Prep indoor track and field season kicks off today inside BVU's Lamberti Recreation Center
Storm Lake's girls track team placed fifth in Class 3A last year, scoring the most points at a state meet in school history.
To repeat the feat, the Green and White will have to overcome the loss of last year's stellar seven-member senior class.
Getting a healthy Amber Woodford won't hurt, either.
"When we get (Woodford back), we'll be strong in the sprints and sprint relays," said Tornadoes 25th-year head coach John Brostad. "We will also be strong in the 100 hurdles, 400 hurdles, and solid in all field events."
Woodford, who suffered an ACL injury this past basketball season, will sit out at least part of her final track season as she continues to rehabilitate her knee. The senior owns the school record in the 200 meters (25.78 seconds) and is a three-time state qualifier and all-Lakes Conference performer who won 7-of-9 regular-season 200-meter races last year.
The Tornadoes, who kick off the indoor season today at 5 p.m. with the Lakes Conference Indoor coed meet hosted by E-LC and held at Buena Vista's Lamberti Recreation Center, are in a similar boat as last year with regards to the league race.
"We've been a bridesmaid to Spirit Lake for the past three years," said Brostad. "We've scored over 100 points every year for the past three years in the Lakes Conference meet, which normally is easily enough to win the title. Last year we were again second in our conference but fifth at state, to give you an idea of how tough the Lakes Conference is. Spirit Lake is again the favorite and we again have the potential to score over 100 points, but will it be enough to push them?
"We will have to stay healthy."
The Tornadoes' list of key losses reads like a Who's Who of Storm Lake girls track.
Gone are the school record-holder in the shot put (Morgan Darrow, who placed second in 3A last year); a state champion 100-meter hurdler (Northern Iowa freshman Heather Kessler, who owns the school record in that event); a state-medalist high jumper three times over (Veronica Kurtz); a four-time state qualifier and relay ace (Kata Harvey); and a three-time state qualifier in the shuttle hurdle (Tiffany Segebart).
Heather Douglas and Julie Manatham were also key team leaders, Brostad pointed out.
Including Woodford, the Tornadoes have six girls with state experience. The others:
* Senior Michaela Brungardt was third at state last year in the discus with a throw of 124 feet, 9 inches. She holds the school record in the 400 (59.10), which she accomplished when she took sixth at state last season. Brungardt also anchored the sprint medley to fifth place at state. A three-time all-Lakes athlete, she's qualified for state in all three of her high school seasons, in numerous events.
* Senior Amy Kessler, a solid sprinter, is a three-time state qualifier in the shuttle hurdle.
* Senior Maleia Miller is yet another three-time state qualifier. She ran on the 4x100 team that made the finals last May at Drake Stadium.
* Sophomore Katie Blum ran on two state relays - the sprint medley and the 4x100 - as a freshman. She was all-Lakes in three events last year.
* Sophomore Slone Masters, who was all-Lakes in two events as a freshman, competed at state in the 4x200 and long jump last year, and should be one of the team's top hurdlers this year.
Ten other letterwinners return to Brostad's team.
They are seniors Amanda Cavanaugh (mid-distance, distance) and Tammy Nielsen (high jump); juniors Raisa Bucheli (mid-distance, distance) and Courtney Lovetinsky (shot put); and sophomores Jordan Bauer (mid-distance, distance), Jenna Bowman (100, 200), Lindsey Cavanaugh (mid-distance, distance), Jamie Cords (shot put, discus, 200, 400), Cassie Meylor (high jump, 400, 800, hurdles) and Myriah Noble (hurdles, sprints).
Freshmen include Jackie Brungardt (discus, 200, 400), Katelyn Goodchild (throws, sprints), Nya Jock (throws), Katelyn Larson (sprints), Miriam Negrete (mid-distance), Nya Ngut (hurdles and sprints/mid-distance), Stacey Stark (mid-distance), Megan Thompson (800, 1500) and Frashauna Washington (sprints).
A trio of sophomores will join the team for the first time. They are Marlene Aguilar (sprints), Nya Deng (throws, mid-distance) and Joanna Freking (200, 400, 800).
Twenty of the team's 28 girls are freshmen or sophomores.
"Depth will be a problem (trying to score two people in any individual event), and finding a fourth hurdler for the shuttle relay is a concern," Brostad said. "We should be OK in the distance events and the distance relays, but the 3000 is a concern, plus the other Lakes schools are very, very strong in the distance events, which will hurt our scoring chances."
Brostad looks for Spencer, Emmetsburg, Hull Western Christian, Le Mars and Cherokee to push his team in the league race. Sheldon and Estherville-Lincoln Central should be tougher this go-round, he added.
"Estherville has some fine distance runners again," Brostad said. "A great deal depends on who gets help from their freshman classes and who is healthy."
Brostad is once again assisted by Rick Scheidel, Mark Kopriva (jumps coach) and Keven Besch (throws coach).
This is the 18th and final season for Scheidel, the sprints and hurdles coach who has assisted Brostad since 1991. He is retiring at the end of the year.
Seniors - Michaela Brungardt, Amanda Cavanaugh, Amy Kessler, Maleia Miller, Tammy Nielsen, Amber Woodford
Juniors - Raisa Bucheli, Courtney Lovetinsky
Sophomores - Jordan Bauer, Katie Blum, Jenna Bowman, Lindsey Cavanaugh, Jamie Cords, Slone Masters, Cassie Meylor, Myriah Noble, Marlene Aguilar, Nya Deng, Joanna Freking
Freshmen - Jackie Brungardt, Katelyn Goodchild, Nya Jock, Katelyn Larson, Miriam Negrete, Nya Ngut, Stacey Stark, Megan Thompson, Frashauna Washington
* Tues, March 18: Lakes Indoor at BVU, 5:00
* Tues, March 25: Girls State Indoor at UNI, 11:00 a.m.
* Mon, March 31: Prairie Valley Invite at Gowrie, 5:00
* Fri, April 4: Cherokee Invite, 5:00
* Mon, April 7: Unity Christian Invite at Orange City, 5:00
* Fri, April 11: Spencer Invite, 5:00
* Mon, April 14: Sheldon Invite, 5:00
* Fri, April 18: Estherville-Lincoln Central Invite, 5:00
* Tues, April 22: Cherokee Invite
* April 24-26: Drake Relays at Des Moines
* Thurs, April 24: Storm Lake Invite, 5:00 (Schools entered: Carroll, E-LC, Humboldt, Manson-NW Webster, Newell-Fonda, Storm Lake St. Mary's, Pocahontas Area)
* Tues, April 29: Tornado Invite, 5:00 (Schools entered: Cherokee, Kuemper, Le Mars, MOC-FV, Spencer)
* Mon, May 5: Lakes Conference at Estherville, 5:00
* Friday, May 9: District, TBA
* May 15-17: State meet at Des Moines