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Boys Track and Field: Depth and talent has Brainerd’s Reuer thinking big

The Brainerd Warriors boys track and field team open the season Saturday, April. 2

Boys running track.
Returning state track and field participants Dylan Gross, left, Baden Bastian, Brandon Stark, and Thomas Ruhl practice Monday, March 28, 2022, on Adamson Field.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — Three-fourths of a state top 10 relay and a sophomore state shot putter highlight a Brainerd Warriors’ roster that not only has depth, but top-tier talent in most events.

Brainerd’s strength will be its distance group. Coming off a Class 2A State cross-country appearance, the Warriors’ distance squad features a 4x800-meter relay team that returns Thomas Ruhl, Baden Bastian and Brandon Stark. While Stark will be featured in more middle distance sprinting events, Ruhl, Bastian, Adam Cady, Bennet and Braden Capelle, Michael Howe, Noah Schaeffer, Steven Selisker and Nolan Thiesse will handle the 3200, 1600, 800 and distance relays.

“Baden Bastian is part of that state relay and he’s probably our No. 2 pole vaulter and he’s always there in the mix,” Warriors head coach Rod Reuer said. “He’s one of the unsung heroes if you can call it that. He’s one of those guys who is under the radar, but he’s a guy you need to have.”

Another guy teams need is a solid senior captain like Cady. As a junior, he was 11th in the 3200 and 18th in 1600, but he was the No. 2 runner on the cross-country team last fall. Reuer called him the most “enthusiastic cheerleader along with being a good runner.”

“The Capelle brothers have been around for their whole high school career and they’ve slowly developed as the years have progressed and it really showed this fall in cross-country and this winter in skiing,” Reuer said. “We’re looking forward to what these two guys can bring. They’re versatile and I’m excited to see how they finish their high school careers because they work hard and they’re great kids and great students. It would be fun to see them go out in style this spring.”

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Howe is finally healthy for track and Reuer is hoping for similar results from Howe as he had in cross-country and skiing.

Having so much depth in the distance events will be key as Brainerd moves into Class 3A, a new upper class the Minnesota State High School League approved. It will also help to have state talent like Ruhl, who was on the state cross-country team as well as the state swimming meet.

“This is actually going to be his second season,” Reuer said. “He lost his sophomore year so last year he had to learn a lot down the stretch. I think his lack of experience may have cost him a little bit at the section meet. He just got nipped for that second spot in the 800. He’s gained that now, but he’s always had the competitive part of it. I think going through last year and coming in this year, he’ll have a good season.”

Stark was Brainerd’s top 400-meter runner and did long jump and ran relays. He posted a third-place 51.78 in the Central Lakes Conference Championship for his top 400 time and placed fourth in the Section 8-2A meet last season.

“Brandon is going to be really good,” Reuer said. “It’s just a matter of where we finally settle down with him. After seeing him last year and this year, it’s really nice to know that he’s only a sophomore because he does things sophomores normally don’t do. He’s relentless in his training. He’s gotten bigger and more mature and has a competitive spirit.”

Brainerd also returns its top sprinter in junior Dillon MacLaughlin. The junior placed eighth in the section 100 dash and seventh in the 200 dash. He also handled long jump duties.

“Right now Dillon should be our No. 1 short sprinter,” Reuer said. “Hopefully he continues that and we can show a little bit more improvement. His 100 time at sections (11.19) was as fast as we’ve seen in a long time. We’re excited to see him back. He’s healthy and happy and always has a smile on his face.”

MacLaughlin will be joined by sophomores Charlie Pikula and Preston Siebolds. Those two both ran the 100 and 200 and did long jump last season.

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“Charlie has had a great preseason,” Reuer said. “He works as hard as anyone. Just comes to practice and does his job. He doesn’t say much. He’s in that weight room every night after practice. He’s deserving of a nice second season.

“Like Charlie, Preston is a weight room addict. He’s strong and last year was his first year out as a freshman. He just had to learn what this sport is all about and you can just see there’s a level of maturity with him right now.”

Andrew Albright is Brainerd’s top returning 110-meter hurdler, who also did shot put, long and triple jump. The senior was sixth in the 110 hurdles at sections, third in the shot put, fifth in long jump and 10th in triple.

“It’s really exciting to see him back and see what he’s able to do,” Reuer said. “He was so close at the section meet in two events to qualify for state. He just missed it so it will be fun. Last year, he jumped in and ran hurdles for us and we asked him to throw shot and he jumped at that. He’s really picked up both of those events very well.

“He’s kind of the decathlete of our group. We could use him on the track somewhere, but he’s a kid that can do four individual events and do each one petty well.”

Gage Borders is another versatile athlete who did high jump and triple jump last season. Reuer is hoping Borders excels at the high jump as that is one area where experience is limited.

Leading the throwers is sophomore Dylan Gross, who threw a sixth-place 51-foot-0 ¾ at state last season. He was second in the section meet with a 53-4 and placed 18th in the discus.

“It’s pretty rare to have a state-placing shot putter coming back as only a sophomore,” Reuer said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that out of all my years where a freshman places in the shot put at our level anyway. He’s coming off an ankle injury he suffered this winter. He’s back and pretty much full strength. There’s nobody that works harder in the weight room.

