With a handful of returning state medalists on the Marion track and field team this season, Grant Thierolf expects a strong showing in his 16th-year as head coach.
Despite losing 10 seniors to graduation, including four state medalists, Thierolf is confident both Warrior teams will find success.
The Warrior girls will try to improve on last year?s fifth-place team finish at the Class 3A state meet. They will do so with the help of four returning state qualifiers, including two returning state champions.
Sophomore Marissa Jacobson won the gold medal in the triple jump a year ago and was a member of the champion 4×400 relay, along with teammate Marshelle Mermis, a junior, who also returns. The pair also competed in the open 400 meters. Jacobson placed fourth and Mermis sixth.
Both will contribute in relays and the 400 this year. Additionally, Mermis will compete in the 200 meters and Jacobson in long jump and triple jump.
The other returning athletes with state experience are juniors Emily Schneider, who was a member of the 4×100 that placed eighth; and Kristen Herzet, who finished 14th in discus. Herzet also will compete in javelin and shot put.
Thierolf said the experience these athletes bring to the team is valuable.
?Anytime you have been at the state track meet and kind of get an understanding of how it goes, it just makes it so much easier the next years,? he said. ?It?s kind of a daunting format the first time you?re there.?
Beyond the state qualifiers, several other athletes return to aid the Warriors.
Erika Hess will contribute in pole vault, hurdles, jumps and relays.
?We think Erika will help us in a number of places this year,? Thierolf said.
McKenzee Remmers will be a force in the 800, 1600, 3,200 and relays.
?McKenzee is in great shape right now,? Thierolf said. ?We look for her to have a great year in the 800 and in the 400 and the 4×4 relay.?
Kaylie Waner will run the 800 meters. She and fellow senior Breanna Doyle will bring leadership to the team.
?They?re going to give us everything they?ve got every day in practice,? Thierolf said. ?We really appreciate that because that kind of leadership is so important.?
Kirsten Hansen returns after missing last season as a result of a knee injury. She will be a force in the pole vault and relays.
?We?re excited to have Kirsten Hansen back,? Thierolf said. ?The longer the season goes, the more confidence she?ll get in her knee.?
Molly Hess will contribute in shot put and javelin.
?(Molly) had a very good year in the throws last year, so hopefully we?re getting better,? Thierolf said.
Brittany Hett will run the 3,200.
Thierolf looks for good things from several newcomers, including: Samantha Richmond (400, pole vault, relays), Megan Friese (3,200), Alli Hett (discus, shot put), Alli Molleker (pole vault), Jessi Lewman (1,600, relays) and Megan Bailey (long jump, triple jump, relays).
?We?re really excited about our freshmen group of kids,? Thierolf said. ?We think they?re going to be good athletes for us.?
Thierolf expects the girls to score points ?in virtually every area.?
The Warrior boys will be anchored by two returning state medalists.
Seniors Kyle Palic and Seth Snelling will look to build off of last year?s successes. Palic earned the fifth-place state medal in discus, while Snelling placed sixth in pole vault. Both will compete in those events again this season.
Palic also will be a force in shot put and javelin, while Snelling will contribute in the triple jump, 400 and relays.
?I think both of them had pretty good winters,? Thier?olf said. ?(Kyle?s) looked good so far. He?s gotten stronger. He?s gotten a little bit quicker. He?s a little bit more confident in what he?s doing, so we look for good things there.
?(Seth) kind of realized this is the last shot and it?s time to really to step it up a little bit?and he?s done that. He?s run very well for us so far. He is vaulting very well.?
Numerous others return to competition this year.
Tyler Neufeld will compete in the 400, pole vault and relays.
?Tyler Neufeld?s a two-time state medalist as a sophomore,? Thierolf said. ?He was on two relays that medaled at state, so he has his sights on getting back to Wichita and getting back on the award stand. He?s had a very good winter, working hard, staying in shape, getting faster.?
Three additional seniors will bring leadership: Braden Fahey, Quinton Hett and Brad Stone.
Fahey will compete in the 400, Stone will be a force in the hurdles and long jump, and Hett will contribute in the jumps. All three may run on some relays.
?They?re all going to be very valuable members for us,? Thierolf said.
Other returners include: Nicholas Stuchlik (high jump, long jump, relays); Adam Kjellin (shot put, discus); William Adame (discus, javelin, shot put); Tyler Arocha (long jump, 100, 200); Bryce Shults (pole vault, high jump, relays); Devin Regnier (200, 400, relays) and Cade Harms (shot put, discus, javelin).
?I?m real happy with all of our throwers right now,? Thierolf said, noting improvement in Kjellin, Harms and Adame.
?We?ve been very strong in the throws the last (several) years. Obviously with Kyle, we think we?re going to be strong there, but those other young kids that aren?t young now, they?re sophomores and juniors, and it?s time for them to move into that position where they?re scoring and bringing some points to the team.?
Thierolf also looks for good things from five newcomers: Jack Schneider (100, 200, 400, long jump, relays); Tyler Palic (discus, javelin, shot put); Colin Williams (800, 1,600, relays); Austin Neufeld (1,600, 3,200, relays) and Zachary Stuchlik (high jump, long jump, relays).
?We?ve got some freshmen we think are going to be pretty good,? Thierolf said. ?It?ll be fun to watch them grow and to see them improve what they?ve been able to do. For a lot of them, it?s a matter of how much work are they willing to put in, and then just kind of using that natural talent they have.?
Thierolf said he expects a strong Heart of America league for both the girls and boys this season.
?Our girls? league is as competitive as there is anyplace, anywhere,? he said. ?It?s fantastic.
?The boys? side is always good. We have returning state champion Berean (Academy) in our league, so it?s just a heck of a competitive league, and we like that. We like the fact that it?s that way because we think it gets us ready for state competition and just having to be our best every time we go out.?
Thierolf said his expectations for the team do not vary much from year to year.
?You want to win your league, you want to win your regional and you want to bring home a trophy from state,? he said. ?We?re going to have those expectations all the time.?
The Warriors will open the season at the Sterling Central Kansas Track League meet April 7.