Girls Track and field: Competition is fierce to fill out Warrior roster
Speed returns for the Brainerd Warriors track and field season.
Despite the loss of last season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still a buzz about relays for the Brainerd Warriors girls team.
And with good reason.
In 2019, the Warriors won Section 8-2A titles in the 4x100 and 4x200 relays. Brainerd’s 4x400 relay was just finding its groove as it finished sixth in the section meet two years ago.
While many of the faces graduated from those relays, there are still a few stalwarts remaining and the competition to fill the openings is a positive in the early season for first-year head coach Ashley Rutman.
“What’s hard is we just don’t know who is going to show up,” Rutman said. “We have Maddi Genz and Hanna Caughey, who is typically a thrower, but can throw down some really good times as well. We have some veterans who we might plug in there, but then we might be looking at our younger squad.
“We don’t know what any of our 10th graders can do in a varsity program. Our ninth graders haven’t been in track since seventh grade and our program works a little differently than our middle school program. I feel like there could be some stiff competition, but it will be exciting to see. We’re excited to get that first meet under our belt so we can have more conversation on where kids will plug in. It will be a good starting point.”
Junior Myah Nelson and sophomore Brenna Deason return from the sprint relays that own school records. The 4x400 relay returns Emma Storbakken, Chandler Niemeyer and Erin Hoelzel.
With Rutman as the middle distance coach, she deals directly with the 4x400 relay, which is also where most of the seniors will be competing.
“It’s a fun group of kids and what’s kind of crazy is out of our seniors that are returning I have a pretty good chunk of them in my group with me as their event coach,” Rutman said. “I just feel like it’s a great mix of personalities. I think one of the other things is that as seniors they look to each other to push each other. They all know they are at the end of their high school career and I think a lot of them it’s exciting and at the same time they’re really looking to see what they can do as their last go-round in track and field.”
While hired two years ago to take over for the retired Howie Jacobs, Rutman missed her inaugural campaign last season. But with warmish temperatures, she’s glad to be back doing what she enjoys.
“I’m just excited to have kids back on the track and getting to be around kids again and just share my passion for track and field with all the athletes,” Rutman said. “I feel like it’s just been a long wait for some normalcy. I know there have been sports seasons happening throughout the year, but I haven’t coached any of those. Just being on the track with all the kids just feels a little more normal.”
Unfortunately, helping Rutman learn all of the faces on her team are lower than usual numbers. But she feels that gives athletes chances to maybe find other events they might be good at.
“Typically we’re around 68 athletes and we’re in the middle 40s right now,” Rutman said. “I feel like it’s just capitalizing on what we see as far as where kids can be plugged in. Where can we find some hidden gems? Kids who are in something, but maybe pushing them to try something new that we think they would be really good at. We’re a little low in the hurdle squad for the girls' side. We’ll have to see if we can pluck from just our pure sprinters and see if any of them can be good at the hurdles.”
In 2019, Bridget Collins was 23rd in the 1600 run and 25th in the 3200 run at the section meet. Lily Schaeffer helped the 4x800 relay to an eighth-place finish.
“We have Lily Schaeffer and Bridget Collins, who have had some good competition,” Rutman said. “Bridget had a good cross-country season and I think she surprised herself with her section performance in Nordic skiing so it’s exciting. I would say as far as our distance crew goes, we have some people who are trying track for the first time. They maybe were in cross-country and even though they are distance events, it’s very different. It will be fun to see how they respond to competition on a track.
“We are missing a couple of key players, which is hard because I miss them. We have some good athletes that will be missed for sure. But I think as far as our distance crew, there is some really good potential.”
Caughey placed 13th in the shot put for the section meet and was seventh in the discus. She’ll be one of the top returners for the throwers, which has two new coaches in Tracy and Will Riley.
“We do have a veteran (coaching) staff and Tracy and Will Riley as new coaches bring with them a wealth of knowledge and they see track and field as an opportunity to have fun. They do some really unique things with their kids and really let loose when it comes to warmups. They’re really into team bonding as well, which is a good thing for our crew.
“With our veteran staff, one of the nice things is they are comfortable around the track or any field event so they are willing to help out and share their knowledge with kids. Travis Raske is back. He was there a few years ago and last year would have been his first season back with us and it’s just been really fun to see him interacting with kids and really bringing with him a lot of energy. He has a lot of knowledge around track and field as well. Just in general is willing to connect with kids.”
Long, triple and high jump and even pole vault will feature many new faces as the long-time veteran Smith girls, Ellie Selisker and Eden Worden all graduated.
“For our long and triple jumps we’re missing our Smith girls in Emma and Gabbie Smith, but I think we have some really great athletes to plug into those spots as well. We have some veteran jumps, but we also have some kids who competed at the junior high level who were pretty good as well. Now seeing them a little older and more specific training it’s exciting to see what they can do.
“In the high jump, we’re missing a couple of kids who graduated last year as well. It’s hard to say at this point as kids try to figure out where they fit. A lot of them haven’t done this in a couple of years or the last time they did it they were in junior high. Hurdles we’re a little low, but we do have kids who have been contributors. Annie Loss has been there so we have kids that are returning in some of those spots. We’re just light as far as numbers and depth, but we have kids who can contribute.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.
Girls track and field
Head coach: Ashley Rutman, 2nd year
2019 finish: Second in CLC, fourth in Section 8-2A meet, 36th at Class 2A state
Assistant coaches: Kris Smith (long and triple jumps), Dave Herath (middle distance), Rod Reuer (sprinters), Robb Kolodziej (pole vault), Landon Brainerd (high jump, horizontal jumps), Kelsi Brusehaver (hurdles, sprints), Travis Raske (sprint), Will Riley (throws), Tracy Riley (throws)
Seniors: Sabrina Buffetta, Madison Genz, Ella Hannah, Erin Hoelzel, Chandler Niemeyer, Emma Storbakken, Emma True
Juniors: Lily Birks, Hanna Caughey, Josie Gibson, Abby Johnson, Sophia Laube, Payton Lillo, Jaclyn Lorentz, Annie Loss, Myah Nelson, Kamryn Peterson, Lily Schaeffer
Sophomores: Alison Bachman, Emily Bastian, Gabrielle Chalupsky, Brenna Deason, Ella Dirks, Allie Dwyer, Molly Hagelie, Katelyn Kennedy, Julia Rademacher, Joslin Ray, Elianna Riley, Emma Sheflo, Kate Stadum, Anna Tupy, Meghan Wirtz
Freshmen: Nastya Biermaier, Tia Bruggeman, Abigail Cherne, Bridget Collins, Chloe Czech, Annika Gearey, Kiara Laube, Lydia Olson, Alyssa Schommer, Anja Storbakken, Abigail Tanner
April 12: at Bemidji 4 p.m.
April 23: hosts Willmar 4 p.m.
April 27: at Rocori 4 p.m.
May 6: hosts Sartell 4 pm.
May 13: at Sauk Rapids 2 p.m.
May 18: hosts St. Cloud Apollo 4 p.m.
May 26: at St. Cloud Tech 4 p.m.
June 1: Possible Central Lakes Conference meet
June 7-12: Section 8-2A meet
June 18-19: Class 2A state meet