Marion reloads for big season

The following seniors and returning state qualifiers will anchor Marion?s track and field team this season: front row (from left), Alicia Maloney, Kelli Hess, Emily Schneider, Kaelyn Thierolf, Katey Ehrlich, Seth Snelling; back row, Tyler Neufeld, Nicholas Meyer, Tim Knolla, Clint Kroupa, John Nordquist, James Jones. Not pictured: Kyle Palic, Morgan Wheeler, Marshelle Mermis.The Marion track and field team returns a solid core of talented and experienced athletes, including nine state qualifiers from last season.

Led by 15th-year head coach Grant Thierolf, Marion will look to build on its successes of a year ago.

Boys? team

Marion will look to defend last season?s Heart of America league title, having won league the past two years. The Warriors placed 10th at the Class 3A state meet last year.

Historically, Marion has been strong in the field events, and Thierolf said this year should be no exception.

?Our boy throwers have demonstrated that they are state-quality throwers,? Thierolf said. ?We look forward to seeing Nick Meyer in the shot put and discus, Morgan Wheeler in the shot put and discus, John Nord?quist in the javelin and shot put, Clint Kroupa in the shot put and discus, Kyle Palic in all three throws, and Adam Janzen in the javelin.?

Meyer, Wheeler, Nord?quist and Kroupa will provide senior leadership.

Last season, Meyer threw 45 feet, 3 inches in the shot put and 138-9 in discus; Wheeler reached 45-9 (shot put) and 139-9 (discus); Nordquist reached 149-6 (javelin) and Kroupa threw 121-6 (discus).

?We?re blessed to have a lot of coaches that can give a lot of individual time to our throwers, which some schools don?t have,? Thierolf said.

?We?ve got one (coach) who concentrates on the shot put, one who concentrates on the javelin, one who concentrates on the discus, and that makes a big difference.?

Palic, a junior, placed eighth at the state meet in both discus and javelin last season with distances of 146-3 and 165-7, respectively.

?I think he?ll be one of the top throwers in the state,? Thierolf said. ?He works hard at it.

?You don?t find many kids who are adept at all three events in the throwing area. In all of the throws, we?ve got other kids who are really good in the shot, really good in the discus, really good in the javelin, so that just works well for us.?

Senior James Jones will lead the boys in the long jump and triple jump.

?James is one of the top horizontal jumpers in the state,? Thierolf said. ?Seth Snelling and Brad Stone will score points for us in these events as well.?

Jones claimed the bronze medal at state in the long jump a year ago with a leap of 21-6. He placed fifth at state in the triple jump (43-5).

Snelling, a junior and state placer, will lead the pole-vaulting effort. He cleared 11-6 to place eighth at state a year ago.

Thierolf also expects points from junior Tyler Neufeld who vaulted 10-6 last season.

Sophomore Nicholas Stuchlik will be a contender in the high jump this year.

On the track, Marion will be anchored by sprinters, Thierolf said.

?James Jones should be very strong in the 200-meter and should give us a great anchor in the 4×400,? he said. ?Tyler Neufeld, Braden Fahey, Seth Snelling and Quinton Hett give us some very solid opportunities in the middle sprints, and they should fill our relays with very competitive times.?

Jones, Snelling and Neufeld are returning members of the 4×400 relay that took fifth at state last year in 3:31.80.

Stone, a junior, will be expected to compete in the hurdles.

Senior Timothy Knolla will be a force in the distance races. Last year, he ran a season-best 2:09.3 in the 800 and 4:57.6 in the 1,600.

Girls? team

The Marion girls, meanwhile, will look to improve on their fifth-place league finish last season. The Warriors placed 22nd as a team at the 3A state meet and return a number of state qualifiers.

Leading in field events will be returning qualifier Alicia Maloney. The senior pole-vaulter has placed at the state meet the past two seasons?fourth in 2012 and third last season with a vault of 10-0.

Senior Kelli Hess will also contribute in the pole vault, and lead the charge in the jumps. Marissa Jacobsen will compete as well, Thierolf said.

Hess recorded a season-best distance of 15-2 in the long jump last year. Senior Katey Ehrlich will be a contender in the triple jump (32-2, season best), while sopho?more Ericka Hess will compete in the high jump.

As for throws, Thierolf said: ?Our girls will be led by Kaelyn Thierolf, who will be entering her first full year in the throws. Kristen Herzet and Molly Hess will be exciting to watch as young throwers.?

Thierolf, a senior, threw 98-9 in the javelin and 89-9 in the discus last season.

Marion will compete without sophomore Kirsten Hansen, who suffered a knee injury in basketball the first week of March. Hansen qualified for state in the pole vault last year and was a member of the 4×400 team that placed third at state.

?She?s tough,? Thierolf said. ?She?ll come back, and she?ll work hard at it. But like we?ve talked to the girls, now everybody?s just got to step up and pick up a point or two here and a point or two there.?

Thierolf spoke well of the Warrior sprinters, calling them ?some of the best in the state.?

?Marshelle Mermis returns for her sophomore year after a great first year,? he said. ?Kelli Hess will join the sprint corps this year, and we look for great things from her. Emily Schneider, Ericka Hess and Marissa Jacobsen will all compete in the sprints and fill our relays with competitive times.?

Last season, Mermis qualified for state in the 200 and 400.

Marion returns three members of the 4×400 team that earned bronze at state with a time of 4:14.43?Mer?mis, Kelli Hess and Katey Ehrlich.

Ehrlich is expected to lead the hurdlers, having qualified for state in the 300-meter hurdles last year.

Thierolf anticipates McKenzee Remmers to lead the distance runners.

League outlook

In Heart of America competition, the Marion boys will be at or near the top of the league along with Berean Academy and Hutchinson Trinity, Thierolf said.

?(The boys) look forward to having the opportunity to defend (the league title) this year,? Thierolf said. ?A lot of it depends on getting everybody healthy and keeping everybody healthy and being in good shape by the end of the year. But if we just follow what we think we can do, then we?ll give it a heck of a run to go out and get the championship again.?

Thierolf said the Warrior girls should be ?strong and competitive,? and added that additional teams to watch are Berean, Sedgwick and Bennington.

?We are looking forward to the 2014 season with great anticipation,? Thierolf said. ?We have a number of state qualifiers returning, and we look forward to coaching this group again. We believe we have some very talented newcomers entering our program and that they will greatly enhance our teams.

?We cannot wait for the season to begin.?

It will open Tuesday at Remington. The Warriors will host the Marion Relays April 11.

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