After graduating multiple seniors that appeared in one way or another at the state track meet last season, Colfax-Mingo girls track coach Zach Tomas could have had quite a challenge ahead of him this year.
However, with the biggest roster he has had in his tenure and some encouraging indoor performances, Tomas at least has plenty to draw from as the outdoor season draws closer.
"We graduated a very good class last year, but I know we will have some girls step up and do some great things," Tomas said. "Overall, we have a lot of questions still to answer about this team. I believe once we start to have some outdoor meets things will start to fall into place."
It all starts at the top for the Tigerhawks, as this year's senior class has already emerged in both leadership and athleticism. Rachel Forschler, Rebecca Jensen and Elissa Opfer have drawn early praise from Tomas, and Jessica Kolo returns as a state qualifier in a few relay events last season. However, the most all-around athlete of the class is Mari Gonzales, who qualfied for the 400-meter hurdles at state last season and gives the Tigerhawks a threat in multiple events.
"She is probably the best all around runner who can have success in every event," Tomas said of Gonzales. "She was a previous state qualifier and I believe she has what it takes to qualify again.
Leading the junior class is Anna Baldwin, a two-time state qualifier who is currently in the process of recovering from an ACL injury. The juniors will likely anchor the team's throwing events, as Tomas called Jena Teed the best discus thrower he has ever had, and Kayla VanDusseldorp and Jade Lewis have already recorded career bests in their efforts during the indoor season.
As the largest class on the team, the sophomores could very well have the most to contribute to the Tigerhawks. Erin Earles is a standout in the class after qualifying for state last year, while Kennedi Hostetter boasts two full years of cross country and has the new addition of Iva Moore to compete with in practice. Rylee Thompson will likely handle the team's long jump duties, while Sara Lahart is expected to compete in multiple events like Gonzales does.
Already earning some kudos are the freshmen, led by McKinzie Tjaden and her "state quality" times she posted during the indoor meets. Jessica Albright joins the fray after an impressive middle school career that featured multiple times that would have been good enough to qualify her at the state level in high school. The freshman could see some field action as well, as Edith Erickson has caught Tomas' eye in throwing events thus far.
"The freshman class is one of the more talented groups I have had and they will make an immediate impact," Tomas said. "I feel there are other freshman that will have breakout seasons with more experience."
The Tigerhawks will open their season on April 2 with the large field scheduled to appear in the PCM Coed Invitational.