Gavin Gaynor accomplished quite a bit for the Hudson High School boys track and field team.
Specifically, Gaynor won two state titles. He captured the gold in the 1,600-meter race in both 2015 and 2016. However, Gaynor has since graduated and is now running at Princeton (N.J.) University, leaving the quest for state glory to the 2017 edition of the Explorers.
Last year was the first for Mark McConnell as head coach of the Hudson boys track and field squad. McConnell also is the head coach of Hudson's boys cross country program.
Gaynor was the only Explorer to compete at the state meet last year. However, he also was one of three individuals to compete at regionals. Senior Jack Linert competed in the high jump, while sophomore Evan Manley also participated in the 1,600.
Two of Hudson's relay teams advanced to the regional round of competition, as well. They were the 1,600 squad and the 3,200 contingent.
The Explorers suffered a huge hit in terms of graduating athletes, though, losing a total of 14 seniors to graduation. Gaynor and Linert were just two of the losses.
The other 12 departing seniors included Matt Bisbee, Dante DiGeronimo (throws), Jacob Gamertsfelder (sprints), Donny Geisler, Matt Hallgarth (distance running), Jaret Hildebrand (hurdles), Nolan Howard, Kevin Kehoe, Nick Moffitt (distance running), Liam Mooney (sprints), Matt Stevenot (distance running) and Diego Valenzuela (distance running).
According to McConnell, Gaynor, Linert, and Hildebrand represented the Explorers' biggest losses to graduation. However, Hudson does have some athletes who are ready to step up in an attempt to fill those athletes' shoes, both literally and figuratively.
In the distance events, those athletes include sophomore Adam Beucler, senior Blake Roberts, Manley and senior Connor Sinko. Among the top returning athletes for Hudson in the sprints are juniors Max Doyle, Greg Mailey and Dawson Wervey.
In addition, senior John Marchinkiewiz will lead the way in the throwing events, while senior Nathan Kravitz is the top returning Explorer in the pole vault.
As far as newcomers are concerned, McConnell pointed to freshmen Michael Von Ville and Luke Good.
"There are some others who are going to surprise some people this year, too," he said.
McConnell identified his team's strengths as the distance running events, as well as the long jump and the pole vault.
"We have a young sprinting group and young throwers," he said.
Hudson competes in the National Conference of the Suburban League.
Last year, the Explorers finished with a record of 6-1 in the conference, good enough for second place behind Wadsworth. According to McConnell, his team will have plenty of competition for the conference title this season.
"Wadsworth will be a favorite again this year," he said. "They have a strong all-around team. It should be interesting to see where we fit in the league."
Regardless of whether Hudson wins the National Conference title, though, McConnell has a host of postseason goals in mind for the Explorers.
"We want to be competitive in the league again this year," he said. "But we also want to get as many guys to regionals as we can."
McConnell's assistant coaches this season are Stephen Knapp, Andrew Martin, Dave Kohl and Chris Beseda.
Hudson is scheduled to make its 2017 debut against National Conference rival Nordonia March 28 at Boliantz Stadium in Macedonia. The competition is set to begin at 4 p.m.