With six returning state qualifiers to anchor a solid squad across the board, the Marion track team looks to be on pace for a competitive season.
“We have a lot of kids who can run pretty decently,” said coach Grant Thierolf. “We’ll just let them mature and get faster.”
Though boasting fewer numbers overall, the girls’ team did not lose anyone to graduation and returns some strong contenders in both track and field events.
Senior Whitney Gordon, a state qualifier in the high jump last year, is back for that event and the hurdles.
“We look for her to be better this year,” Thierolf said. “We’re just going to put a little bit more time into hurdles this year, and we think she’s going to be much better there.”
A powerhouse in the running events will be Kaelyn Thierolf, who excelled at cross-country this past fall and qualified for state last year in distance races.
“Obviously, Kaelyn has done great for us in the running distance groups,” coach Thierolf said. “She’s awfully strong and we look for her to lower those times and challenge for medals in both the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs at state.”
Also running for Marion will be Erin Meierhoff in the middle distances, either the 400 or 800, and senior Kadecha Gueary, who returns for the Warriors for her second season.
“We’re excited about Kadecha Gueary. She’s really been good so far in the short sprints and the jumps,” Thierolf said. “She ran for us last year, but she’s in much better condition this year.
“She’d never done track before, kind of got her feel for it last year, and she’s worked awfully hard all winter to make herself better.”
Katey Ehrlich is slated to compete in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles after coming one place short of qualifying for state last year.
“Fifth place is a dreadful place to end up at regionals, but she did a great job there,” Thierolf said. “She’s stronger and faster than she was last year.”
Alicia Maloney, who competed at state last year in the pole vault, is currently battling some injuries but Thierolf said he expects good things from her.
Marion also returns state-qualifying thrower Corey Shields in the field events.
“When she really gets serious about throwing, she has the chance to be a great thrower and set the school record in the shot put and just be very, very good,” Thierolf said.
“She just has to understand that it’s going to take that consistent effort. But when she gets that clicked, it’s going to be awfully exciting to watch her.”
Senior Alex Young is back in the throwing events, too.
Thierolf said the Warriors mainly have gaps in the sprints and javelin throw
“We’ll have kids there, it’s just a matter of getting experience and getting better,” he said. “We’re really excited about our group of girls. There’s not many of them, but those 14 are going to be pretty solid for us.”
The boys did not lose many points to graduation, but they did graduate out of the field events, Thierolf said, so they’ll be looking to fill those events.
Leading the boys will be state medalist Jordan Hett in the distance races.
“He started putting more miles in, he’s more focused than he’s ever been in track, and that’s good to watch,” Thierolf said. “He’s obviously a great talent and we’re looking forward to seeing him run.”
Also competing in the running events will be state-qualifier Patrick McCarty in the sprints.
“When he just gets a little more confident he’s going to be one of the best sprinters in the state,” Thierolf said.
Senior Colten Johnson is coming off successful seasons in football and wrestling.
“He’s back and he’s healthy, so I can’t wait to see what he does in the pole vault, javelin, hurdles,” Thierolf said. “He can do a lot of different things for us.”
Marion returns some experience in field events and will look to some younger athletes to contribute, too.
“(Senior) Dakin Ledford is kind of our ringleader out there right now,” Thierolf said. “He’s throwing pretty well.”
Jon Tacha, another senior, will be strong in the shot put and discus, Thierolf added.
Spencer Fugitt and Isaac Baldwin are expected to have good seasons in the throwing events, and sophomores Nick Meyer and Jon Nordquist will likely make contributions in the discus and shot put, and in the javelin, respectively.
“We’re excited about Kyle Palic as a freshman,” Thierolf said. “He brings some pretty good credentials. It’s going to be fun to watch him get better as he gets used to the implements.”
Thierolf said the Warriors don’t really have experienced athletes in the high jump, but expects James Jones to be strong in the horizontal jumps.
“He was a pretty consistent point scorer for us last year as a freshman and he’s faster and stronger and better this year,” Thierolf said.
Another sophomore, Brody Carroll, will look to improve on a sixth-place finish in regionals last year, giving Marion a strong, competitive person in the sprints and hurdles.
“His times consistently came down last year and he’s had a really good seasons already in football and wrestling,” Thierolf said. “He’s a boy that comes in to practice. So we’re looking forward to him just getting better.”
Marion will begin its season April 3 with a Central Kansas Track League meet hosted by Centre at the Warriors’ home track.