With more than 10 percent of the student body on the team, Flagstaff High School’s track and field program enters the season with more athletes available than in recent memory.
Eagles head coach Matt Barquin said after an initial list of around 195 students, a solid 170 are out at practice on a daily basis running for the varsity or junior varsity teams. More importantly for Barquin, the numbers are not solely a result of Flagstaff’s dominant distance program.
“That’s what is exciting about this, we are getting a lot more of everything,” Barquin said. “Flag High hasn't always been like that. There's been times where we haven't had a single long jumper or high jumper. It is really exciting that we have these multi-sport athletes saying 'I will try this,' and they are phenomenal.”
While Flagstaff is currently riding three-year state title streaks for both boys and girls cross country, it now enters the track season with athletes looking to qualify for state in shorter distances. Maddie Wilson, a volleyball player electing to test herself on the track, currently holds top-10 Division II times in both the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles, as well as a top mark in high jump.
Lydia Pelletier-Butler, a member of Flagstaff’s consistently dominant soccer team, holds a top time in the 200m and will likely be a factor in both of the Eagle girls' relay teams. Meanwhile, cross country team members Angel Curley, Brianna White, Maddy Christopher, Chloe Painter, Katrina Vollmer and Povi Plank all will be on the track as well.
Flagstaff’s boys cross country team is also represented on the roster, with Flynn Fuhrmann, Riley Human and Corey Blubaum all holding solid times in various events so far, and Wren Cooperrider, Nate Milton and Peyton Sventek also on the track roster.
Barquin also mentioned Spencer Smith -- who holds one of D-II’s best 800m times -- Shane Lusk and Xavier Sheffield as potential standouts as the season goes on.
“We have a true track team now. It is no longer just you are a sprinter and you are a distance kid. We have every base covered,” said Barquin, with an estimated 80 percent of the roster made up of athletes from various other sports. “When I took over the program and even when I was an athlete here, there were times when we didn't have any field event kids going. Now almost every entry is filled, the only one we are still working on is triple jump.”
In order to coach a roster of 170 athletes, Barquin has a large group of assistants helping the team. Cross country coach Trina Painter works with the distance runners along with Jonette Boggess and Jimmy Stevenson. Travis Williams and Tessa Cruse aid the sprinters while Haven Lewis and Taylor Bean coach the hurdlers. Cole Stewart rounds out the track staff with middle-distance events, with Eddie Hagerman and Brandon Johnson coaching jumpers.
Chris Pabst and Katie Evenson handle the team’s pole vaulters, and Jamie Rivkin and Victor Trillo round out the staff as throwing coaches.
“If they all ran the 100-meter, that would be easy. It’s more of the fact that there's so many specializations, and that's why I need that huge staff,” Barquin said. “Sure, I could coach long jump, but if I am doing hurdles at the same time I can't get over there.”
The large roster, which fills Flagstaff’s track during warmups, also has allowed Barquin to push the athletes harder and bring additional competition from within. Allowing JV athletes to move up to varsity based on their performances, Barquin has already seen standout results just a few weeks into the season.
“We had a couple JV kids say, ‘Hey, I want to try long jump,’ and I am taking them to the varsity meet now because they actually were really good,” Barquin said. “It used to be separated, varsity and JV with no middle ground. Now they are pushing it.”