) and Hunter Potice and Pete Lippens (weight events).

“I think we have a good freshman class,” said Whitmer. “They have a good attitude which gives us something to build on. I think we’re strong in hurdles and our distances should be solid.”

The Braves are awaiting word on the status of Wisconsin-Superior recruit and senior distance ace Adam Bruce, who underwent hip surgery in late January. Whitmer says they won’t have to wait long.

“It has been 12 weeks since Adam’s surgery,” he added. “We’ll find out what his status is Tuesday (today).”

Whitmer anticipates a tight race for the U.P. D-1 title this year.

“I think it’ll be up for grabs,” he said.

“Marquette has a big school with a lot of kids and Sault Ste. Marie should be strong in the distances. The GNC should be interesting and Ishpeming is definitely the team to beat in the M-PC.”

The schedule:

April 23 — at Escanaba; April 25 — Delta County Invitational at Escanaba; April 30 — at Marquette.

May 3 — Escanaba Jayvee Invitational; May 7 — Iron Mountain and Escanaba; May 9 — Escanaba, Iron Mountain and Marquette; May 16 — D-1 regional at Escanaba; May 20 — M-PC meet; May 23 — GNC meet at Menominee.

June 1 — U.P. Finals at Kingsford.