Bowman County track & field is in pole-position for 2024

Mar. 22—BOWMAN COUNTY — With a second-place finish for the boys at the North Dakota Division B State Track Meet in 2023, to dovetail with a fourth-place spot on the girls team in the same meet, one would think there was no place to go but down. But in the case of the Bowman County track team, the answer to that question is a resounding, "Nope." It's not as though the expectations are higher this year, necessarily, they simply are the same consistent expectations as any-given-year with the BCHS squad.

To look on the walls of the school's gymnasium and see the track record — pun intended — of the cross-country program, track & field also brings a tradition of excellence that dates back decades. Therefore, it's simply a matter of consistency that generates its own inertia and one that 20-plus-year head coach Jon Jahner takes seriously.

"The goal for both of our squads is to put another championship banner up, and I don't say that with any cockiness or overconfidence, but we've had these conversations with our kids over-and-over: This isn't just a track thing," Jahner said. "Our kids competed at the state cross-country meet and brought home two state championships, our boys were in playoff football, our girls were in playoff volleyball and both of our basketball teams were at the state tournament."

He added, "You have to learn how to win, and you have to learn how to get into those big situations and perform and this group of kids has been in that position long enough."

With a current slate of 54 athletes — 30 on the girls team and the rest boys — and a total of 80 currently working out with the team, there are a ton of options for Jahner, especially in light of the tremendous effort exhibited last season at the state meet. It is in the distance events that the 'Dawgs truly bite down hard, as the defending Division B North Dakota cross-country title-holders on both the girls and boys side — four-consecutive times, mind-you — can attest, and the boys team will benefit from the return of defending state-champion Taylor Wanner in not-only the 800m and 1600m runs, but-also the potential for improvement from the fifth-place finish by the 4x100m team of Nathan Dix, Bishop and Bohden Duffield and Roman Fossum. The first three of those will combine with Wanner in the 4x400m relay, while Gavin Lambourn and Wanner will find new teammates to defend their state title in the 4x800m relay.

"It's unbelievable how many athletes we have, and we have a ton of new kids coming out and we're not even at full force yet," Jahner said. "Our boys basketball team is getting a week off — along with all our winter-sports players — to let them refresh and they're pretty talented athletes."

He added, "It's super-cool and our depth is going to play a huge role in what we can do."

In the field events, Bishop Duffield will look to boost himself from his ninth-place finish in the triple-jump, while his twin brother, Bohden, can certainly rise above his fifth-place spot in the long-jump with Bishop looking to bounce above 2023's seventh spot.

"We're trying to take that step with these kids because they earned it," Jahner said. "It just ratchets all of that up a step."

There are a slew of speedy young ladies on the team, with Adyson Gerbig looking to get into the medal-round of the 200m dash — as she finished fourth last season — and Jaci Fischer will be rising up the charts during the 800m run, where she finished fifth in 2023. Fischer also was a standout in the 1600m run last year, and the senior is bound to have more stamina as she careens towards her final hurrah and place higher than eighth.

Gerbig was a fourth-place finisher in the 300m hurdles, and she will look to defend the Bulldogs' state title in the 4x200m and 4x400m relays with Fischer, Sophia Headley and her sister, Landyn, by her side. Also, look for another strong finish from Landyn Gerbig, Kenley Bowman Julie Sarsland and Fischer in the 4x800m relay to improve on last-year's fifth spot.

In the field events, the only top-five finisher for BCHS was Sarsland in the pole-vault, but Headley placed 10th in the long-jump and there's bound to be more where that came from as she heads into the 2024 season.

"This is just the expectation that these kids have set for themselves, and so these are the things that we have to do as a team to get to those expectations," Jahner said. "We don't try to put too much pressure on our kids, and I think the kids have earned this pressure."

He added, "Pressure is a privilege, and we're at a point where — when you have that — it does make things a lot harder ... so we've got to do everything in our power to get them there and let them perform."

Among the area Division B meets on the calendar (weather permitting) will be the April 2nd, 6th and 9th meeting at home in Bowman County — the first two being invitationals and the third being the "Booster" meet — followed by the Baker Invitational on the 13th and another home meet in the April 16th invitational, the Baker, Mont. meet on April 20 and the Hollinger Classic on the 7th of May finishing off the current slate of events, with the possibility of more being added to the calendar later.

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