Marion track eyes final Cottonwood Valley title

Marion track coach Grant Thierolf welcomes an experienced team team this spring.

Thierolf begins his 16th year at the Warriors’ track-and-field helm with 51 athletes who have their collective eye on claiming the final Cottonwood Valley League championship.

“We have a great group of kids who are fun to work with,” Thierolf said. “It’s never been a case where any of them complain about the workouts we ask them to do because they know they have to do it if they want to get better.”

Many are veteran competitors, and a few experience at the Class 3A state championships.

“Our boys are really led by our seniors, for the most part,” Thierolf said.

Heading that list is three-time state qualifier Steven Boone.

“Last year he qualified in the shot put and has a best throw of 48 feet 2 inches,” Thierolf said. “Steven just missed qualifying in both the discus and javelin also.”

Senior Tyler Smith is another returning state qualifier.

“Tyler qualified in the discus and has a best throw of 147-8,” Thierolf said. “We’re going to be very good and competitive in the throws this spring.”

Also adding depth in the discus will be Drew Looper, who claims a career-best toss of 132 feet.

“Drew is probably our second best javelin thrower to Steven, too,” Thierolf said. “He’ll do a nice job for us because he’s one of those kids that can do all three events and help us out everywhere.”

Adam Depler, who has thrown over 42 feet in the shot, figures to contribute as well, as does Jimmy Shipman in the throwing events.

“(Shipman) will throw for us if he doesn’t have baseball going on,” Thierolf said. “I really look for Jimmy to surprise a lot of people because he’s just a big old strong cuss and a good athlete to boot.”

Another athlete looking good in the preseason is Dale Vogel.

“He was in the 125-foot range last year as a discus thrower and I know he can improve on that,” Thierolf said.

Rounding out the throwers will be sophomore Shawn Britton in the shot put and discus.

“As he gets more experience and into better shape, I think he’ll be a nice complement to what we already have,” Thierolf said.

Another state qualifier returning is be sophomore Casey Nelson in the pole vault.

“He probably had one of the best vaulting seasons any freshman has ever had in this area, going 13-6,” Thierolf said. “He finished eighth in the state and was just misses away from fifth.

“We don’t have a kid that works harder than Casey at his craft,” he added. “We’re really thrilled with everything he does. He’s already a good leader for us.”

In the high jump pit, junior Josh Smith hopes to leap to the top of the pack.

“He’ll help us a lot,” Thierolf said. “He already cleared 5-8 and just missed 5-10. He’s gotten a lot better jumping this year.”

Smith will also compete in sprints following his fifth-place finish in the CVL 100 meters last year.

On the track, Thierolf said senior Dallas Wells should step to the forefront this spring.

“He was fourth in the CVL last year in the 100 meters (11.4) and fifth in the 200 (24.1),” Thierolf said. “Dallas is coming into practice and working very hard.

“I think these seniors realize time is running out and this in their last opportunity to do some things,” he added. “They’re looking forward to winning that final league championship.”

Thierolf said the sophomore class also adds depth and skill to this year’s team.

Heading the list is multi-event performer Russell Ploutz.

“Russell is working awfully hard and we look for good things from him in the long jump, triple jump and the 400 meters,” Thierolf said.

Also on the sophomore list is Jeremy Vondenkamp (110 and 300 hurdles), Gavin Moore (distance), Joe Goering (400 meter and 800 meter), and Brandon Watson (800 meter and 1,600 meter).

“We have a really strong sophomore class this year,” Thierolf said.

A trio of freshmen could also figure into the mix this spring.

“Jason Hett really looks strong right now in the 800, 1,600, and 3,200 meters,” he said. “He still has things to work on, but he’s a naturally gifted athlete.

“By the time he’s out of here, I think he can be an all-state-quality individual and possibly a state champion in track.”

Ben Leppke and Kyle Hett also figure to contribute early in their careers.

“Ben will do a nice job in the long jump, triple jump and in the sprints,” Thierolf said. “I think Kyle will do well in the discus and javelin.

“All of our freshmen-and really everyone-have been working very hard.”

Warrior girls

Thierolf was quick to identify the sparkplug for the girls’ team.

“Jessica DeForest is the leader of our girls,” he said. “She’s really put her time in and is one of those girls who is self-motivated and works very hard at what she does.

“She doesn’t have the most natural physical talent, but she makes up for it with how hard she works.”

DeForest, a senior, competes in the 800, 1,600 and the 3,200.

A leader for the girls in field events will be senior Sarah Regier.

“We look for awfully good things from Sarah in the throwing events,” Thierolf said. “She finished fifth last year (in the CVL) in the discus and she’s gotten stronger and quicker.

“We think she’s going to have a very good year this year.”

Junior Amber Richmond will add versatility to the team in javelin-and more, if Thierolf has his way.

“If we can talk her into it, we think Amber can run a good quarter mile for us,” he said. “She’s a great girl to have out because she works hard and is very talented.”

Senior exchange student Yoon Lee will provide a spark of enthusiasm for the Warriors.

“We’re thrilled she’s out even though she has no previous track experience,” Thierolf said. “We’re always tickled when our exchange students come out because it gives them a different experience.

“She’s a great girl and really works hard.”

Sophomores Emily Versch and Toni Gordon hope to make their names known this season, too.

“Toni threw the discus just under 100 feet last year and she’s gotten a lot stronger and quicker,” Thierolf said. “She’s a multi-purpose performer who can long jump, triple jump and run a quarter.

“Emily will have a good year for us throwing the shot put, discus and javelin,” he added. “She’s had a year in the weight room and is just getting stronger and stronger.”

Thierolf, who will focus on sprinters, is assisted by Deanna Thierolf (jumpers), Rex Wilson (throwers), Steven Janzen (throwers), Jerry Smith (pole vault), Jim Darrow (distance runners) and Bill Darrow (sprinters).

Thierolf said the team hopes to be in a position to win the CVL championship. Standing in their way will be Wichita Independent and Chase County.

“It’s just a matter of getting better each and every day,” Thierolf said. “If we do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll be OK.”

Winning the final CVL title means something to the coaches as well as to the athletes.

“I think it means a lot simply because it says your kids have been successful,” he said. “I think all coaches hope the kids get everything out of athletics and get all the experiences you hope they should get.

“If we can do that, we’ll be awfully happy.”

Marion begins its season Tuesday, April 5, when the Warriors travel to Sterling.

“We’re looking forward to the season,” Thierolf said. “We look forward to the first meet so we can get out there and see what we can do.”

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