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“Last year, he popped out of nowhere. We knew he had potential. I didn’t think we were going to realize it that quickly.”

Filling out the throwing roster will be senior captain Caden Jager. Junior Gus Wagner and sophomore Mitch Wind.

“They all got bigger and stronger,” Reuer said. “I’m not sure how much bigger Mitch can get because he’s already a good-sized kid. Most of these kids have come into the season in really good shape. They’ve put in a good winter in the weight room and hopefully, that pays off.”

Gavin Hoelzel is fresh off a successful Alpine ski season and he’ll be Brainerd’s top 300 hurdles runner.

“He’s another kid coming off a really successful winter season,” Reuer said. “He’s a track kid who has been through the trenches for a long time. We’re going to keep him out of the 110-meter hurdles because he doesn’t quite have the height, but he’s also too valuable in other events. He can run anything from the 200, 400 along with the 300 hurdles so he’ll be vital for us.”

Hoelzel will also be part of a strong pole vaulting group, highlighted by senior captain Gabe Wagner. With a 12-10 effort, Wagner placed third in the section just missing state.

“The biggest thing about Gabe is that he’s such a great leader,” Reuer said. “He’s one of our captains. The kid is the first one at practice every day. He’s there all of the time. He leads all the drills. He will run through a wall for you. Again, sections last year just got clipped for that No. 2 spot.”

Michael Olson did both hurdles events along with the long and triple jumps for Brainerd last season. With a larger roster this year, Reuer hopes to have Olson concentrate on fewer events and excel in those.

Reuer is also excited about transfer student Isaak Malay, who had state experience as a student-athlete in Missouri.

Other athletes filling out the roster could be freshmen Ty Nelson and Ayden Wheeler-Carranza and junior Cole Fjeld in the high jump. Sean Baumann is fresh off state Alpine and is looking good in practice for relays and jumping. Bennet Bernander is a first-year athlete who has caught Reuer’s eye.

“We have some wiggle room in some events and we do have top-level kids in events,” Reuer said. “We want to move on and contend for a conference title and obviously at section True team. We haven’t been a state True Team since 2014. These kids are deserving of a shot at that as well. We could be pretty solid.”

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.

Warrior roster

Seniors: Andrew Albright, Baden Bastian, Sean Baumann, Gage Borders, Adam Cady, Bennet Capelle, Braden Capelle, Matt Erholtz, Jonas Ewald, Michael Howe, Caden Jager, Mitch Neumann, Michael Olson, Thomas Ruhl, Noah Schaeffer, Gabe Wagner

Juniors: Kyle Duff, Cole Fjeld, Gavin Hoelzel, Caleb Lange, Dillon MacLaughlin, Steve Selisker, Nolan Thiesse, Gus Wagner

Sophomores: Andrew Adamson, Bennett Bernander, Dylan Gross, Jaxon Fasching, Leif Hoffman, Jorey Jackson, Isaak Malay, Jake Merseth, Charles Pikula, James Rabasco, Preston Siebolds, Brandon Stark, Matt Toews, Derron Tumpkin, Mitch Wind

Freshmen: Jax Belcher, Taylor Deason, Nash Gabrielson, Gabe Hallgren, David Herath, Carson, Mankowski, Ty Nelson, Joe Neumann, Kyle Peterson, Ben Stadum, Axton Svir, Ayden Wheeler-Carranza

Warrior schedule

Saturday, April 2: in Central Lakes Conference Indoor Championships at St. John’s University 9 a.m.

April 7: at Alexandria Invite 4 p.m.

April 14: hosts Brainerd Quad 4 p.m.

April 21: at Sartell Triangular 4 p.m.

April 26: hosts Brainerd Triangular 4 p.m.

April 29: Hamline Elite meet, St. Paul 5:30 p.m.

May 6: Wayzata Relays 3:30 p.m.

May 10: Section 8-3A True Team at Brainerd 3 p.m.

May 17: Sauk Rapids Triangular 4 p.m.

May 20: State 3A True Team meet at Stillwater (must qualify) 4 p.m.

May 24: Central Lakes Conference Championship at St. Cloud Tech 3 p.m.

June 1: Section 8-3A Prelims at Sartell 3 p.m.

June 4: Section 8-3A Finals at St. Michael-Albertville 9:30 a.m.

June 9-11: Class 3A State meet at St. Michael-Albertville 9 a.m.

Boys track and field

Reuer_Rod.jpg
Rod Reuer
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Head coach: Rod Reuer, 40th year (3 years head coach at Page, N.D., 1 year head coach at Napoleon, N.D., 1 year as a graduate assistant coach at NDSU), 22 years head coach at Brainerd, 8 years assistant at Brainerd, 4 years Brainerd junior high coach)

Boys 2021 finish: Third in CLC, seventh in Section 8-2A, 41st at Class 2A state

Assistant coaches: Kris Smith (long and triple jumps), Dave Herath (middle distance), Ashley Rutman (long sprints), Robb Kolodziej (pole vault), Landon Brainerd (high jump), Kelsi Brusehaver (hurdles), Travis Raske (sprint), Will Riley (throws), Tracy Riley (throws), Brady Rutman (volunteer distance)

Captains: Adam Cady, Caden Jager, Thomas Ruhl, Gabe Wagner

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