Marion primed to challenge for Class 3A state honors
With the return both of the much-described core of the girls? team and many members of a well-rounded, veteran boys? team, Marion High School track coach Grant Thierolf will again have horses ready and able to carry heavy expectations across the finish line.
Julia Zeiner hoisted three individual state medals a year ago?in long jump and triple jump (both bronze) and 300-meter hurdles (silver)?and, alongside Kayley Heerey, Kristen Steinborn and Danae Edwards, helped lift the Warriors? 4×100 to Class 3A gold.
All four standout sprinters return and will look to improve on the 50.65 seconds mark they used at state to beat out Southeast of Saline in 2008.
?We have a strong group of sprinters,? Thierolf said. ?We should be able to compete well on the track.?
He believes the Warriors will also put together a strong 4×400 and a competitive 4×800.
Zeiner, Heerey and Whitney Gordon lead a group of jumpers Thierolf said ?once again will be real competitive.?
At the Mid-Central Activities Association league meet last year, Zeiner placed second in long jump (16-111⁄4), pole vault (8-0) and triple jump (35-111⁄2), while Heerey placed fifth (32-41⁄2) in the triple jump.
The Warriors also ?have a good distance corps that has experience,? Thierolf said. ?Camille Christensen, Amanda Richmond, Bridget Lundy, and Jaclyn DeForest all have run well for us in the past and look for great things out of them.?
Christensen placed first in the league in the 3,200 (12:45.95) and second in the 1,600 (5:48.01). Lundy, Richmond and DeForest teamed with Donna Cady to take third in the 4×800, while Richmond, DeForest, Edwards and Heerey claimed third in the 4×400.
Thierolf is looking for Zeiner, Gordon and Alex Young to score points in the hurdles races.
For the Warrior boys, the regionals 4×800 was a season highlight, as Brett Billings, Justin Heidebrecht, Ryan Jones and Adam Regnier took first place on their home track.
Billings and Heidebrecht graduated, but Jones and Regnier return to practice with their experience in hand.
Thierolf said Jones ?looks forward to a great year? and Regnier ?should be very strong in the 800 meters this year.?
Louis Holt, Brandon Meier?hoff, and Michael Kirkpatrick will give the Warriors? distance crew solid depth in a variety of races.
?Our boys? 4×400 and 4×800 should be pretty solid for us this year,? Thierolf said.
Drew Maddox, Mitchell Leppke, Eric Vogel and Tylor Neil lead Marion?s sprint crew, while Elliott Hett will handle the hurdles. Hett ?looks to be a strong contender to place at state,? Thierolf said.
He said Marion?s throwers are likely to be one of the strongest of the team?s strength.
?We have three quality throwers in each of the three events,? he noted. ?Parker Ash, Doug Schroeder and Nick Klenda have all thrown the shot put well for us and each is stronger and faster.?
Sam Ehrlich, Joe Richmond, Sheldon Boone, Jon Tacha and Matt Thierolf will ?lend some competition in this area.?
Klenda returns as a state qualifier in the discus,. Thierolf said he ?will be pushed by Matt Thierolf and Parker Ash.?
Ehrlich, Dakin Ledford, Connor Thierolf and Tacha will also compete in the discus throw.
Marion?s javelin throwers?a group that may be a strength of strengths?will be led by Mitchell Leppke, Sheldon Boone, and Connor Thierolf. Joe Richmond, Ehrlich and Emil Schramm round out the group.
Thierolf?s jumpers will be led by returning state placers Tylor Neil and Luke Gordon. Neil placed fifth in the triple jump last year and ?is stronger and faster,? Thierolf said. Gordon placed seventh in the high jump and ?looks to finish his senior year on a high note.?
Gordon will add both the long and triple jumps, while Boone will take on the long jump. Elliott Hett will add the high jump.
Marion returns state pole vault qualifier Brad Klenda, who ?is looking very good so far.?
Thierolf said Dillon Rich?mond, Randy Regnier, and Colten Johnson ?will also be vaulting for us and each has a chance to be very good.?
