PLYMOUTH — It was a cold open for NorthWood’s girls track and field team as it started their Northern Lakes Conference slate with a double dual at Plymouth on a chilly Tuesday evening.
The Lady Panthers lost both legs of the triangular, falling by a narrow 65-63 margin to the host Pilgrims and 81-47 to Elkhart Memorial, which topped the pile with a narrow 69-62 decision over Plymouth. Still, it wasn’t a bad note for NorthWood to open on.
“We could just use a little more depth to get a few more points. We’re just missing it by a little bit,” said NorthWood assistant coach Austin Hamsher.
“It’s a good place to start. We have a good benchmark. I feel we’ll only get better from here.”
There were some standouts for the Panthers, and first and foremost among them was senior sprinter Kenzie Moren, who collected three wins Tuesday.
Moren clocked 13.23 to win the 100-meter dash, 28.15 to top the 200-meter field and ran anchor for ‘Wood’s winning 4×100 relay squad alongside Riley Hershberger, Reagan Hartman and Jemima Robinson as they combined for a 52.33 stop.
“She’s been a really good leader as a senior. She’s just doing what she’s doing best,” said Hamsher of Moren. “She qualified to go down to (indoor) state, but we didn’t get to go down there because of the weather, decided not to go, but she’s definitely a highlight of tonight.”
Another bright spot for the Panthers was provided by fellow senior Erica Stutsman, who claimed a 2:25.27 time and the win in the 800 meters, nearly a full 10 seconds better than runner-up Kaitlyn Carothers of Plymouth. Stutsman also ran anchor for NorthWood’s winning 1600-meter relay in the finale of Tuesday’s double dual, as she, Alea Minnich, Kali Parisi and Lexi Parisi combined for a 4:28.5 time and the win. And she opened for NorthWood’s second-place 3200-meter relay, which also included Whitney Wolfe and the Parisis, as NorthWood put up an 11:42.91 time behind Memorial’s team of Kallie Canfield, Mariem Boussaha, Dinah Gilbert and Morgan Eash and their 11:28.73 stop there.
It was a solid start for Stutsman, who broke her leg during a ski trip over the winter.
“She’s just excited,” Hamsher said. “Watching her run the 4×400, she’s just an animal getting it. In the 800 she really showed what she’s strong at.”
Tuesday’s three-way also represented a return from injury for junior Hershberger, who tore her ACL and underwent surgery before sitting out her sophomore season. In addition to her role on NorthWood’s winning 400 relay team, Hershberger gave the Panthers some depth in the hurdles race, placing sixth in the 100-meter hurdles with a 19.71 time behind teammate Sidney Hostetler’s 19.66 stop for fifth place and fifth in the 300 low hurdles with a 57.55 time behind Reagan Koble’s 57.11, fourth-place time.
“This was the first meet she actually went through the full flight of hurdles, so that was exciting to watch. She’s having trouble starting from the blocks to the first hurdle, but, yeah, she’s getting back at it,” said Hamsher.
Jemima Robinson placed second in the long jump with a 13’10” clearance behind Plymouth winner Julia Marohn’s 14’6” leap, and she tied for fourth with Memorial’s Katlyn Bell in the high jump as the duo cleared 4’4” Tuesday. Karli McBrier led her team in the discus with an 86’11” as she and teammates Lily Kauffman and Katie Montgomery finished in order in fourth through sixth place for a NorthWood team that struggled to put up points in the field events in Plymouth.
Memorial dominated the distance races en route to their top team finish as Morgan Dyer collected wins in both the 1600 and 3200 meters. Dyer’s only real competition in each of those races was teammate Gabby Scott, as the Chargers’ distance aces clocked 5:45.24 and 5:58.96, respectively, to go one-two in the mile and 12:13 and 12:44 for the top two spots in the two-mile. Kallie Canfield crossed the finish line in 6:06.75 in the 1600 meters as Memorial swept the top three spots in that event. De’Janea Johnson and Tianna Roundtree finished second and third, respectively in the shot put with puts of 34’06.5” and 32’08.75” behind winner Cece Robinson of Plymouth and her 36’06” toss.
The Pilgrims fared best in the field events as Robinson and Marohn claimed top honors in the shot put and long jump, Madison Smith cleared 7 feet to win the pole vault, and Claudia Marohn’s 4’8” clearance in the high jump earned her the win there. The Pilgrims also looked sharp in the hurdles races as Ally Dolan won the high hurdles with a 17.36-second time, and Kacee Peters and Kristen Brown finished one-two in the 300 hurdles with times of 52.19 and 55.53. Nicole Keller won the 400-meter dash in 1:04.95, but the hosts couldn’t quite keep pace with Memorial’s depth.