Raider track coach Nate Kirkpatrick said it's all about opportunity.

"There's very few sports where, when you come out for the sport you're guaranteed to compete," he said. "There's nobody riding the bench here. And the beauty of it is that kids get a chance to get out and get better at whatever it is they're doing."

Hudson's student-athletes are proving that this spring with nearly 170 of them going out for track and field. And Kirkpatrick, who takes over the reins as boys' head coach after two years as an assistant, said he and longtime girls' coach Jami Holum couldn't be happier about it.

"Coach Holum has said many times; 'Whatever your motivation is, we're happy to have you,'" Kirkpatrick said. "And that's something we stand behind. There's 18 events, so we can find something you enjoy doing."

Some of those athletes were still on spring break last Saturday when the Raiders opened the season at the Northern Badger Classic at UW-Stout's Johnson Fieldhouse. The Raider girls finished eighth out of 18 teams in the Large School Division while the boys were 14th out of 22.

Holum said the Raiders who competed in the meet showed they're ready for another successful season. Hudson's girls have won three straight Big Rivers Conference championships while the boys have won three titles in the last six years.

"Considering the fact that we were on spring break and had 12 girls out the athletes competing did a terrific job," she said. "The girls got to see what the benefits of offseason training provided, and they started off with some great competitions and personal records. We are excited to have the team intact going forward into this week, and we are excited to get more into meet season."

Sophomore Mikayla Kallenbach turned in a pair of third place finishes for the girl, running the 400-meter dash in 1 minute, 4.94 seconds and clearing 14-feet, 10-inches in the long jump.

Senior Emma Olson took fourth in the 55 in 7.78 seconds and sixth in the 200 in 28.21 while sophomore Molly Kallenbach was seventh in the 55 in 7.82 seconds and 11th in the 200 in 28.44.

Sophomore Amber Robey was sixth in the triple jump with a distance of 31-5 and sophomore Audrey Hatfield was sixth in the shot put with a throw of 34-0.

Hudson's boys had two of the top six finishers in the 1,600 with sophomore Tony Weeks fourth in 4:39.92 and junior Noah Lundeen sixth in 4:40.98. Senior Tyler Auge added a fifth place time of 2:08.87 in the 800 while junior Charles Pierce finished 10th in the 55 in 6.91 seconds and senior Jakes Assembo cleared 18-11.25 to place tenth in the long jump.

Kirkpatrick said it was a great start to the season for the boys.

"For those who were able to compete, it was a great chance to get a first run, jump, vault or throws in for the season," he said.

Kirkpatrick said the Raiders have been working hard since the first day of practice March 4. He said the teams have been limited to mostly indoor workouts, but things have gone much smoother than the past few years.

"It's been more of a challenge in the past," he said. "The last two seasons we've been, with construction, cramped for space in the spring. With the long winter nobody could get outside. It's a lot easier now that everything is done. We've got three gyms and we've got that upstairs track. We've got two weight rooms instead of one so it's a lot more seamless."

Kirkpatrick, a 2006 Hudson High School graduate and 9th grade social studies teacher at the high school, takes over the boys' head coaching job from Gerry Uchytil, who will stay on as an assistant coach with the pole vaulters. In addition to taking over the added responsibility of being head coach, Kirkpatrick will continue to coach the Raider hurdlers.

"It was a nice transition," he said. "He stays on as an assistant and I take over with the administrative stuff. Not much changes other than the title and the responsibility a little bit."

The Raiders will have their full contingent on hand when they run at the University of St. Thomas time trials in St. Paul Wednesday, March 27, and compete at the Minnesota State University-Mankato Varsity Showcase Saturday, March 30.

The Raiders will open the outdoor portion of their schedule by hosting the Hudson Invitational Friday, April 12, at Raider Stadium.

"It's a beautiful facility," Kirkpatrick said. " We're hoping for some nice weather and a big crowd."