Abby Marr

Abby Marr is one of two returning national qualifiers for the Dutch women

PELLA — A large freshmen class brings in some top-level talent to a still young Central College women’s track and field team in 2023.

The Dutch roster includes 19 new freshmen that join 20 returning varsity letterwinners including a few national qualifiers in weight thrower Abby Marr (senior, Riceville) and distance runner Caroline McMartin (junior, Pella).

“We’re still a fairly young team,” coach Brandon Sturman said. “It’s a junior and freshmen heavy roster. We’re excited about this year. We’ve added depth in areas where we lacked, like the sprints. Hopefully, we can make some points in those areas at the conference meet.

The Dutch took fifth at the 2022 American Rivers Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships and sixth indoors.

“Our main goal is to be the conference champion,” Sturman said. With the talent and depth of our conference because of all of fifth and sixth-year seniors, finishing in the top four would be a great accomplishment.”

The indoor season started with the Dutch Holiday preview in December and ends with the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships on March 11-12 in Birmingham, Alabama. The outdoor season begins with the Washington University Distance Carnival on March 31 and ends at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships May 25-27 in Rochester, New York. The indoor American Rivers Conference Championships are in Storm Lake on Feb. 24- 25 and the outdoor league meet is in Decorah May 11-13.

Distance and middle-distance

Caroline McMartin spearheads a deep group of distance runners. She was an All-American last fall in cross country and earned a spot in the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 3,000-meter steeplechase last spring.

“We have high expectations for her this year,” Sturman said. “Hopefully she can build off her success in both cross country and track and field. We also want to see if she can do something in the mile or 3K indoors.”

Megan Johnson (junior, Parkersburg, Aplington-Parkersburg HS) spent the fall studying abroad in Europe but early returns show she’s ready to go for the spring.

“She did a phenomenal job of staying in shape while she was abroad,” Sturman said. “Coach Dunham is really excited about where she is at. Her being back is good for the team from a leadership perspective and gives Caroline somebody else to push her.”

In the longer races, especially outdoors, Central will be led by Hailey Hill (senior, Las Vegas, Nev., West Career and Technical Academy).

“She healthier than she’s ever been in her track career,” Sturman said. “She’s really coming into her own.”

There are nine other women returning as varsity letterwinners set to compete in distance races. Seniors Lauren Coon (Oskaloosa) and Lauren Miller (sophomore, Dubuque) and juniors Abby Alberti (Harlan), Layken Bytnar (Bettendorf), Lindsey Davidson (Northwood, Northwood-Kensett HS), Kate Hoogensen (Ankeny Centennial HS), Alyssa Mayhew (North Aurora, Ill., West Aurora HS), Natalie Patterson (Lone Tree) and sophomore Addison Parrott (Danville).

“In cross country they do it as a team, but in track it’s a little more individualized,” Sturman said. “We have a lot of depth in our conference and we need some of our women to move up to the top.”

Hadyn Miller (junior, Iowa Falls, Iowa Falls-Alden HS) had a great freshman season before an injury wiped out most of her 2022 campaign. She focuses on 400 and 800-mete runs.

“Her fitness is there but I don’t know that her speed is all the way back yet,” Sturman said. “We’re going to keep challenging and pushing her and hopefully she can get back to where she was.

Amber Vroman (sophomore, Seneca, Ill.) is also a capable veteran 800 runner while Stevette Perez (senior, Mission Hills, Calif.) provides depth in the mid-distance races.

Sprints

Alongside Hadyn Miller, Abby Gruver (junior, Sully, Lynnville-Sully HS), Abbi Roerdink (junior, Tiffin, Ohio, Hopewell-Loudon HS) and Lauren Brown (junior, Underwood) give Central a solid nucleus of a 4x400-meter relay team.

“That junior class is really strong for us,” Sturman said.

Roerdink also placed fourth in the 400-meter dash at the league’s outdoor meet.

“Abbi had a great end to last season,” Sturman said.  “I think she did what she needed to in the offseason to come back and start where she left off.”

Freshmen Emily McMartin (Pella), Mary Gustason (Marion, Linn-Mar HS) and Willa Sickelka (Primghar, South O’Brien HS) headline the short sprints.

“They are an exciting group,” Sturman said. “It was a big focus in our recruiting, and they have shown a lot of promise already. We’re trying to find their range and put them in position to succeed.”

Hurdles

In additional to her relay work, Gruver also took fifth on the 400-meter hurdles at the league outdoor meet, running the 10th fastest mark in program history.

“Abby works so hard,” Sturman said. “She was our Most Improved Award winner last year. She does whatever she is asked and gives us 100% effort.”

Freshman Olivia Bohlen (Belle Plaine) already made a splash in the 60-meter hurdles at the Dutch Holiday Preview by cracking into the program’s top-five list already.

Gruver will feature in the hurdle events, especially in the 400-meter hurdles. Karsyn Lamm (sophomore, Mount Pleasant) is another option in the hurdles as well.

Throwing events

Marr finished one spot off the podium in her national meet debut indoors in the weight throw. She’s also earned points at the outdoor conference meet in the hammer throw.

“Our goal for Abby is to get back to nationals in the weight throw and become an All-American,” Sturman said. “We’ll also try to utilize those skills and make noise outdoors in the hammer and discus throws.”

Allison Van Gorp (sophomore, Pella, Pella Christian HS) and Alyssa Streigel (junior, Mount Pleasant) give Central two more capable scorers at the conference level. The duo finished third and fourth outdoors in the conference discus throw, respectively.

“Alyssa had a huge weight throw PR in December and we’re hoping she can build off that,” Sturman said. “When Allison joins us after basketball she has an opportunity in the shot put and even the discus to make an impact for our team.”

Morgan Gallentine (junior, Webster City) is a javelin specialist and a returning letterwinner. Sophomores Kira Baldus (St. Ansgar) and Morgan Devereaux (sophomore, Pocahontas, Pocahontas Area HS) give Central additional depth.

Multi-events

Bohlen is learning the multi-events and the sky is the limit for according to Sturman. She’s already one of the best hurdlers in program history in her 60-meter hurdles time.

“She’s probably our top overall athlete,” Sturman said. “We have high hopes for her and were excited to see what she can do.”

Jumps

Cali Coffman (senior, Leawood, Kan., Blue Valley HS) has scored at four different conference meets in the pole vault, including a fourth-place effort indoors in 2021.

“Cali’s improvement has been consistent,” Sturman said. “We’re going to rely on her expertise and experience.”

Vroman missed scoring at the conference meets as a freshman but could move into the points this year.

“Amber did a good job in the offseason and had a lifetime best in in December already,” Sturman said.

MacKenzie Kruse (senior, St. Clair, Minn.) and Abigail White (sophomore, Centerville) give Central a pair of veteran high jumpers.

“They both did well in their first meet so we’ll see what they can do,” Sturman said.

Lamm is the team’s leading long jumper entering the season.

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