With 28 boys and 15 girls on the roster, Thierolf said the teams can ?look forward to a great track season and one that we can have a lot of fun with?a great group of kids to work with.?
Marion will be faced with tough league competition up and down the road back to Wichita, but the Warriors? path to state competition will doubly familiar: for the second straight year, the Warriors will host its own regional.
Marion?s season opens April 7 at a Central Kansas Track League meet that Centre will host on the Marion track. The Warriors follow up by hosting their own invitational April 9.
Three return from Marion?s third-place state golf team
State golf qualifiers (from left) Luke Gordon, Lindsay Hett and Landon Leiker will work to again lead the Marion High School varsity to the Class 3A state meet.
In Luke Gordon, Landon Leiker and Lindsay Hett, the Marion High School golf team returns three players that gained state experience with a third-place finish at Salina last year.
Gordon?s 77 was good enough for ninth place individually, and he appears destined to be the Warriors? No. 1 in 2009?and not only in the eyes of his father, but also the eyes of his coach.
So when Tod Gordon was asked to describe his son?s place on the team, the first-year co-coach was careful to ground his assessment in verifiable results
Last June, Luke posted back-to-back 77s at the 49th Kansas Junior Amateur Championship and placed fourth in the 17-year-olds division at the KJGA sectional at Wellington Golf Club.
In July he shot a 78 at Salina Country Club and missed qualifying for the 98th Kansas Amateur Championship by just three strokes.
In September, he tied for 14th with a 169 at the Collegiate Preview Series at Highlands Golf and Country Club.
All told, Luke Gordon?s off-season included 12 sanctioned events and an early commitment to play for coach Gary Shrader at Kansas City (Kan.) Community College.
?Luke had a very successful summer,? coach Gordon said.
But until May 26, at least, he will play for his dad?s team?and he won?t be the only Warrior returner with that distinction.
District superintendent Lee Leiker, Landon?s father, is the other Marion co-coach.
?Landon is very steady and works hard to improve his game,? coach Gordon said. ?He has a very good understanding of the game of golf and will have a great year.?
Leiker shot an 89 at the state meet and Hett shot a 97. Both are juniors this year.
?Lindsay?s strength has always been her short game,? coach Gordon said. ?She hits the ball straight and makes very few mistakes on the golf course.?
He added that Hett ?will have several colleges interested in her ability to play golf.?
Coach Gordon has worked with the Warriors on the driving range, while coach Leiker?s efforts have gone into working on the short game?chipping and putting.
Coach Gordon suggested the two-headed approach is working because ?the kids have made huge improvements early in the season.?
With 20 golfers on the roster, the coaches have multiple combinations to consider when it comes time to fill the remaining varsity spots.
?At this point we have several golfers that have a great chance of filling the open spots,? Gordon said. ?Should be a great golf season, a fun and exciting season, and the kids are working extremely hard.?
He said after the varsity settles in, the Warriors? chances of returning to state will be strong.
?Luke is a two-time state placer and has the potential to win a state championship,? coach Gordon said. ?Lindsay has played in two state tournaments and Landon qualified as a freshman for the state tournament. The top three golfers have plenty of experience and will provide the leadership to have a successful season.?
The season begins April 7 at Herington.
With better numbers, Marion baseball has first JV team
With a returning core of sophomores and juniors, the Marion High School baseball team is again both young and experienced. This year, the Warriors have a roster of 23, and for the first time in memory, a junior varsity squad.
?We?re not quite seniors yet, but most of the guys we have starting as juniors were starting as freshmen,? coach Shaun Craft said. ?We?ve got a little depth, so we can play with combinations and get some things figured out. We have some athleticism, but we need to work hard, stay focused and improve every day.?
Four players now starting as juniors were varsity starters as freshmen: No. 1 pitcher Brian Fruechting, outfielders Adam Maag, Wil Case and Isaac Hett.
Case has the skill set to be an effective utility player for Marion, and is likely to step in at shortstop to help fill the hole opened by the graduation of Calvin Jeffrey. He also is in line to pitch.
