Members of Forest Park’s girls track team loosen up at the start of a practice last week. From left: Adel Isaacson, Susie Toivonen, Jordyn Blank, Catherine Bloomburg, Casey Ponchaud and Gina Graff. Graff is a junior; the others are all freshmen.
CRYSTAL FALLS—With spring vacation under way, Coaches Erich and Chandra Ziegler has less than half their roster present late last week for a Forest Park track practice.
But everyone should be present this Thursday, April 18, when the season starts at the Class D Superior Dome meet in Marquette. The outdoor season gets under way with two meets next week: the Florence Invitational on April 23 and the Niagara Invite April 26.
There are sharp contrasts between the two Trojan teams: The girls team has just a few upperclassmen and plenty of freshmen. The boys team has plenty of seniors but just two freshmen.
Last year, Forest Park’s girls team took second place at the U.P. Finals in Division 3, and the boys squad was third. Both teams won the Skyline Conference team titles, both by narrow margins over North Dickinson.
Of the 18 girls on the girls team, 10 are freshmen. “I’ve got a really young team,” Coach Chandra Ziegler said. “A really strong-looking team. I’m excited about it.”
The big challenge for the coach is deciding which events each girl is best suited for. That’s why they have been trying out a variety of events. Going in, a few had an idea which events they want to try, and the team has reinforcements in pole vault, hurdles and distance.
The team started practicing about March 20—during the record-breaking heat spell. “But we got them outside when it was raining, doing intervals,” said their coach. “The weather’s not going to stop us from getting work done.”
The girls team has three seniors: Audrey Sholander, Ana Cornelia and Shaina Bortolini. Sholander was a team leader last year, earning third in both hurdles events at the U.P. Finals plus fifth in long jump. She won both hurdles races at the Skyline Conference tourney.
Cornelia earned points at the U.P. Finals in the 200 and relays; Bortolini, in the 100 and pole vault. “They’ll be strong leaders for the team.”
Four juniors are back: Gina Graff, Georgie Dohl, Ronnie Jaeger and Maria DeMuri. Last spring, Graff almost broke the school record in discus—she was first at the Skyline tourney and second at the U.P. Finals. “She’s already throwing really far.”
Dohl also placed in both hurdles events at the U.P; Finals and both she and DeMuri ran in relays. The team’s only sophomore, Mary Grandahl, ran in three relays and in the 200 at the U.P. Finals.
“It will be interesting to see how our relays get put together this year,” said the coach. “It won’t be the same four that we’re used to seeing—but that’s what’s fun about it.”
The meet at the Superior Dome will be an early chance to see Lake Linden-Hubbell: The Lakes will host the regional tournament May 17; the coach sees them as a strong rival.
Last year’s boys team was led by excellent relay teams: All four relays won at the conference meet, and three of them won at the U.P. Finals.
Alex Takala won the 400 dash at regionals last year and qualified for four events (including relays) at the U.P. Finals, as did Derek Aberly and Jake Divine. Also representing FP at the U.P. Finals in individual events last spring were returnees Mark Hallmann, Adam Luft and Chris Hilberg.
In addition, Aberly was third in the 400, Hilberg tied for third in high jump; and Takala (400, 200) and Divine (800) also earned team points for Forest Park
While some runners graduated last spring, Coach Erich Ziegler has Jacob Siler and Kurt LaVacque back for the sprints; Takala for middles; and Aberly, Divine and Hallmann for distances.
Aberly is a junior—all the others are seniors. Other seniors on the team are Micah Ball, Dan Johnson, Tyler Lovato, Luft and John Takala.
“We’ve been working hard this year,” Coach Erich Ziegler reported. “We’re working hard to meet some of our goals.” There are about 30 boys on the team—10 seniors and just two freshmen. The younger members of the team are being worked into the team, but “it‘s pretty much an older group.”
The Trojan boys are known for their running. “We’re a little light on sprinters this year,” noted the coach. “We’re moving some people around.
“It’s a good team this year.”