This season, coach Dave Kroeker sees a sliver of potential for his teams to knock long-standing conference champion Southwestern off its pedestal.
“I’ll be disappointed if we finish lower than second,” he said. “We have a shot at the top spot, but we’ll need others in our conference to take a bunch of points from Southwestern and not take them from us.”
Despite a handful of injuries to key members of the team, the Tabor women’s squad is aiming to improve on its 2007 finish.
Ashley Malcom enjoyed a banner season and qualified for her third NAIA outdoor national meet. Malcom won the 400-meter hurdles at the conference meet.
The 4x 800 relay team of Aftan Lambert, Shelby Miller, Ashley Schmidt and Heidi Schmidt claimed the top spot in the conference.
In 2007, the team brings back all-KCAC performers in Malcom (triple jump), Jenn Palmgren (pole vault) and Heidi Schmidt (800M, 1500M).
“Heidi Schmidt is probably our strongest middle-distance runner,” Kroeker said. “She was second in both 800-meter and 1,500-meter events at the conference meet last year.”
Seven returning Bluejays received all-conference honorable mention: Malcom (long jump, high jump), Miller (pole vault, 400), Breanna Wray (discus, hammer, shot put), Dana Champlin (javelin), Aftan Lambert (800), and Amber Wiens (3,000 steeplechase).
“This is probably (Lambert’s) last year, so we’re looking for her to give us a lot in the open 800,” Kroeker said.
But injuries have caused problems early on. At the facilities of perenniel champion Southwestern on Thursday for the season’s first meet, Wiens went down with a knee injury and is out for the season.
“She tore her ACL and she’s done for the year,” Kroeker said. “That’s very sad for her and losing a top runner is a tough way for the women’s team to start the season.”
Chelsea Malone, a top-flight freshman javeline thrower, will miss the season following a knee injury she sustained midway though the basketball season.
Freshmen Kelli Kopper (400, 800) and Jessica Burden (pole vault) will be trying to overcome injuries with enough time to gain their form for the conference meet at the end of the season.
“(Kopper) has stress fractures,” Kroeker said. “She’s been working out in the pool and on the eliptical, and she’s looking at the end of April. She was a very good runner in high school, and hopefully she regains that form for the conference meet.”
If they stay healthy, the Bluejays have all of the components of a strong 4×800 team, and will be looking for a combination to make a run at qualifying for nationals.
“We have four or five girls who can run well enough to give us a shot at qualifying,” Kroeker said. “We have some reason to believe we have enough talent.”
“There might even be six who can get in. We’ll let them sort it out on the track.”
Sara Fogle and Jera Teselle will cover the distance races for the team.
“Sara wants to run in the 18s,” Kroeker said. “So we’ll have to do some speed work with her, and I think she’s going to be a real good scorer for us.”
Freshman sprinters Andrea Batista and Jennifer Schmidt will run the 100 and 200.
In the field, the Jays will be led by Malcom’s marquee jumping performances. Esty Wichert (discus, hammer) will contribute to the throwing effort along with Wray and Champlin.
The team’s next meet is at Bethany on Saturday, March 24.