Ever the optimist when track and field season rolls around, Marion coach Grant Thierolf has more than hope to bank on this year: He has five returning state medalists and a strong supporting cast to try to defend last year’s Heart of America league championships.
“We’re just in the process of getting in shape for the most part,” Thierolf said. “I’m really pleased with how the kids are doing.”
Topping the list is senior Marissa Jacobson, who has medaled at state for three consecutive years and garnered championships in 2014 in triple jump and 4x400-meter relay.
“She’s going to go down as one of the greats in Marion track and field history based on the work she’s done at the state level,” Thierolf said.
In addition to long jump and triple jump, Jacobsen will see time on the track again, too.
“It’s going to be fun to try to fit her into specific events,” Thierolf said. “She’ll probably end up doing four open events for us this year.”
Socked by graduation, Thierolf is counting on underclassmen to step up and fill in.
“There’s so many unknowns coming back on the girls side,” he said. “They’re working hard and there’s no doubt we have some talent there, it’s just a matter of getting it developed. It’s just going to be a different cast of characters doing it.”
Junior Sam Richmond will get plenty of work running the 200 and 400 races and two relays, Jessi Lewman will run the 800, and Meggan Frese will anchor the 1600 and 3200 distances.
Emmy Hess will handle both 100 and 300 hurdles, as well as triple jump.
“We think she’s ready to break out a bit in the hurdles,” Thierolf said.
Kristen Herzet’s graduation opened the door for her sister, Courtney, to try something new.
“That’s going to be interesting because we’re transferring her over from the jumps to the throws,” Thierolf said.
Fellow junior Lewman will join her in javelin.
“Courtney and Jessi are kind of our Swiss Army knives,” Thierolf said.
Newcomer Madison Miller, Drew Helmer, and Allie Hett also will be working on throwing events, and a winter camp has Grace Winter primed for pole vault. The Lady Warriors also will have an entry in high jump, Jazmin Lewis.
“We haven’t done that really in a couple of years,” Thierolf said.
A senior and three juniors bring state-level success to a boys team that looks to be well-rounded.
“Virtually every place we have people that can score points for us,” Thierolf said.
Bryce Shults made his mark in pole vault last year, placing sixth at state, and while he’ll focus on that to start, spectators can expect to see him in hurdles, high jumping, and elsewhere.
“He’s a good leader for us; he can do just about everything,” Thierolf said.
Seniors Cade Harms, Jeremy Hett, and Aaron Riggs in throws and Evan Regnier in the 800 and 1600 will provide additional seasoned leadership.
Sprinter Jack Schneider tops the trio of talented juniors, coming off of fourth-place finishes in the 100 and 200 at state. Schneider suffered a knee injury playing football, so Thierolf is easing him back onto the track, but expects Schneider to be full speed by midseason.
Colin Williams will shoot for a return to state in the 1600, where he placed fifth.
Tyler Palic had the highest Marion finish at state last year, nabbing third in discus. Thierolf is looking for improvement in the shot and discus.
“He’s about as good an all-around athlete as you can find,” Thierolf said.
Also expected to be strong contributors are Zachary Stuchlik in the jumps, Austin Neufeld in pole vault, Colton Brewer in sprints and relays, and Caleb Hett in throws.
Thierolf said sophomores Colton Mercer running distance, Charlie Nordquist throwing, and Noah Dalrymple jumping “are going to be kind of big for us.”
“I think we’re pretty well balanced,” he said.
Marion will open the season April 4 at Herington.