FAIRMONT - While Fairmont High School and the Sentinel newspaper will play host to the Sentinel Relays track and field meet for the 59th time on Friday, it will be only the first competition of its kind for the majority of the Cardinal girls team.
Thanks to Mother Nature, the historic meet has not run for the past two seasons, and that means for many of the younger Cardinals, they have yet to compete in the coveted meet.
"I know all about the meet, but I've never gotten to race in one," said Fairmont sophomore Hayley Jones. "It's kind of hard to believe it's going to actually happen, a part of me still feels like it could get called off again."
CLEARING ALL BARRIERS — Fairmont track and field athletes, from left, Carsen Wetzel, Lizzy Subbert, Hayley Jones, Haley Harder and Brooklyn Leichtnam, along with Sierra Schultz (not pictured), will look to convert their high-scoring ways in the hurdles and jumps into a team crown at Friday’s Sentinel Relays. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
While the daily forecasts are once again on the minds of coaches and athletic directors, the athletes are more focused on their potential opponents.
"It's such a high-energy meet, where everyone tries to do their best to win," said Cardinal sophomore Haley Harder.
For Jones, Harder, Brooklyn Leichtnam, Sierra Schultz, Lizzy Subbert and Carsen Wetzel, doing their best - especially in the hurdle races - seems to come naturally.
"We have been able to finish first, second and third in the hurdles in a lot of races," said Leichtnam. "We're all really close in times and I think we really work hard to keep getting better."
"We call ourselves the pack," said Wetzel. "With Sierra, Haley and Brooklyn out in front of you, it makes you want to run faster and catch them, and so timewise we are not very far apart."
Schultz has the most Sentinel Relays experience of the group, having competed in the meet as an eighth-grader.
The Cardinal junior will have to work hard to win her events in the meet, with competitors like defending Class A 300 hurdles state champion Taylor Grandgenett from Blue Earth Area racing against her.
"Schultz is undefeated in the 100 hurdles, but all of these girls are talented individuals who do a lot for our team," said Fairmont head coach Bob Bonk. "They bring it each day in practice, and I feel like whatever event we put them in, they could be successful."
In addition to their contributions on the track, this season Jones and Leichtnam also have proven to be assets in the field events as well.
"It's kind of weird this season because I do more field events some times than running," said Leichtnam, who could compete in the pole vault, shot put and discus. "In other years, I've done sprints and relays, but they needed throwers this season, so we stepped in."
Harder and Subbert have proven to be a speedy combination in the 300 hurdles race, along with their other events in the meet.
Last Thursday at the Jackson Invite at Jackson County Central High School, Subbert jumped for a personal-best finish in the high jump, while Harder anchored the winning 4x400 relay.
"I am really liking the high jump right now," said Subbert. "I like most of my events, but I think that's the most relaxed event I have."
With depth at the hurdles with this group of runners and skills that reach other distances and events, these athletes hope to enjoy Friday's Relays as well.
For Wetzel - who transferred to Fairmont this year - along with Jones and Subbert, this will be their first opportunity to race in the big home meet.
"I think that it is just such a cool meet, all those teams come to our school and it's such a big event," said Harder.
Whether it's the first time or the 59th, fans and athletes alike get excited for the Sentinel Relays that will start at 4:15 p.m. Friday at Cardinal Track in Fairmont.