?Wil?s bat might need to be in the leadoff spot for us,? Craft said. ?He might play third when Brian is pitching, might play short when Corey (Seacat) is pitching, might play some outfield. He?s one of those guys who can play just about anywhere.?
In part because Case will likely fill most of his innings covering the right side of the infield, but also on his merits, Erik Kjellin will have a starting job in the outfield.
Fruechting has proven to be a consistent hitter in the cleanup spot, and when the staff ace is not on the mound, he will defend third base.
?Brian is a hard worker who does what we ask of him,? Craft said. ?He moved to third base this year after playing first last year and playing some third over the summer. So we?re asking him to play that role at third and also to be our No. 1 pitcher.?
Matt Sprowles returns at catcher after starting there as a freshman last year. He and three others are in the mix to hit either second or third in the order.
?A few kids definitely have improved during the off-season?Marshall Ragland, Colton Olsen, Erik Kjellin and Matt Sprowles,? Craft said. ?These guys spent some extra time in the off-season working on their hitting, doing things to make themselves better players.?
Ragland and Kjellin (in addition to the latter?s outfield responsibilities) will pitch and play first base. Olsen will be called upon to field second base.
Corey Seacat will pitch and play shortstop, and Cody Wildin will pitch, catch and step in at shortstop when called upon.
The Warriors have made gains in the off-season, but Craft said it is ?hard to pick one spot? where the team has grown the most.
?We really won?t know how much we?ve improved until we get to play some games,? he said. ?But I think overall, as a team, we?re going to be better this year because everybody is older and is starting to understand more.?
Craft said the Mid-Central Activities Association will be tough again this year, and declined to speculate on which teams will climb to the top.
?Our league is one where every game you have to come prepared to play because anybody can beat anybody any given night,? he said. ?It?s hard to pick one or two teams that might lead the league, because every game is pretty much a dogfight.?
Craft said Hoisington and Smoky Valley will likely have thick rosters again this year.
But with the addition of a junior varsity squad, the Marion is poised to retain more of its players than has been possible.
?We?ll actually have the numbers to play JV this year,? Craft said. ?That will definitely help the program out?with 23 on the roster, we?ll have 11 JV games.
?It?s hard to come to practice every day if you don?t get to play much, so for us to have a JV team is a big step for our program.?
The junior varsity schedule opens Thursday against Mound?ridge while the varsity opens Friday against Sacred Heart.
MHS softball intends to improve on 2008 performance
The Marion High School softball team has 14 players returning from the 2008 team that posted a 2-21 record. But with no returning senior on the 2009 roster, the Warriors will turn to six letter-winners for leadership.
Emily Rogers, Brooke Johnson, Jordan Harper, Anna Laurin, Tiffany Christensen, Alex Cain and Shelby Percell lettered. In a late-season double-header against Collegiate last year, Rogers played left field, Johnson played right field and Harper played center field. Percell played third base in one game and caught the other, while Cain pitched one and fielded at shortstop in the other.
But with the graduation of six 2008 seniors and the arrival of eight newcomers for coach Sandy Black to assess, the Warriors defensive alignment is likely to see some changes.
?I haven?t set any positions yet,? Black said Thursday. ?The weather hasn?t been cooperating with me and I can?t decide who my starters will be until we get some practices in.
?I have a lot of young girls,? she added. ?I have four possible pitchers this year, with Alex Cain having pitched varsity and Raelene Allen having pitched most of our JV games.?
Freshman Laura Robinson and sophomore Ashley Ratzloff fill the rotation.
Percell?s experience at catcher makes her a likely choice there, but Rogers is another possibility.
As of Friday, Black said she had not yet broken down the roster into infield and outfield position groups. By taking her time, Black is allowing each player on the roster to make her best case for varsity playing time.
With a roster that goes 22 deep, the Warriors are certain to find a capable player for every position. But until the season opener on Friday against Sterling, it is impossible to say how the Warriors plan to play.