As Brookings-Harbor high school track and field coach Jim Keys takes his team through the paces of an early season practice on a drizzly March afternoon he provides a glimpse of why he enjoys coaching.
"Last season was the most rewarding season of my career," he proclaims. "Not because of success on the track, but because I had a great group of kids; and many of them have returned this year."
Keys and his Bruin track and field team begin their 2014 season by hosting the Brookings-Harbor Icebreaker meet on Tuesday, March 18 starting at 4 p.m., where they will compete against Del Norte, Pacific and Gold Beach to name a few.
The Bruins come into the season loaded with senior talent and leadership on both the boys and girls side.
Returning from last year's school-record-holding 4x100-meter relay team are David Joyce, Gabe Brazelton, and Trent Bevan, all of whom are seniors and will be looking to add the fourth piece to a team that finished eighth at last years state championships. That piece could be senior Cole Kellum, an alternate on last years team, who has shown improvement in practice and could help make the Bruin 4x100-relay team one of the most formidable in the entire state, let alone the district.
Junior hurdler Shaine Graham returns and is set on getting to the state championships for the third year in a row.
On the girls team, Keys looks to his daughter Jordyn Keys, a senior sprinter who also competes in the 300-meter hurdles, and Sophie Landau, a senior who transferred from Lakeview High School this year, where she posted sub-60-second times in the 400-meters last season. Junior Molly Joyce also looks to be strong in the sprint events as well as the triple jump.
Coach Keys said this year is different due to OSAA moving the start of the season back a week.
"Before, we would go down to compete in some meets in California, where they've already started their season," Keys said regarding the schedule change. "We would usually have competed in one or two meets by now."
A week may not seem like much but when you are competing in a tough Far West league that includes powerhouses such as Marshfield, North Bend and Siuslaw, Keys acknowledges that every bit of competition helps.
"We bring the kids out and get them going right away," Keys said. "We know that we won't see the times dropping right away, we just expect them to keep working hard and we should see a lot of personal records dropping by the district meet. That's what we're looking for."
The Bruins look toward a challenging and competitive 10-meet schedule that includes prestigious events such as the 14th annual "The Pre" on Saturday, April 19 in Coos Bay and the Grants Pass Rotary meet Saturday, May 3 at Grants Pass High School.