By the casual runner’s standards, the low 70 degree temperatures at Shelly Ellig Field Wednesday would have been a bit much.
But just before 4:30 p.m., the Valley City High School boys and girls track and field teams went out in full force.
On the turf in the football field’s sidelines, the distance runners finished another run and took a quick breather, watching the sprinters do quick laps around the track. Off in the distance, the field athletes are taking turns throwing.
It’s a far cry from last March when the team was stuck inside, running the halls of the school and lifting weights as the city lay under a blanket of snow.
The athletes themselves, they’re okay with it.
“Last year I think we ran inside until April,” said senior Joey Halgrimson. “We had to cancel our first couple of outdoor meets because we still had snow, and of course over here (near Ellig Field) we had water coming over the dykes, so we couldn’t do much outside. It’s been great.”
It’s been so nice, in fact, that coach Trevor Bakalar said many of the team’s indoor meets, which are scheduled until the outdoor season starts April 3, could potentially be moved outdoors and give athletes a few more chances to qualify for state.
The season continues Monday at the Thundering Herd Classic at North Dakota State University’s Bison Sports Arena in Fargo.
Last year the teams qualified seven athletes for state. Mary Faure was the only one who graduated, leaving plenty of senior experience, including Molly Willson, Jenna Jacob and Allyson Suhr for the girls, along with Halgrimson and Paul Viland for the boys. All five were among the state qualifiers last year.
Bakalar expects performances similar to last year.
“We lost some good kids, but we’ve also got a big group of juniors that really filled out our rosters and they moved up to seniors this year,” Bakalar said.
On the girls side, Jacob and Willson look to be the top sprinters for the team. Both qualified for state in the 100 meter dash last year and were members of the 400 and 800 relay teams with Mary Faure and Mariah Olstad.
He also expects to see success from 8th grader Brienne Roehrich, who had two top-12 finishes at the team’s season opening meet last weekend in Moorhead, Minn.
Suhr will lead her team in distance and qualfied for state in the 800 last year. Bakalar said her main focus this year is the mile, though Suhr also hopes the team can do well in the 3,200 relay, which narrowly missed state qualifying last year.
In the field, senior Jenna Coghlan returns after qualifying for state last year, and the team had early success this season from shot putter Tonya Van Dyke.
Halgrimson looks to be one of the top state contenders for the boys, having qualified last year in the discus. Halgrimson is one of the top sprinters and could qualify in both track and field. He’ll potentially be joined by a pair of fellow seniors, distance runner Nick Lee and Viland, a pole vaulter. Bakalar said thrower Adam Lang could also be a contender for a state spot.
Bakalar said the goal this year is for the athletes to set as many personal bests as possible.
“That’s the big push this year is for them to show improvement personally and that’s going to help the team,” he said.