Small but mighty Marion team ready to run

Marion’s young cross country team is comprised of these four athletes under the direction of first-year coach Grant Thierolf: (from left) Braxton Schuh, Colton Boudreaux, Heidi Grimmett, Bethany Grimmett. Janae Rempel / Free PressMarion cross-country athletes have literally hit the ground running in preparation for the 2018 season, according to coach Grant Thierolf, who is in his first year with the team after stepping down as Warrior head football coach last year.

While this is Thierolf’s first time to coach cross country, he’s not unfamiliar with running. He brings experience to the position having designed workouts for distance runners in track.

“There’s a lot of carry-over from track to cross country, especially distance running,” he said. “So that I haven’t worried too much about.”

Marion’s cross-country roster has dwindled from five members to four this season, meaning the Warriors will again be competing for individual accolades.

“The joys are you get to know the kids better,” Thierolf said. “You talk to each one of them individually every day.”

The Warriors will compete without last year’s only state-qualifier, Colin Williams, who graduated. Williams placed 31st at the Class 2A state meet in Wamego with a time of 18 minutes, 40.3 seconds, which was about 9 seconds from his season-best time attained at Eureka in early October.

Marion will also be without foreign exchange student Elisa Ortiz this year.

Two letter-winners return to lead the Warriors this season.

Junior Bethany Grimmett ran her season-best race at the 2A regional meet in Meade, recording a time of 30:33.5. As a freshman, she posted her personal-best time of 24:42.8 at the Heart of America league meet in Inman.

“[Bethany is] in better shape than she’s been,” Thierolf said. “We’re just going to take that and meet by meet try to make sure that we’re better than what we had been.”

Sophomore Colton Boudreaux returns for his second season with the team. His personal-best time heading into the season is 22:53.22, recorded at Halstead last year.

“I think the low 20s are reasonable goals for him,” Thierolf said. “I really think he can do that. He’s in better shape than he’s ever been, and then just being smart and staying healthy.”

Two freshmen complete the team: Heidi Grimmett and Braxton Schuh.

“Heidi, obviously, is a talented runner,” Thierolf said. “We saw that in middle school. It’s a little bit different because you’re going from a two-mile or 1,600 (or) 800, now it’s 3.1 [miles], so that’s going to be a transition in and of itself. She’s a good athlete, and she’s a good runner. She’ll handle it. Once again, it’s just a matter of being better at the end of the season.

“Same way with Braxton. This is his first year ever in cross country. We’re thrilled. He’s improved virtually every day we’re out here, so it’s been fun to watch that.”

For Thierolf, the opportunity to watch his runners improve is most exciting.

“We have a number of our kids who’ve put in a lot of time during the summer, and that was enjoyable to be with them then, and it’s nice to be able to see them carry that and transition that over into the season,” he said. “It’ll just be fun watching everybody improve for this first year.”

Building the program is the ultimate goal.

“We will look to get better each week and hope to be much faster at the end of the season,” Thierolf said. “It will take a couple of years to get the numbers back up where we can compete as a team, but we have a great base to start with.”

Marion will travel to Abilene on Thursday for a meet beginning at 4 p.m.

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