With a girls’ team that features three returning state placers and a bevy of quality athletes, Marion High coach Grant Thierolf has plenty to be enthusiastic about as track season approaches.
But he’s equally enthusiastic about a senior whose wins haven’t been on the track; rather, they’ve been in the hearts of her teammates and coaches.
“Brittany Hett is a girl who has stayed out for track for four years, and we just love her,” Thierolf said. “We just love having her out because she’s such a fun kid to be around. She brightens our day when we see her.”
While medals have eluded her, it’s not from a lack of effort. Thierolf said Hett has worked hard to improve every year without discouragement or complaining, a model for others to emulate.
“She’s the epitome of perseverance,” he said. “Those are the athletes coaches love. I appreciate the fact that she stayed with her teammates for all four years.”
Thierolf also appreciates having Marissa Jacobson, Marshelle Conley, and Kristen Herzet back in the fold. All three medaled at state last year. Jacobson took third in long jump and fifth in triple jump, Conley placed seventh in the 400 meters, and Herzet finished fifth in discus.
The trio is reflective of an overall balance on this year’s team, with capable competitors on the track and in the field.
“We think we’ve got a nice group of kids and we think we have all 18 events covered up,” Thierolf said. “We’ll mix and move and see what’s strong in our league and move kids around, but right now we’re pretty happy with where we are.”
Returning pole vaulters Erika Hess and Samantha Hett are representative of the diverse talent Thierolf has to work with. Hess also will compete in jumps and relays, while Samantha Richmond will tackle the open 400 meters and run relays.
Newcomers Samantha Kelsey, a hurdler and jumper, middle distance runner Maria Stuchlik, and pole vaulter Michaela Regnier could figure into the scoring mix as the season progresses, Thierolf said.
“I’d really like to think we can compete in any meet we can go to and that we’re going to be solid in scoring,” he said. “Any time you’re balanced you give yourself an opportunity in all the different areas, and it takes that to win invitationals and the league meet.”
While the boys don’t have any state medalists in the mix, good experience and emerging talent have Thierolf expecting good things.
“We’re going to be OK,” he said. We’re relatively young, but we’ve got some talented kids. It’s just going to take us some time to get things squared away. I think by the end of the year we’ll be right where we usually are.”
Jack Schneider and Bryce Shults will anchor sprints and hurdles, respectively. Shults is also the team’s top pole vaulter.
“Bryce was on the brink of qualifying for state last year, and is a little faster and stronger,” Thierolf said.
Schneider will see action in long jump, as will Zach Stuchlik, who also will do triple jump. Tyler Arocha will push them both.
Tyler Palic brings state experience to the throwing events and is the team’s “best overall thrower right now,” Thierolf said. Cade Harms, Aaron Riggs, Jeremy Hett, Caleb Hett, and Charlie Nordquist all will try their hands at throwing.
“Within that mix of kids we’ll find ourselves a couple of other pretty good throwers,” Thierolf said.
Returning middle and long distance runners Devin Regnier, Colin Williams, and Austin Neufeld will be joined by freshman Colton Mercer.
“Colton had a very good junior high year, and he’ll catch some people unprepared, because he’s pretty talented,” Thierolf said.
Time will tell if things develop the way Thierolf hopes, but he’s eager to get started with competition.
“We’re ready to get in there and mix it up,” he said. “We’ll know a whole lot more about how good we are after the first couple of weeks of the year.”