Team: Waconia track and field
Head coaches: Tom McDonald and Christian Gilbert
Conference: Wright County
Section: Class AA, Section 2
2013 finish: 2013 was a big year for the Wildcat girls, who finished second in the Wright County Conference. They were crowned Section 4AA True Team champions and finished fifth at True Team State. At the end of the season, the Wildcats finished second in Section 2AA and sent six athletes to the state meet for three podium finishes. Junior Kirsten Wagener medaled in both the long and high jumps, while senior Anna Pioske medaled in the triple jump. Two relays also competed for WHS.
The six state entrants were also All-Conference winners including Pioske, Wagener, Miranda Schultz, Karlye Vallafskey, Molly Reighard, and Danielle Pioske.
During the season, the Wildcats also set new school records in the pole vault (Paige Notch) and long jump (Anna Pioske).
Last season, the Wildcat boys’ team took another step in the right direction of becoming a powerhouse like the girls. The Wildcats won a home triangular, finished second at two meets, and were sixth at their home invitational. At True Team Sections the boys were sixth, and the Wildcats finished fourth in the Wright County Conference with three All-Conference winners in Jacob Fettig, Ben Vaske, and Marcel Montiel. As a team, WHS was 14th of 16 at sections.
Key returners: All-Conference athletes Miranda Schultz, Kirsten Wagener, and Marcel Montiel return for their senior seasons. Wagener is a force, competing in all three jumping events, while Schultz is the current school record holder in both the 100 and 200 meter sprints, as well as the 4×200 meter relay. Montiel emerged as a strong competitor last season, specializing in the 200 meter sprint.
Sophomore Paige Notch returns as the current school record holder in the pole vault, while fellow sophomore Makayla Williams will be back in the shot put and discus events.
Senior Lexi Willems is “looking tough” for her senior season, competing in the one- and two-mile runs, according to head coach Christian Gilbert.
Sprinters returning for the WHS boys include seniors Mason Tuttle, Montiel, Tim Gray, and Charles Frempong-Longdon, while Miles Trujillo and Taylor Kray carried the boys in the longer distances last season.
Ryan Krutchen returns for his sophomore season after specializing in both the 110 and 300 meter hurdles last season.
In the relays, Tuttle, Montiel, and senior Cody Ellis made up three legs of the 4×100 and 4×200 teams last year and are all out for the team again in 2014.
In the field events, senior Tim Gray, juniors Matt Thom, Zach Christians and Lucas Zimmer, and sophomore Ben Hedtke are all listed on the roster as well.
Key newcomers: Gilbert said while there are always holes left behind from departing seniors (last season, WHS lost over 20 seniors between the boys’ and girls’ teams), there is an “unreal” base of talented athletes that are coming up from the middle school program.
He said this year will be a “changing of the guard” where the bulk of the team is sophomores and younger.
“(We) have a ton of young talent working up the ranks and will be noticed a bit more as they are going to become the ‘work horses’ of the girls’ track team,” Gilbert said.
Among some of those upcoming talents are Danielle Pioske, Reighard, Alora Rands, Carissa Dock, Aly Marrs, and Taylor Lange, along with some others Gilbert said will need to prove themselves.
“Girls track athletes in Waconia seem to grow on trees,” he said. “It has been this way for years, much to the frustration of the other WCC coaches!”
For a few seasons now, the coaches have waited for younger classes of male athletes to come up through the ranks. Those years have finally arrived and this year’s high-school track students are the loaded athletes that coaches have been waiting for.
Teams to beat: Annandale and Orono remain atop the Wildcats’ list of teams to beat, but Gilbert said he’s never sure which teams will emerge as new powers.
“They will all be tough and each team has their strengths,” he said.
The boys will be aiming for the top conference teams as well, and although Holy Family typically boasts a strong squad, it’s not quite clear yet who those top teams may be.
Goals: While the Wildcat girls will surely be gunning for another Section True Team title, Gilbert said it could be challenging with WHS moving to a larger section.
At the conference level, the Waconia girls will also be pushing for the WCC title, after finishing as runners up last season.
“We have a tough conference and I’m sure we will be near the top,” he said. “It has come down to single digits to win the conference the past few years, so it will be a fun ride.”
With over 150 athletes between the boys and girls team, Gilbert said one of the challenges this season will simply be staying organized.
“Our main goal is to stay organized and give every athlete a good experience,” he said.
The Wildcat boys aim for continued improvement as a team and as individuals, with hopes of higher finishes and more place winners at each meet. Perhaps this year, the Wildcat boys will also be able to set a few new school records, as the most recent record setters were in 2009. The oldest records on the boys side date back to 1975 (long jump and discus).
First meet: The Wildcats’ April 3 meet at Becker was cancelled, and so the ‘Cats should have kicked off the season April 8 in Mankato. Waconia hopes to be in action next week at Holy Family and Faribault on April 14 and 15.
Contact Melissa Marohl at email@example.com