With extra safety protocols and a roster bursting with new members, it’s safe to say Faribault girls track and field coach Mark Bongers is grateful for his four captains this season.
As the Falcons prepare for Thursday’s scheduled first meet of the season at Alexander Park, the quartet of Ruby Gernandt, Gabrielle Yetzer, Giselle Ramirez and McKenzie Gehrke have been front and center with helping to direct what can feel like organized chaos at some points.
“On the girls side 65% of our girls are first timers, so we have that many girls doing it all for the first time and learning how to jump and learning how to hurdle and all of those pieces,” Bongers said. “It’s so much time to invest into making sure they know what they’re doing and they’re doing it right, so it’s been a busy last week and a half getting them on track with getting them what they need to know.”
Those four captains are part of a relatively experienced group returning this season, that also includes Maria Pierce and Maryn Hart.
For the most part, however, many of the Falcons are still learning the ins and outs of their new adopted sport.
Bongers said he has no illusions of piecing together a definitive lineup for Thursday’s season-opening meet, and may not have a handle on that until after the first month of the season. Those opening stretches will be spent gathering information on where each athlete excels, where they enjoy competing and where the best event is to slot them in that strengthens the team’s overall lineup.
“We’ll continue down that path of putting them together as we figure out the best combination,” Bongers said. “That’s the big deal, just finding that right combination that will work and getting them to excel together. That’s going to take some time.”
While Bongers still possesses of moving the Falcons up the pecking order in the Big 9 Conference from their 10th-place finish two seasons ago, maybe the largest objective is to make sure this surge in roster size is not just a one-year blip.
The way to keep girls in the sport, Bongers said, is to find one or two events each athlete enjoys and excels competing in.
“Hopefully that should give us an incredibly good team next year where we can maybe make a bit of a run at doing something in Big 9s,” Bongers said. “This year I’m being cautious and my goal is to get this team to gel together as a team and to really make it so girls really have an event they’re excelling at, which makes them excited to come back. If I can get those things accomplished, I’ll be happy.”
April 8 — vs. Austin, Red Wing, 4:30 p.m.
April 13 — vs. Mankato West, 4:30 p.m.
April 15 — vs. Albert Lea, Minnesota Academy for the Deaf, 4:30 p.m.
April 20 — at Winona, Austin, Northfield, 4:30 p.m.
April 27 — at Mankato East, Northfield, Owatonna, 4:30 p.m.
April 29 — at Mankato East, Austin, New Ulm, Waseca, 4:30 p.m.
May 6 — at Winona, Rochester Century, Rochester John Marshall, 4:30 p.m.
May 11 — at Red Wing, Rochester Mayo, Winona, 4:30 p.m.
May 18 — vs. Mankato East, Rochester John Marshall, Rochester Mayo, 4:30 p.m.
May 26 — Big 9 Conference meet, 10:30 a.m., Rochester John Marshall
Editor’s note: A roster for the Faribault girls track and field team was unavailable as of publication.