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.”