NEWTON — Three indoor track meets in March allowed Newton girls’ head coach Rachel Tomas a glimpse of the potential the Cardinal girls have for the 2014 outdoor track season. Mid-distance and distance races, and throwing events have been strong suits for Newton in the past and should be again this season.
“Our indoor season opened the door for many different options to try for the outdoor season to maximize our success,” Tomas said. “We had a successful start to sprint events this year in the indoor meets. It is a great problem to have as a coach to have several different athletes that can step up and play key roles.”
The Cardinals open the outdoor season today at Boone.
Newton has 23 returning letterwinners and 10 of those have state track meet experience. Leading the way are senior Michaela Bleeker, junior Sarah Kalkhoff and senior Madison Bagnall in the throwing events.
Kalkhoff has the NHS record in the discus with a throw of 133 feet, 1 inch. She was second at the 4A state meet a year ago with Bleeker finishing 24th. Bleeker qualified for state in the shot put, taking 13th with a throw of 35’8”. Kalkhoff placed sixth in the discus , 130’7”, at the 2013 Drake Relays.
“All three were extremely reliable and important to team success. They had a good start in the indoor shot put this year,” Tomas said.
The Cardinals’ sophomore Grace Coen qualified for state in the 800 meters and 1,500 meters plus on the 4x800-meter and distance medley relays last year. Coen claimed fourth in the 1,500 in 4 minutes, 44.28 seconds and was 13th in the 800.
Coen set the school record, 4:40.25, in the 1,500 at the 2013 Drake Relays, taking fourth. She was 12th in the 800 meters at the Drake Relays.
Coming back with Coen from the state-qualifying 4x800 relay team are senior Amber Karsten and junior Hailey Coy. The full distance medley relay team of Karsten, Coen, junior Taylor Fisher and sophomore Leela Spencer return.
Sophomore Sydney Jenkins leads the sprint race returners. Jenkins qualified for the state meet in the 200-meter and 400-meter dashes. Jenkins, Fisher and Karsten were on the 4x400-meter relay that qualified for state. Junior Anna Barr and seniors Taylor Graff and Bailey Zaruba are back from the shuttle hurdle relay team which qualified for state.
Other returning athletes are seniors Kacy Cazett, Halie Doland, Brooke Henning, Brooklynn Maddison and Marianna Ulrey; sophomores Elise Axtell, Kaelee Knoll, Fran Lucas and Kelly Klingensmith.
“I foresee us being more successful across all events this year. We have had many girls step up for the indoor season,” Tomas said. “Our freshmen class has done a nice job of showcasing their talents and potential. Newcomer Alex Hutchinson has provided some additional sprint talent to the team while Brenna Schwenker has added some hurdling talent.”
Tomas, who is in her fifth year as head coach for Newton, said last year’s season was rough with many meets cancelled because of inclement weather. The Cardinals finished third at the Little Hawkeye Conference track meet. Rachelle Tipton, who was the girls’ cross country head coach, and John Patterson are the assistant coaches.
“It will be a very competitive season for varsity spots, and I foresee a lot of movement in the line-up to determine what our best options will be for post-season,” Tomas said.
“I cannot say enough about this senior class. This is the largest group of seniors I have had as a coach. This speaks volumes to their talents and contributions to the team through their talent and leadership. They have been impactful to our success since their freshmen year. It is exciting to see how their four-year campaign finishes.”
Other members of the team are juniors Autumn Hunt and Brenna Schwenker, sophomore Alex Hutchinson, and freshmen Kayla Botterbrodt, Bridget Carson, Michaella Cope, Molly Davros, Emma Meyer, Sarah Prendergast and Hannah Yeager.