INDEPENDENCE -- Central has dropped the pay-for-play fee for track and field the past few seasons.
One immediate result is that head coach Tim Conley no longer has any concerns about depth.
"We're expecting some pretty good numbers," Conley said. "We're already having about 40 kids show up, and that's without the kids who are playing basketball or on the dance team or in the school play. We might have 40 boys before it's all over."
Central's Tim McElravy, Devin Conklin, Michael Phillips and Cody Prescott won the 1,600 relay last year at the state meet. McElravy and Prescott graduated, but Conklin and Phillips will return as soon as the basketball season concludes.
Tim Deptula, the top substitute for the long relay last season, is one of a "whole slew of candidates" to join Phillips and Conklin this season.
"Winning state last year created a lot of interest in the sport," Conley said. "We're having kids come out solely for a shot at getting on the four-by-four squad, and we're just going to be better because of it."
Phillips has a chance to put an impressive finishing touch on his lengthy athletic resume. He's a senior who hasn't missed a single season since his freshman year -- participating (and participating quite well) in soccer, basketball and track.
"He's been a three-sport kid all the way through," Conley said. "Assuming there are no catastrophes, he could be the first kid since I've been here to go to state all four years in track."
Senior Ethan Muncrief also was hoping for a four-peat at state, but he will be unable to compete this spring because of a lingering back problem.
"Ethan has had ongoing back issues," Conley said. "It's just gotten more complicated. He has a hard time getting around, and it causes severe pain."
Sara Cole and Justin Cuellar return after advancing to state last season in the javelin. Both are capable of being among the top throwers in Class 3A this season. Cole also could contend for state in the discus and shot put.
Andrew Cleland, who attends Western Mennonite, returns to the CHS squad after reaching state last season in the discus.
Other expected top performers for Central include distance runner Kyle Seick, thrower Derik Mandarino and sprinter Tasha Tolzmann.