By Jamie Baker
Defending state champs.
Ottawa-Glandorf’s Allison Schroeder and Bluffton’s Bonnie Stratton both fit the description.
Schroeder might just be the best of a talented group of area girls performers on the track this season.
The University of Notre Dame signed Schroeder to come to South Bend to compete for the Fighting Irish and for good reason. She is the defending Division II state champion in the 300 intermediate hurdles and helped the Titans finish fourth at state in the 1,600 relay.
But Ottawa-Glandorf has plenty of talent aside from Schroeder in its lineup. Chelsea Imm finished seventh in the Division II girls pole vault while senior Emily Heitmeyer and Abbie Selhorst and juniors Lyndsey Barlage, Jayme Bockrath and Jenna Ellerbrock have also competed in Columbus in the past.
Stratton, meanwhile, is the defending girls Division III state 200-meter dash champion. The Pirates ended up fifth in the Division III team standings in Columbus last season.
Stratton also finished fourth in the 100 and was the anchor leg of Bluffton’s state runner-up 400 relay team, which was made up of all underclassmen. Senior hurdler Kendra Bassitt was also a state meet scorer last season.
Putnam County League power Columbus Grove also returns quite a bit of talent from last year’s team that finished in a tie for 12th place at the state meet.
Columbus Grove junior Jaimie Lewis was one of the most decorated area athletes at state last season. She earned a spot on the awards stand in the 400 with a seventh place finish and was on both the Bulldogs sixth place 1,600 and 800 relay teams.
Senior Grace Needler, junior Ella Diller and sophomore Paige Heffner were also key runners on the Bulldogs’ three relay teams that placed at state in 2007.
No story about the top area girls track and field teams or individuals would be complete without Liberty-Benton.
The Eagles have 33 girls on the roster this season including five with previous state meet experience.
Senior Anna Farmer is a returning state placer in the Division III 1,600-meter run while junior teammates Kate Saums and Paige Vaupel placed in Columbus in the high jump and long jump respectively. Brooke Larsen, Angie Rettig and Whitney Goller qualified for state in relay events while Brynn Chaskel is a returning state qualifier in the 3,200 run.
The Eagles have won nine straight Blanchard Valley Conference girls track and field titles and have captured 23 of the last 25 league crowns.
Lakota should also field a strong team in the Suburban Lakes League and in the postseason. The Raiders’ Cami Wasserman, who has committed to attend Kent State University on a track scholarship, was third in the Division III girls pole vault. The Raiders also have an excellent distance crew led by returning 1,600 run state qualifier Carly Reese and cross country standout Julia Windom.
There is plenty of individual talent around the area too.
Riverdale junior Kayla Brown will try and reach the top step of the state meet awards stand after a state runner-up effort in the 300 hurdles as a sophomore.
Arlington’s 400 relay team of Maci Bower, Lauren Pepple, Morgan Heacock and Jasmine Foster returns intact after finishing fifth at state.
Other area girls that may be primed for big seasons include McComb junior Katie Borgelt (distance), Ottoville sophomore Molly Maag (middle distance) and Elmwood sophomore Katie Reiser (sprints).