Pleasant Valley has reeled off a record 10 consecutive Mississippi Athletic Conference boys track and field championships. Most have come in dominating fashion. 

But when it comes to performing on the state stage, the Spartans recently have walked out of Drake Stadium unfulfilled. 

Coach Chris Bryant's team was positioned for a top-five finish in Class 4A a year ago, but injuries to sprinter Kyle Werning (before the district meet) and distance standout Karson Sommer (at state meet) kept the Spartans out of the top 10. 

"We've had some good teams in my four years, but we haven't done the best at the state meets whether it be fatigue, injuries or just not performing well," senior sprinter and long jumper CJ Carter said. "This is the year for everything to come together."

PV suffered a setback to its distance crew this winter. Nicholas Yanek, a top-10 finisher at the state cross country meet and expected to be a state contender in the 1,600 and 3,200, moved to Georgia. 

Konnor Sommer and Anthony Pena, key components on PV's state runner-up cross country squad, have emerged. Sommer ran a 9:43 to win the 3,200 at the Dickinson Relays earlier this month. Pena posted a 4:33 in the 1,600 during the indoor season.

"Not just from a running standpoint but a leadership standpoint we miss Nick," Bryant said. "Nick was a great all-around kid. It hurts from several aspects, but those other guys are shouldering the burden pretty well."

What excites the Spartans most is a veteran sprint crew and the return of Cody Snyder in the throws. 

PV returns three members from its state runner-up 800 relay — Arthur Braden, Carter and Keshaun Baker — and three runners from its seventh place 400 relay. Baker also was fourth in the open 400 last spring.

"A state title is always the goal," Carter said. "If your goal isn't to win a state title or compete to be the best in the state, you're not having the right mindset. 

"The 4 by 2 showed it was possible last year. We have the confidence and ability to do that in more than just that event now."

With a strong quarter-miler in Baker, the addition of the sprint medley relay (100-100-200-400) to the boys lineup this spring has PV optimistic. 

Baker already has run a 49.1 in the open 400 and believes he can reach the 47s by season end. 

"I'm very motivated," Baker said. "The coaches have given me some real good workouts, some things I've never encountered before to push my limits. 

"We have a good understanding of what we want."

Conversely, a 19th event requires more juggling from Bryant and his coaching staff on how to use his top-end performers. 

"From our team perspective, I am a fan of that event being added," Bryant said. "From a general standpoint, I think 18 events was more than enough. 

"Watching the girls run that for quite a bit, it is an exciting event. I'm sure the fans will really like it. It just adds another wrinkle in where to put guys."

Terry Saul missed last year's state meet with a hamstring injury. He'll factor into PV's sprint relay crew. Junior Collin Ankton ran on PV's 400 relay at state.

"We pride ourselves on being the deepest sprint crew in the state," Saul said. "We have guys run 100s, 200s and 400s, and we can switch it up from meet to meet. The versatility of our guys is big."

In the throws, Snyder placed seventh at the state meet in the discus and qualified in the shot put despite missing most of the season. 

Carter and Baker were state qualifiers in the long jump. Max Cremer made it in the high jump.

"If we can stay healthy, I don't think it is out of the realm of possibility that this team could finish third, fourth or fifth at the state meet," Bryant said. 

After a sub-par football season, one that included Saul, Braden, Carter and Ankton, PV wants to settle the score on the track. 

PV's senior class has never finished better than 10th at the state meet.  

"We realized we haven't always competed like we wanted to in the big moments," Saul said, "but we know what we need to do this year. The chemistry is already there. We're just ready to go get it."


Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.