The Marion High School girls’ track team had an unusually familiar feel for head coach Grant Thierolf on the first day of practice for 2012.
“We didn’t graduate anybody from last year,” Thierolf said. “There’s not many of them, only 14, but we think the 14 will be pretty solid for us.”
Theirolf enters the season with a strong anchor of four state championship qualifiers from 2011, including two medalists.
Top among the returners is Whitney Gordon, who tied for third in the high jump at last year’s state event, and Thierolf has high expectations as she enters her senior campaign as both a jumper and a hurdler.
“As a high jumper, we look for her to be better this year. She’s going to be running the hurdles for us, too. We think she’s going to be much better for us there,” Thierolf said.
Katey Ehrlich will be a strong complement to Gordon in the hurdles events, Thierolf said.
“Katey was one spot away from qualifying for state last year, and she’s stronger and faster than she was last year,” Thierolf said.
Kaelyn Thierolf is the Lady Warriors’ long-distance specialist, placing seventh and 10th at state in the 3200 and 1600-meter races in 2011. Thierolf had a strong cross-country season in the fall, including a school-record performance, that should carry into the track season.
“Kaelyn has done a great job for us in the distance running groups. She’s awfully strong, and we look for her to lower those times and challenge for medals in both the 1600 and 3200 at state,” Thierolf said.
Marion also returns state-qualifiers Alicia Maloney, 11th in pole vault, and Corey Shields, 10th in shot put.
“Corey has a chance to set a school record in the shot put” Thierolf said. “It’s going to take consistent effort, but when that clicks, it’s going to be exciting to watch her, because she’s got that ability.”
Erin Meierhoff will focus her efforts on the middle-distance 400- and 800-meter races this season, a choice Thierolf said he feels good about.
“I think that’s her best event,” Thierolf said. “The 400 and 800 at the high school level is unbelievably difficult to do. She’s going to have to choose one of those, and I think she’ll end up in the 800.”
Theirolf said he’s looking forward to the development of Kadecha Gueary, who took up track for the first time in 2011 and worked hard in the off-season to prepare for this year.
“She kind of got a feel for it last year, and now she understands what it’s about. She worked hard all winter to make herself better,” Thierolf said. “She’s really looked good so far in the short sprints and jumps.”
While familiarity with his team has its advantages, Thierolf isn’t without challenges as he looks for ways to best utilize the available talent.
“Distances, hurdles, pole vault, high jump, shot and discus, we’ll be pretty solid. We’re still trying to find a good javelin thrower. I don’t know that we have a true sprinter out there,” Thierolf said.
“We have some freshmen who will fill those gaps and compete well for us,” Thierolf said.
Thierolf will get his first look at his team in competition April 3 when they participate in the Central Kansas Track League meet in Marion, hosted by Centre High School.