FAIRMONT - The Fairmont girls track and field team is set to hit the track for another outdoor season, and this year's version features a balanced Cardinal lineup.
After competing in last fall's Class A state cross country meet, Fairmont's distance runners will look to outpace the competition in the longer races.
"I think our distance races could really be a strength of the team this year," said Fairmont head coach Bob Bonk. "They ran well all this fall, and are in good shape early. With the speed and skill we have at other areas, it could really help us be a strong team."
OFF?& RUNNING — Members of the Fairmont Cardinals girls track and field team opening the outdoor season by playing host to St. Peter at 4:15 p.m. today at Cardinal Track in Fairmont include, front row (l-r): Lisa Bristo DeLaCruz, Morgan Seifried, MaKenzie Bliesmer, Raela Hines, Briana Gratz, Brooklyn Leichtnam, Carsen Wetzel, Haley Harder and Larissa Becker. Second row: Sierra Schultz, Rachel Poppe, Lauren Carlson, Sasha Riley, Jaclyn Friese, Julie Fleming, Rachel Botzet, Megan Hawkins, Sarah Bartz, Molly Hawkins and Ellie Tonder. Third row: Meike Gumbel, Rachel Anders, Hannah Johnson, Myah Lytle, Cori Emler, Andrea Thate, Alexa Steele, Emma Ward, Mikayla Soelter, Marissa Voss and Hannah Olson. Fourth row: Hayley Jones, Emilee Moeller, Emily Haugen, Anna Sundblad, Iliana Ramon, Annie Mittelstadt, Miranda Mathiason, Bethany Linse, Jenna Pavich, Lizzy Subbert, Sarah Ostlie and Katiana Fischer. Back row: Anna Hernes, head coach Bob Bonk, assistant coach Cheryl Hamp, assistant coach Scott Geerdes, assistant coach Brad Johnson, assistant coach Chris Voss and assistant coach Stew Murfield. Not pictured: Talitha Burtis and Kaitlyn Cihoski. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
Along with the distance runners, the Cardinals should have balance both on and off the track this season.
Fairmont returns two qualifiers from last year's state track and field meet.
Junior Sierra Schultz, the top returning points scorer, finished fifth in the 100-meter high hurdles and eighth in the triple jump at last year's state meet.
Adding to the Cardinals' state experience on the squad is junior MaKenzie Bliesmer, who finished ninth in the high jump in the Class A state meet last year.
"I think MaKenzie finished out the season strong last year, and is very capable of doing well in the high jump again. There is also Lizzy Subbert, who has started working there and a transfer student, Carsen Wetzel, who has been jumping as well," said Bonk.
Schultz will lead the Cardinal charge in both the long and triple jumps, with Marissa Voss, Andrea Thate and Morgan Seifried working for a spot.
Senior Briana Gratz, who didn't race because of an injury last season, also returns to the lineup this spring.
"We are so glad to have her (Gratz) back with us this year on the track," said Bonk. "Last season with her injury she was out, but is looking great early in the season"
Brooklyn Leichtnam and Haley Harder also are looking to make a splash this season. The senior and sophomore will both race in the hurdles.
In addition to Leichtnam's hurdling skills, she also will lead the pole vaulters in the pit.
"I think that in both hurdle races we should be tough this season," said Bonk. "We have at least three top-quality hurdlers in Sierra, Brooklyn and Haley, with the opportunity for more."
The Cardinal hurdlers will face a defending Class A state champion in the 300s this season, with Blue Earth Area Taylor Grandgenett taking last year's gold medal.
Fairmont also will have its own title to defend this season, after capturing back-to-back South Central Conference titles.
"We know that this season, like many others, will be tough. Blue Earth Area will have some great speed, Waseca has strong distance and St. Peter has some solid throwers," said Bonk. "It's never a given, how any season will go, but this is a good group and hopefully we can be successful this season."
Fairmont is scheduled to open its outdoor season today in a 4:15 p.m. South Central Conference dual meet against St. Peter at Cardinal Track in Fairmont.