Preview: Minus Joiner, East Ridge girls' track return talent
Replacing Karina Joiner, a two-time state champion and Minnesota all-time state record holder in the 100-meter hurdles is an impossible task.
But the East Ridge Raptors still have cause for optimism this track season.
Leading the way for the Raptors will be junior Allyson Weiss, the defending state triple jump champion. Weiss soared 38-9.25 twice in last year's state meet and has eyes on even better marks this spring.
Joiner and Weiss led East Ridge to a sixth-place finish at state last season. Minus Joiner, it's doubtful the Raptors can score that many points again at state, but they still have many athletes who can score big points at conference and section this season.
"This year our team is fairly young," co-head coach Kelsey Joson said. "We have a solid group of varsity girls that have been here since they were young and they've been working really hard. Over this past offseason they really put in a lot of work, and you can see that translate onto the track already."
Weiss won both the long jump (17-7.5) and the triple jump (38-6) in the conference meet last season. She advanced to state in both events, winning the triple jump while finishing 16th in the long jump.
"She's done some amazing things already," Joson said. "It's nice to see everything come together so early."
Weiss will be going for her third straight state meet in both horizontal jumps.
Senior captain Ansley Schug was third in the 100-meter hurdles (15.27) and sixth in the 300 hurdles (47.09) in the Suburban East Conference meet last season and looks to move up in both events. She also took third in the 100-meter hurdles in the section finals. She will also run in the relays, potentially the 4x400 and the 4x200.
"Ansley is doing an amazing job right now running hurdles," Joson said. "She's winning her races and looking really strong."
Senior Abby Witte qualified for state last season in the 3,200 meters, running an 11:33.84 in the section finals to take second. Senior Megan Schiferl and Witte finished third and fourth in the girls 3,200-meter run at the SEC meet and went second and fourth in the section meet last spring.
Senior Alexandra Doty was fourth in the 100 (12.83, conference times) and fifth in the 200 (26.58) in both the SEC and section meets last spring. And with several of the top sprinters graduating last spring, Doty is another looking to make a big move up the ranks.
Another senior, Bridgette Sieffert, is ahead of pace in the hurdles and already has a personal best in the triple jump.
"Our leaders on our team are very, very strong," Joson said. "We're excited to have such talent in such a small group of girls."
One newcomer who may make her mark early is ninth-grade sprinter Rachel Okeleye.