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MHS girls track boasts ‘deepest group in years’

Bobcat squad led by seniors in field events

There’s a lot that goes into fielding a good track and field team, but one of the most important factors is just having a big enough pool of talent to draw from to fill out the large number of events.

For the first time in a while, the Marshalltown girls track and field squad has that to its advantage, as the Bobcats enter the 2018 campaign at 40 girls strong.

Head coach Chad Pietig said having those kind of numbers at his disposal has him excited for the start of the new season.

“That’s something that we haven’t had for several years,” Pietig said. “Traditionally over the past several years we’ve had to use up the same girls. With 40 girls we have multiple distance runners we can use, we have multiple variations of sprinting combinations we can use. We don’t have to go and beat up the same three or four girls every night like we’ve had to the last three or four years.”

There are 15 track events and four field events in Iowa track and field, so when there aren’t enough athletes to fill out the 19 competitions a team inherently gives up points in the overall score.

“We have every entry for a varsity spot filled, where in years past we were giving up three or sometimes four events before we even stepped onto the track,” Pietig said. “With this year’s group, with the 40 girls and the depth we have, we don’t have to do that and that’s probably what we are the most pleased with right now.”

At the top of this deep group of talent are three seniors — Grace Metzger, Jill Podhasky and Regan Mazour.

The three will make up the bulk of the top talent for the field events, with Metzger and Podhasky each holding things down in the throws and Mazour taking care of the jumping events.

“Our strength is going to start with those three seniors in the field events,” Pietig said. “Our two discus throwers have been ranked in the top 25 the last couple of years, in fact last year we had three ranked in the top 25 but only two could be ranked in varsity. So that’s a strength for us right there, and of course Regan in the high jump and the long jump is a strength.”

Metzger and Podhasky will have big shoes to fill, as they are replacing the lone state qualifier from last year in Malory Henze, who finished 10th in the discus at state last season. Mazour will be trying to make the state meet for the first time since qualifying in the high jump as a freshman.

Aside from those three seniors and juniors like Alyvia Chadderdon, the bulk of this Bobcat team will be made up of underclassmen. In fact, 32 of the 40 girls on the team as of Tuesday are either freshmen or sophomores, and Pietig said he will be leaning on both of those classes to compete in the running events.

“We are heavy in the freshman and sophomore area with the sprinters, but a lot of those sophomores got great experience last year,” he said. “Kierra Gardner really did some great things for us as a freshman and has come back stronger and faster, Sarah Trowbridge is someone who has worked really hard in the weight room, I mean I just can’t believe how much she has improved over last year and has been quite the leader this spring.”

Pietig pointed to Chadderdon specifically as the older leader in the sprinting group, especially since she isn’t dealing with an ailment coming into the season like she did last year.

“Chadderdon suffered a concussion last year in basketball and she never felt herself until about the last two weeks of the track season last year,” Pietig said. “We saw her potential at conference and districts last year, this year she looks great right now.”

The distance races will be much like the sprints in that there will be a good mix of freshmen and sophomores representing Marshalltown on the oval. Like the sprinters, Pietig said his young distance runners have experience as well, especially girls like freshman Mary Kate Gruening and sophomores Kaci Uhde, Mia Barajas and Aida Almanza, who all ran cross country.

“This is the deepest group we’ve had in the distance events in a while,” he said. “We have a connection to the cross country team that we haven’t had for the last several years and they are freshmen and sophomores but they are freshmen and sophomores that competed in varsity in cross country. They have really taken on the distance and in track they are like experienced runners.”

Marshalltown will start the season on Thursday when it travels to Boone for their first outdoor meet of the year. Pietig said in this first meet he wants his girls to get their first real taste of competition, especially since their indoor schedule was shortened due to weather.

“We have been training for six weeks and we’ve only had one indoor meet because we didn’t go to one during the storm, so really we need a test,” he said. “Thursday is a time to take a test and see that we are improving, the things that we are talking about and working on in practice they need to see apply to a race or meet situation. They need to see growth to say ‘yes I am getting stronger, getting faster and improving.’

“And of course as coaches we want to see the competitiveness, no matter what the weather is like. If the weather is crummy then it’s crummy for all eight lanes and you just need to be competitive and fight your way through that.”

The Bobcats will compete in the Boone Invite on Thursday starting at 4:30 p.m., weather permitting.