Senior Alex Whitford vaults at a meet last year. (Photo: Evan Carter | Courtesy)

Hillsdale women’s track team kicks off the 2017-18 season on Saturday at Saginaw Valley’s Holiday Open. Head coach Andrew Towne said that, while starting out with a new team dynamic provides a challenge, the Chargers have a “balanced complete team.”

Senior team captains Rachael Tolsma and Victoria Wichman said that meets allow the team to set the baseline for the rest of the season. While getting closer to the championship season training will be lighter, but will be competing while still in heavy training, which helps the team measure their progress.

“Even if we do poorly, we find out what we can improve,” Wichman said. “If we didn’t executed our race, jump, or throw the way we want to, this meet is a good start to feel out how we can compete physically.”

“We’ve been training since about June for this meet in December,” Tolsma said. “It’s the first time we get to compete in a while.”

The majority of the team will attend the meet, Wichmann said, while the rest of the season, the team will often be split up for meets. “This is the time when we finally get to the results of that work,” she said.

Freshmen Zalonya Eby, Kajsa Johansson, Carmen Botha, Maria Luea, and Calli Townsend will be competing in Saturday’s meet. Sophomore Alyssa Viola, who was injured last season, will compete for the first time on Saturday.

Wichmann said at the first meet the younger teammates learn how to mentally prepare for bigger college meets.

“As a senior, you know how to mentally prepare…For a lot of our younger teammates, this first meet is creating a foundation for competing mentally and physically,” she said.

Towne said the older members of the team have been good leaders, and “the freshmen are talented and have done a good job readying themselves.”

Luea noted her older teammates’ dedication and hard work provided inspiration.

“I’m really just excited to learn a lot more in my events because I didn’t have a lot of formal training so a lot of it’s still new, which is fun,” Luea said.

Wichmann said that Towne and the team were excited for the meet and the season, and the level of enthusiasm from the start promised a good season.

“I like their personality as a whole,” Towne said. “I think they’re very assertive, competitive, no matter how talented you are, will lead you to some good success. They’re probably one of our most competitive in a couple years.”