FHS girls look to ‘field’ success

UNITED CARDINALS — Members of the Fairmont Cardinals girls track & field team scheduled to play host to Mankato East and Maple River on Thursday at Bob Bonk Track include, front (l-r): Hannah Petschke, Anna Sundblad, Brooke Hunwardsen, Elora Ramon, Lizzy Subbert, Hannah Johnson, Alli Lardy, Megan Hawkins, Annie Mittelstadt and Iliana Ramon. Second row: Natalie Tonne, Savanah Baker, Sarah Harstad, Jenna Gustafson, Bethany Linse, Abby Tonder, Yatzi Balderas, Sarah Krumholz, Grace Higgins and Kady Pedroza. Third row: Mia Collazo, McKayla Chambers, Hailey Obernolte, Brooklyn Meyer, Rachel O’Connor, Mikayla Stradtman, Joni Becker, Lexi Kaufman, Tabitha Willner, Kobi Malo and Olivia Anderson. Fourth row: Karalyn Closs, Erin Hoch, Elizabeth Nielsen, Gracia Heille, Tabitha Thatcher, Ellie Hernes, Corene Moeller, Ciara Cowing, Becca Lunn, Sara Sundblad, Maddy Schwieger and Hannah Neusch. Back row: Head coach Bob Bonk, assistant coach Scott Geerdes, assistant coach Dave Shoen, assistant coach Chris Voss, assistant coach Mat Mahoney, assistant coach Cheryl Hamp, assistant coach Stew Murfield. Not pictured: Assistant coach Brad Johnson, Emma Blair, Emma Koehler, Brenna Cutler, Claire Cutler, Brenna Abel, LaRay Reed, Vanessa Bliesmer, Claire Nemmers and Laura Thompson. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells)

FAIRMONT — Although the weather may seem contrary, it is indeed spring. Inside the Fairmont High School gym, the Cardinals girls track & field team is hard at work preparing for less damp, warmer conditions to start the season.

The most affected are those participating in the field events.

“We haven’t really pole vaulted in practice yet. We can high jump in the gym, but it’s different,” Cardinals head coach Bob Bonk said. “We can do drills for the long and triple jump, but you can’t really do the whole out jumping. The shot put is pretty good, but we haven’t touched a discus yet.”

The modified practices haven’t stopped the Cardinals from pushing forward, though. In the second indoor meet of the season last Tuesday at Minnesota State University, Mankato, University of North Dakota commit and Class A state shot put runner-up Alli Lardy set the school indoor record of 41 feet, 2 1/2 inches. Fellow throwers Brenna and Claire Cutler finished second and third, respectively, to round out the team’s talent-laden throwing trio.

“They’re three of the best ever. It’s kind of unusual that they all came together in the same class, but we’re going to enjoy them one more year,” Bonk said.

Lizzy Subbert, one of the team’s co-captains, also is navigating her way through, winning the high jump and placing second in the triple jump last Tuesday. Subbert also won the Cardinals’ pentathlon for a third year in a row.

“Wherever Lizzy is, is going to do well,” Bonk said. “She’s off to a great start in all three of the high jump, triple jump and hurdles.”

The senior pocketed the 55-meter high hurdles race and was second in the low hurdles. As one of the most experienced athletes, Subbert and fellow co-captain Brooke Hunwardsen will be expected to help the younger jumpers in Savanah Baker, Ellie Hernes, Claire Nemmers, Bethany Linse and Rachel O’Connor.

The track athletes haven’t been as affected by the weather as the field athletes, and only made slight adjustments to their practice. The runners can utilize clear roads and what Bonk endearingly refers to as the ‘Geerdes-Murfield Practice Track,’ named after assistant coaches Scott Geerdes and Stew Murfield.

“The parking lot of the school gets cleared out right away. … We can just measure out about any distance you want,” Bonk said. “I don’t think it’s really set the runners back at all except that it’s just not as pleasant. You just put on a lot of clothes, that’s all.”

Despite losing distance runners Molly Hawkins and Jenna Pavich to graduation, others have stepped up in their place. Sophomore Joni Becker, in her third year of varsity track, is coming along as evidenced by her open 400 win in the indoor meet. Fellow sophomore Lexi Kaufman is already showing signs of production as part of the Cardinals’ first-place 4×400 relay team.

“You don’t replace Jenna and Molly overnight by any means, but I think that those two girls are a great place to start,” Bonk said.

Balance and depth are vital in all 18 events, and Bonk will have plenty to choose from when assembling each relay team. Co-captain Iliana Ramon, Sarah Krumholz and Laura Thompson, who is nursing a leg injury, were the top three runners during the cross country season and will be expected to continue that performance on the track. The Cardinals also have Megan Hawkins, team co-captain Emma Koehler, Sarah Harstad, Hannah Neusch, Sara Sundblad and Corene Moeller in the mix as distance runners.

There will be a good mix of sprinters to choose from, with junior Grace Higgins leading the way. Other sprinters having a chance to help fill the 4×100 and 4×200 relays include Hawkins, Hunwardsen, Koehler, Baker, Becker, Kaufman, Jenna Gustafson, McKayla Chambers, Karalyn Closs and Brooklyn Meyer.

“I can’t look at any of the 18 events and say, ‘We’re not going to score there,'” said Bonk. “I think in the longer races, we’ll come along each week. We’ve had some unusual circumstances there, so hopefully we’ll be healthy and I think we can get back to where we were at the end of cross country last year.”

The Cardinals are scheduled to open the outdoor season at home against Marshall and St. Peter on Tuesday, but the chances of the meet happening are doubtful. The next scheduled meet is Thursday with the Cardinals hosting Mankato East and Maple River, but that meet, too, is depending on weather and ground conditions.

After that, Fairmont is set for a triangular against Minnesota Valley Lutheran in New Ulm on April 10 and compete in the Blue Earth Area Invite three days later. The team’s next shot at a home meet is April 17 when the Cardinals play host to Luverne and Waseca.

“We do purposely schedule almost two meets a week in April hoping to at least get one in,” Bonk said. “We’ll see what happens.”