MASON CITY | After another record-breaking season, most of the faces will be the same for the Mason City girls track and field team this season.
Coming off of a year in which the Mohawks qualified 16 girls and seven events for the state meet, expectations for Jim Lee – who is in his 20th year with the program and fifth at the helm – are high.
“We’ve been spoiled the last couple of years with such great talent,” Lee said. “We broke several school records and have sent the most girls to the state meet in school history. We have all of the talent back from last year and some freshman girls that have definitely shown us that they can compete in Emma Davison, Heather Nelsen and Piper Watson. When you add those three to the girls we return, we feel we can score a lot of points in meets this year.”
The Mohawks figure to be strong in nearly every event after qualifying for the state meet in Class 4A in the long jump, 400, shuttle hurdle relay, sprint medley relay, 4x200, 4x400 and 4x800 last season.
Leading the way are a pair of seniors – Jenna Cornick and Kendall Cornick – and junior Makenzie Meyer.
“Everyone knows that Jenna, Kendall and Makenzie are the leaders of this team,” Lee said. “Jenna Cornick is a great kid and she’s invaluable. She went to state in four events, running a 100, 200, 400 and 800.”
Meanwhile, Meyer placed eighth in the 400. She also ran a leg on the Mohawks’ fourth-place 4x400 relay team with both Cornicks and Ashley Alert and has set the bar high for her and her teammates this season.
“We accomplished a lot down at state last year with our 4x400 team getting fourth,” said Meyer, who also placed eighth in the 400. “We know the opportunity is there to do that again or place even higher. Winning a state championship is one of our goals.”
While the goal of the 4x400 team is to reach the top, it may take the Mohawks some time to come together as Kendall Cornick works her way back from a torn labrum in her hip.
“Kendall had hip surgery last fall for a completely torn labrum and she’s really worked her tail off to get back to where she is right now,” Lee said. “She’s still not 100 percent but she’s pain-free. She’s not in the condition she was last year and it’s going to take her a while to get to where she wants to be. It’s been hard to tell a girl with her dedication that she can’t do something but we want Kendall to trust us and train smart. An athlete can be their own worst enemy by being so competitive. Kendall understands that doing more isn’t always better. Having Kendall as a leader on this team puts me at ease.”
When Cornick was healthy, she was a versatile athlete for the Mohawks as a junior.
She helped set the indoor school record in the 60 hurdles and sprint medley relay and outdoor school records in the 100 hurdles, shuttle hurdle relay and 4x400 while competing in the Drake Relays in four events – the 4x100, sprint medley relay, 4x400 and 100 hurdles.
What to expect from Cornick this season is unknown.
However, just seeing the senior’s determination and dedication is reason enough for Lee to believe Cornick will have a big impact on the team.
“Kendall is such a competitive athlete,” Lee said. “Anytime you see a girl like Kendall, or any great athlete for that matter, go through an injury and work that hard to get back, other girls are then able to see her as a go-getter. There’s no quit in Kendall and her determination rubs off on everyone on the team. You can’t help but appreciate having an athlete like that. If she’s patient I think she can really have an impact on this team.
She’s already shown the other girls that if she can do this they can do this too.”
Meyer is one of Kendall’s teammates that has seen Cornick’s drive to get back to a high level of competition. She also sees Cornick as someone who motivates her.
“All of the work that Kendall’s put in, everything she has gone through and done to get to this point, it’s extremely motivational,” Meyer said. “She’s also one of the girls I know I can lean on. Whenever I’m going through a hard time she’s always someone there to motivate me and pick me up. It’s the same way with the other girls on the 4x400 team. We all four know each other well and pick each other up.”
While Cornick works her way back into the lineup for the Mohawks, Lee has used the indoor season as a chance for other members within the program to show they’re capable of stepping up.
“Whenever one of your main kids can’t go it gives someone else a chance to step up,” Lee said. “Right now we have girls that have shown they’re willing to step up. There are always some growing pains with young athletes but they all put their best foot forward. Alaina Berg is a very quality athlete and Sam Papouchis is a very talented young lady.”
Lee also pointed to the four runners back from last year’s state shuttle hurdle relay team – Danielle DeRoy, Jenni King, Morgan Dvorak and Kayla Till – as being strong again this season. He has also been impressed with sophomore Katrina Cornick.
“Katrina Cornick has put in a lot of time in the off-season throwing the shot and discus,” Lee said. “She’s worked a lot with Coltin Hahle and we’re expecting some big, big things out of Katrina this year in the field events. She probably has one of the best thrower frames that I have seen in all of the years I have been here. She’s such a strong, athletic girl.”