FAIRMONT - The Fairmont girls track & field team captured its 21st South Central Conference championship last spring.
With an abundance of varsity experience returning, the Cardinals have set their sights even higher for the 2013 outdoor season that kicks off at 4:15 p.m. today via a triangular with Martin County West and St. Peter at Cardinal Track in Fairmont.
Senior tri-captain Paige Bearson and sophomore Sierra Schultz will look to repeat as state qualifiers in both the long and triple jumps to pace the talent-laden team.
OFF & RUNNING — Members of the Fairmont Cardinal girls track & field team opening the outdoor season by playing host to Martin County West and St. Peter at 4:15 p.m. today in Fairmont include, front row (l-r): Marina Rufli, Pauli Anderson, Tori Edgington, Emily Wegener, Tracy Thiesse, Paige Bearson, Jennifer Fleming, Camilla Hermanrud and Sasha Riley. Second row: MaKenzie Bliesmer, Raela Hines, Melissa Ferguson, Ashten Atzenhoefer, Brooklyn Leichtnam, Jaclyn Friese, Katiana Fischer, Jenna Pavich and Emily Haugen. Third row: Kayla Lardy, Sierra Schultz, Morgan Seifried, Hayley Jones, Erin Rahm, Larissa Becker, Haley Harder, Sydney Leichtnam, Julie Fleming, Miranda Mathiason and Anna Hernes. Fourth row: Elise Overgard, Riann Dietz, Marissa Voss, Hannah Olson, Ellie Tonder, Sarah Bartz, Molly Hawkins, Sarah Ostlie, Hailey Wolter and Hannah Johnson. Back row: Assistant coach Cheryl Hamp, Linh Tran, Kaitlyn Cihoski, Emilee Moeller, head coach Bob Bonk, assistant coach Scott Geerdes, assistant coach Chris Voss and assistant coach Stew Murfield. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
Sophomore Sasha Riley will look to motor to a second straight state appearance in the sprints, while sophomore Katiana Fischer will look to qualify for her second state meet of the school year.
Schultz and Bearson came away with ninth and 10th-place finishes in the triple jump, while Riley earned a fifth-place medal in the open 400 meters at last year's Class A individual state meet.
Fischer finished in 80th place during this past fall's Class A state cross country meet and hopes to make her second of the year on the track this spring.
Along with their jumping skills, Bearson and Schultz will look to zip around the track, giving the Cardinals some added depth in the sprints.
"I think our strength on the girls team is going to be the field events. We have some really talented and strong athletes, but some of their best events are in the field events," said Fairmont head coach Bob Bonk.
Senior tri-captain Tracy Thiesse will add to the jumping skills of the Cardinals, looking to be successful in the high jump as well as in both the hurdle races.
Emily Wegener will stake her place in the throwing competition, adding hurdles and sprinting to the tri-captain's skill set this season.
"I think across the board in all events, our first and second athletes are really good, but there is a big drop off after that," said Bonk. "I think we should be able to have success in the individual meets towards the end of the season, but we'll need more depth if we want to do well in the true team meets."
Junior Brooklyn Leichtnam will add depth to the hurdles crew for the Cardinals, as well as lead the pole vaulting effort.
"On the track, I think our strongest event is going to be the hurdles. We have Sierra (Schultz), Tracy Thiesse and Brooklyn (Leichtnam) who are all pretty good hurdlers for us," said Bonk. "And right now Brooklyn is our only pole vaulter, so that'll be something we focus a lot on early in the season."
Fischer will pace the middle- and long-distance events, with added depth from Sarah Ostlie, Jaclyn Friese, Jenna Pavich, Sarah Bartz and foreign exchange students Camilla Hermanrud and Elise Overgard.
"I think our distance group might end up being the most improved group," said Bonk. "We have a lot of young runners, but Kati (Fischer) is coming into the season strong and I think they are going to continue to improve throughtout the season."
Junior Kayla Lardy, a two-time letterwinner, will look to add depth to the throws area.
"With our strong first and second athletes, I think it could be an exciting year for us. We know that we need more depth, but I think we have a chance to be among the top in the conference and section," said Bonk.
If the Cardinals claim their 22nd SCC championship, they will have to defeat defending champion Blue Earth Area to do so.
With top athletes from last year's squad still in action and a wide range of talented athletes, the Cardinal girls are looking to leave their competition in the dust.