With more than a dozen athletes returning, the Destin Middle School Marlins hope to be in the running for one of the top three spots in the county by the end of the season.

“We have some really talented youth, but with that come growing experience. So we’re going to see how it shakes out by the end of the year and hopefully we can get some of these kids doing their best times ever and do well at county,” said Destin coach Demetrius Stevens.

In the meantime, the Marlins have been putting in the time most every afternoon after school, running, throwing and jumping with some individual eighth graders showing promise in the distance running and sprint.

“Brady Bachmann, Dylan Rogers, Kambry Smith, Austin Paugh and Carson Hickok are all real talented in the short to mid-distance,” Steven said.

“Kambry Smith has a solid chance of breaking both school and county records this season in track events,” added coach Tina Barron. “And both our A and B relay teams are very fast and strong. We have a well-rounded group of athletes who show talent in many events and disciplines.”

The Marlins also have a few new additions that Stevens’s hopes will increase their chances by the end of the season.

“Carsey Phillips, I think, will be an asset to the team in the short sprints and relays. Plus we’ve got the fifth graders from cross country that will help our distance crew,” Stevens added.

Earlier this school year, the Destin cross country teams did well in the county championships. The boy’s team finished first in the county, while the girls came in second. Eight of the top nine boys from that championship team are on the track team. They include, Luke Bilger, Michael O’Leary, Carson Hickok, Dalton Williams, Mason Brundidge, Jake Purvis and Austin Paugh.

As for the girls, cross country runners moving over to track include Smith, Phillips, Sara Crews, Sophie Kellogg, Kida Bailey, Emily Kellogg and Abigail Kline.

But track is more than just running.

In the field events, Destin already has two athletes with promise having already qualified for state in their respective disciplines: Brady Bachmann in the discus and Kerry Seekamp in the pole vault.

“Brady Bachmann is a really good discus thrower and is going to bring some experience,” Stevens said. “And Kerry Seekamp is a pretty decent pole vaulter. She just learned how to do it, but she’s getting really good at it.”

In the long jump department, Williams and Rogers are doing well.

“Dalton Williams is a really good jumper. He’s been a baseball guy for a few years, but he decided to come out and run track as an eighth grader and he will really benefit our long jump crew,” Stevens said.

As for Rogers, “She has flirted with that 15-foot mark for a couple of years as a female jumper. Hopefully, she’ll have a breakout year as an eighth grader,” he added.

Last year, the Destin girls won the county in track, while the boys finished up sixth.

“We have a well-rounded group of athletes who show talent in many events and disciplines,” Baron said.

With the opening meet slated for 4 p.m. March 22 with Liza Jackson and Meigs Middle School at Fort Walton Beach High School, Stevens said the goal is the same.

“The goal is always to do the best we can,” he said. “We’ve got a chance … hopefully we’ll get a top three finish in the county in both boys and girls.”