Game On - Spring 2024

J oel Franzen is a tinkerer. He’ll see something he likes and he’ll try to figure out a way to make it even better. Sometimes it works and sometimes he realizes it’s better to leave well enough alone. Other times, he’ll see something that isn’t quite right and go through the steps of bringing it up to the acceptable level. So goes the life of a Iowa track and field coach throughout the spring months. Every coach wants his team to have success throughout the regular season, but they all know what really counts are those three days in- side Drake Stadium in Des Moines come the middle of May. “In one meet we might try this, or the next meet we’re going to try that because we’re always asking what can make our team better when we think about championship time?” Franzen, the leader of the Gilbert boys’ track and field program, said. “I’m not one of those coaches that says we’re going to win all of the (regular season) meets. We’re going to do what’s best for our kids and try to put them in a position to be at their best (in the postseason).” What does that mean? It means you’ll see many different relay combinations from the Tigers as they attempt to find the perfect foursome. It means you may see some kids try new events to see if they fit their tal-

SPRING 2024 | GAME ON 41 stage. Throw in talented fresh- man Logan Bleich, an all-state cross country performer, and Of course, the distance group, which boasts five of the six indi- viduals who helped Gilbert win the 3A state cross country championship this past No- vember, should be strong. Squiers is a year older and stronger, and guys like Mueller and Kraehling know what it takes to reach the grandest son Squiers were both individ- ual qualifiers; Stoker placed 17th in the open 800 meters, while Squiers was 17th in the 3,200. Preston Stensland, Harrison Kraehling, and Zain Mueller all ran a leg on the Tigers’ 11th- place 4x800 relay, while Will Hawthorne is the lone holdover from the distance medley relay group that placed 10th. Hurdlers Charlie Schreck and Brady Hurn were two pieces of the shuttle hurdle relay quartet that broke the school record a season ago, and they have their eyes on making it to state. And so it goes throughout the lineup, one which Franzen feels has enough talent to help Gilbert take a busload of events to state. “Our hurdlers have had some success, and I’m really excited for some of the sprint stuff as well,” Franzen said. “Our sprinters were young last year, but we have a lot of those guys coming back.”

Zain Mueller (facing) is one of six returning runners that competed at the 2023 state meet for the Gilbert boys’ track and field team.

ents. It means, from one meet to the next, things will change. “On some nights, some of our guys might only run two events, and then another night they’ll do three or four,” Franzen ex- plained. “When we have two meets a week, we’re not going

to run all of our guys hard at both meets. We’re going to choose.” At Franzen’s disposal is a large and deep team, keyed by six athletes who competed at the 2023 state meet in Class 3A. Jonathan Stoker and Car-

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