CONCORDIA, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College women's track team is approaching the 2018 season as a marathon, looking to consistently reach bench marks over the course of the next four months to put themselves in the best possible position come Region VI/KJCCC and NJCAA championship time.
"We're not already readymade. We have a long ways to go and it starts every day coming in and doing what you're supposed to do," said Cloud County head coach, Ted Schmitz. "We'll have some goals set and make it a priority to always do the best we can. That's No. 1 that everyone is responsible and wants to be a good member of the team and it leads to some success because of that."
"We're young and it's going to take a while," Schmitz added. "But I expect by the end of the outdoor season, through the discipline and training, that we're ready to battle with the top teams in our region."
Harris, the Region VI runner up in the indoor weight throw last season, was a national qualifier in four events in 2017 between the indoor and outdoor seasons, highlighted by her fourth-place finish in the outdoor hammer throw.
She takes the reigns as Cloud County's lead thrower following the graduation of Nayoka Clunis, an 11-time national place and the 2017 outdoor discus national champion.
"Gabby had a very good freshman year and right now she has looked outstanding in the weight room," Schmitz said. "She's had an outstanding fall and we're looking for great things from her this year."
The T-Birds will also use a committee of talented freshmen throwers to score team points with the additions of Avi Bulai, who Schmitz called a "definite factor" in the discus and weight throw; Takrya Hilton, a skilled shot putter from Hill City, Kansas; as well as javelin throwers Shanee Angol and Carley Nelson, the daughter of a former Cloud County national champion Dennis Nelson.
Cloud County is also looking for another step forward from McGirt, who made her debut for the T-Birds during the outdoor season last spring. She and freshman Ageonia Wilkerson will lead the way for Cloud County sprinters.
"She's going to be good. There's a lot of great sprinters at the national junior college level and she could be our fastest girl ever here (at Cloud County) if things work out in the 100 and 200 meters," said Schmitz, referring to McGirt. "I think she'll also have an outstanding season for our 4X400-meter relay team. She still has a big upside."
Posey, a national qualifier as a long jumper and sprinter, projects to again be a member of the 4X100 and 4X400-meter relay teams alongside McGirt, while St. John and Manzana will handle the majority of the middle distance events for the T-Birds.
St. John finished seventh at the national outdoor meet in the women's 800-meter run last season and third in the 800-meter indoor championships.
Schmitz also pointed to Brooke Diederich, a long jump and triple jump standout from Linn, Kansas, and hurdler Nikki Kraaijeveld from the Netherlands as potential impact freshmen on a roster that features 15 first-year T-Birds vying for positions.
Athletes will get their first chance to make an impression, and post a national qualifying mark, when Cloud County's indoor season gets underway this Friday and Saturday at The Graduate Classic, hosted by the University of Nebraska.