PRINCETON — Bureau Valley senior Ryan Taylor isn’t afraid to admit he was a bit nervous about the loss of distance runner Derek Johnson and state champion shot putter Adam Weidner.
“I was worried about it,” Taylor said. “If someone said they didn’t worry about losing those two, then they’re lying because they scored a lot of points for us, but I really think we can do just as good this year.”
So far, Taylor and the Storm have proved that.
After winning the Don Gooden Invitational on Saturday in Mendota, the Storm returned to the track Tuesday to capture the team title at the Howard-Monier Invitational at Princeton.
“It means a lot to me because a lot of people were doubting us at the beginning of the season. People said we can’t do this, we’re not going to win as much as we did last year,” BV senior Logan Hoffert said. “It’s just nice to prove them wrong and show how strong our team really is. This is the hardest working group of guys I’ve been with and I’m just proud of them doing what we’re doing right now.”
The Storm racked up 128 points to edge Annawan-Wethersfield (107). Princeton (98) finished third in the seven-team meet, while Hall (45) was sixth and St. Bede (43) was seventh.
BV won its second invitational of the season by again relying on relays.
The Storm won the 800-meter relay, 1,600 relay and 3,200 relay while finishing second in the 400 relay.
“We’re just starting to come together as a team,” said BV senior Kristen Konneck, who runs on the 400 and 800 relays. “We started off strong and we’re just getting stronger.”
Taylor, Andrew Smith, Colton Peterson and Kane Eastwood ran an 8:49.54 to comfortably win the 3,200 relay over Kewanee (9:17.17).
Taylor also ran on the near record-setting 1,600 relay along with Hoffert, Tucker Schoff and Daniel Trone. The foursome ran a 3:36.01 to fall just shy of the meet record of 3:35.24.
Konneck and his younger brother, Will, teamed with Trey Dale and Conor Mooney to win the 800 relay in 1:36.54. The 400 relay of the Konnecks, Hoffert and Trone ran a 46.61 to finish behind Peoria Christian (45.59).
“I’m still a little shocked about our sprint relays because we really haven’t worked a lot on handoffs,” BV coach Nick Hartz said. “It shows a little bit because it’s been close, but I’m very happy with how we’re doing right now. … I can’t complain at all. I’m really happy. It’s early in the season and we’re running great times right now. If we can keep it up, I’ll be very happy at the end of the year.”
The Storm’s relay members also had success as individuals.
Hoffert ran a 41.32 to win a competitive 300 hurdles field. He edged St. Bede’s Steven Gualandri (41.47) and Hall’s Landon Piccatto (42.47).
“I think I did a lot better than I did at Mendota,” said Hoffert, who also took third in the triple jump. “I started off way too quick in Mendota and forgot about the wind on the home stretch. Here I felt a lot better. Running with Gualandri and Piccatto is great because I’m going to see them all season. It’s going to be great competition.”
Kristian Konneck won the 200 in 23.6 seconds, while Taylor placed second in the 800 in 2:05 and placed third in his first time competing in the pole vault by clearing 9 feet, 6 inches.
Piccatto paced the Red Devils by winning the triple jump with a leap of 41-7 1/2 and placing second in the long jump at 19-8.
“My jumps were really good,” Piccatto said. “I won the triple and I got a P.R. (personal record) this year for the long, so hopefully I can work on those and get those up a little.
“In the triple, my last jump I knew I had to beat 41-3 to win. I just stretched out my last phase and gave it all I had and got it.”
Michael Slingsby won the shot put with a toss of 45-9 1/2 to lead St. Bede, while Princeton’s Austen Stewart cleared 5-10 to win the high jump.
Note: Hall sophomore Al Baldonado set freshman/sophomore meet records in the 3,200 (10:37.3) and the 1,600 (4:59.71).
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.