As both the girls track and cross country coach, Jerry Meinerts knows his Collins-Maxwell-Baxter athletes well.
So when Meinerts believes he has something in the works for this season, it would be wise to believe him.
"We have some good numbers this year, and the girls have been working extremely hard and improving at every practice," Meinerts said. "We seem to be pretty solid in all events. Our distance runners have been running really well, we have some sprinters that will fill some relays and score some points at the meets, and our field events have been coming along really well."
Leading that solidarity is a large group of returning state qualifiers from last season. In the field events, senior Alex Broderick and junior Abbie Haupert qualified for the long jump and discus, respectively. The shuttle hurdle relay team will return three of its qualifiers in senior Jenna Ziesman, sophomore Jenny O'Hara and junior Taylor Ross, while the 4x400-meter relay team will also return three members in seniors Ashley Girard and Anne Deutsch and sophomore MacKenzie Schmitz. Schmitz also qualified in the 200, but will likely miss most of this season due to a knee injury.
"It's been hard to get some good quality long jump and discus workouts indoors, but once we are able to get outdoors we will continue to work on those," Meinerts said. "We have about seven hurdlers right now fighting for those top four spots, and that competition is making all of them better."
Joining that already strong returning core of Raiders is a freshman class that should make an immediate impact on the team. Bridget Hurley has already shown her prowess in the high jump with an indoor medal. Jaydn Caves and Sarah Keeling are expected to compete for hurdle sports, Payge Jurgens and Nichole Davies should see some action in the throwing events and Toni Spencer will likely help out with sprints. Continuing their varsity time from cross country will be Chasity Moody, Stephanie Twohey and Carter Larsen in the distance events.
"We've got a great freshman class this year, with good numbers and athletes," Meinerts said.
Even with that blend of upper and underclassmen, a lot of responsibility will fall on CMB's seniors. With both Girard and fellow senior Hayley Leonard planning to run for Grand View University next year, the expectations are high. Also expected to make an impact from the senior class are Shelby Berg (distance), Brittany Peterson (hurdles) and Courtney Ubben (throws).
"We have an awesome group of seniors this year," Meinerts said. "These seniors have been great role models for the underclassmen and are looking to go out on top this season."
The Raiders competed in multiple indoor meets, but are scheduled to begin the outdoor season at the PCM Coed Invite on April 2 in Monroe.