Clockwise, starting in the upper left: Zion Allen, Kendell Curbow, James Rexroat, and Brady Purcell are among the key track returners for Ryan Cornelsen’s Tigers.

Season Preview: Boys Track Team Aims to Build on Young Talent

Republic track coach Ryan Cornelsen sees parallels between building the track program and the growth he has overseen with the football team. But that building process is taking a little longer during the spring track season, because of differences in the track roster he inherited when he arrived at Republic two seasons ago.

“My first year here, the senior class had some pretty good tracksters, and we were scoring quite a few points and winning meets, but it was all seniors,” Cornelsen said. “I knew when that group graduated, we were going to kind of restart, because we were just trying to score with the guys we had. We were winning meets. And so this is kind of, to me, year two of trying to build.”

The Tigers have good participation numbers, but the roster skews young. Especially at the beginning of the season, that means Republic’s young athletes will be gaining valuable experience.

“We’ve still got a lot of freshmen and sophomores that will be running varsity in almost every event,” Cornelsen said. “We’re really young, and the program’s just now kind of starting, and we’re trying to build off some of that youth.”

Republic’s off-season training program, Tiger Elite, focuses on speed development and overall athletic improvement. Cornelsen said it helps with track participation and discovering hidden talent.

“It’s a good transition from a winter where you’re building everybody’s speed, and I think that’s really helped our numbers, because (students) start to find an event they like,” he said. “You’ll find some diamonds in the rough in your Tiger Elite group that can help you score points in track when they find that event.”

The Tigers return two state qualifiers in the jumps. Senior Zion Allen medaled in the high jump last year and also competes in the long jump. Junior Kendell Curbow qualified in pole vault.

Brady Purcell leads the distance crew after a good cross country season. Cornelsen believes a strong cross country program directly benefits the track team.

“You want to have a strong cross-country team, and those guys then come into your program, they’re running year-round, and they kind of just fit right in because they run all the time and they’re ready to go when the first meet starts,” he said.

Republic’s sprinters are mostly young, but senior Daniel Phillips returns after running with sprint relays and in the 100-meter dash last year. Senior Santino Stiglianese also looks to contribute in sprints and relays with another year of track experience.

Sophomore William Payne had a strong freshman season, competing in the 300 hurdles, 4×400-meter and 4×800-meter relays. “He had a good year as a freshman last year, and he’s got a lot of ability,” Cornelsen said. “He’s got enough foot speed to run some of those shorter events, but also runs cross-country and likes the distance events. So Will’s a big part of what we do.”

James Rexroat headlines the throwing events. The senior made it to sectionals in the javelin last season after a strong throw at districts.

With many underclassmen in key roles, Cornelsen knows it may take time for Republic to reach its full potential. But he believes the building blocks are in place for the program to ascend as the young Tigers gain experience.

“I think (the program’s) in a real healthy place,” Cornelsen said. “We’ve got good numbers. We’ll fill up at each event, and we’ll fill up our relays. It’s just going to take us a while before that youth can run at a varsity level.”

The track season will open Thursday at Branson after Monday’s Republic Classic was rained out.


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