The Alexandria girls track and field team had a huge group of freshmen and sophomores ready to get their feet wet within a strong program this year, but it was 15 seniors who were looking forward to leading that young group.
The Echo Press reached out to Amanda Bittmann, Heavyn Bordak, Caitlin Bright, Julia Brito, Sierra Cory, Summer Gerhardt, Carmen Krueger, Mya Lesnar, Bethany Miller, Cameo Neumann, Christina Palmer, Erika Roderick, Meg Shercliffe, Micah Summer and Carly Wiirre as a way to recognize them after their careers were cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic ending the spring high school season.
For those who responded, this story is an opportunity for them to share their thoughts centered around four questions: Why do they compete in track and field? What do they miss most about it this spring? What is a favorite memory from competing? What are their future plans after high school, and do they plan on competing again?
(Editor’s note: Look for more stories like this highlighting seniors from area teams both online and within print issues of the Echo Press in the coming weeks.)
Why she competes: I compete in track and field because I love competing and watching all of my hard work pay off, as well as learning many life lessons along the way from my wins and losses. I have been surrounded by so many people who believe in me, push me to be better and have made an incredible positive impact on my track and field career up to this point, including my family, coaches, and friends.
What she misses most: I will miss my teammates and coaches this spring. Our track and field program is one big family. We push each other when times are tough and we celebrate together when all of the hours lifting and practicing have finally paid off. The loss of this season will be forever missed, but it will only make us stronger for whatever our futures hold. The biggest lesson I have learned through these hardships is that you can't take life for granted because it can all be taken away within seconds.
Favorite memory: My favorite memory is becoming the 2019 shot put Minnesota state champion. After countless hours of training, I was proud that all my hard work was rewarded. It was such a fun experience. I will never forget all of the support I have had from everyone who helped me along the way to achieve this.
Future plans: I will be attending Arizona State University in the Fall of 2020. I will be going into a pre-med route and unsure what I will be majoring in. I am also passionate about joining the Air Force and hope to someday serve my country. I will be on the Arizona State track and field team and am very excited to move forward with my track and field career.
Why she competes: I compete in track and field because I love running and it is really rewarding for me. Track has taught me not just about running, but a lot about life. Over the years, I have learned how to set and work towards goals, how to keep going when things are difficult, and how to work together as a team to make everybody stronger.
What she misses most: Most of all, I miss the chance to get to see my coaches and teammates every day. I also miss getting to run my favorite race, the 2-mile.
Favorite memory: My favorite memory from track and field is the Monticello meet from my junior season. That was the first meet that I ran under 13 minutes for the 2-mile.
Future plans: Next year, I plan on attending the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities to major in math. I plan on joining the university's running club, as well as running for fun in races such as 10Ks and half-marathons.
Why she competes: I compete in track and field because of the team aspect. As much as throwing is an individual sport, the goals you achieve alongside your teammates are invaluable.
What she misses most: What I will miss most about track this spring is my opportunity to compete at the state meet and the cookouts our team would have had together.
Favorite memory: My favorite memory over the years would either be the true team state meet or watching the boys throwing team run a relay with a summer sausage.
Future plans: Next year, I will be attending the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a major in biophysics and genetic studies. I plan to casually play soccer and basketball and possibly compete in track as an independent.
Why she competes: Track and field is my favorite sport because it's both an individual and team sport. At meets, your main competitor is yourself. I like how our coaches make it a goal to beat your own times rather than somebody else's. At the same time, you have a team that cheers you on and motivates you to do the best you can for the sake of winning.
What she misses most: Around this time every year, it gets harder to focus in school because the weather gets so nice. I would look forward to track practice every day after school because it meant that I could be outside with my friends, doing something I enjoy. The thing I miss the most would be high jump. It's my favorite event and even though I wasn't the greatest, I had so much fun doing it.
Favorite memory: My favorite memory would be the last 400 I ran. It was at (the Central Lakes Conference meet) last year, and I shaved over two seconds off my time. I also got two inches higher on high jump that day. I was so proud of myself and that feeling made all of the sacrifices I made and long, hard practices worth it.
Future plans: I will be attending Concordia University in Moorhead and majoring in biology. Although I'm not continuing my track and field career, I enjoy living an active lifestyle and will continue to do so. The lessons that this sport has taught me will stick with me for the rest of my life.
Why she competes: I decided to join track my junior year after debating it for a year because I wanted to try something new, and it felt like the right fit.
What she misses most: What I miss most is my teammates and coaches and the memories we never got to make this year, as well as being able to compete and feel the rush of adrenaline when you're in your race.
Favorite memory: My favorite memory would have to be sharing my chocolate and peanut butter cheerios with the girls' team and going through about a box each meet.
Future plans: I am going to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire where I will be majoring in biology, ecology and environmental (science). I don't plan on competing in track at the moment, but I am open to considering athletics during my second year.
Why she competes: I compete in track and field because I love every aspect of it. The competitions and practices have pushed me both mentally and physically to achieve things that I never thought I could do. My teammates and coaches are some of the most amazing and supportive people I know. They help make the team culture positive and so much fun!
What she misses most: As an underclassman, I would see how seniors would consistently peak during their final season, and I always dreamed of having a season like that for myself. I miss competition, reaching goals that I had set for myself, and getting to lead the team as a captain this year, but most of all I miss the people. My teammates and coaches made coming to practice the best part of my day, and I truly miss making memories with everyone.
Favorite memory: During my sophomore year, we were competing at true team sections and we were just behind St. Michael-Albertville in points going into the last event, the 4x400-meter relay. If we won the race, we would win the meet and get to compete at true team state, but if we lost the race, St. Michael-Albertville would win the meet.
That relay was crazy! You could feel the entire team coming together to cheer and support, and the energy was so intense. We ended up winning and making it to true team state that year, and I have never been more excited about a team win.
Future plans: I will be attending Concordia College in the fall, and I will be pursuing a major in biology. My biggest aspiration in life is to become a doctor, so after college I plan to attend medical school. I also will be running track at Concordia, and I’m so excited!
Why she competes: I compete in track and field for the love of the sport.
What she misses most: What I miss the most is the people and competing. The track family is always supporting and encouraging, and they make the hardest workout days into my favorite memories. I love the feeling of being in spikes with the mix of nerves and excitement, and the pre-race pep talk from the coaches. I will also miss the pride after a good race knowing my hard work is paying off.
Favorite memory: My favorite memory is cheering on the 4x400-meter relay teams at the end of each meet.
Future plans: I will be attending Grand Canyon University in the fall of 2020. There, I will study biology with the future plans of becoming a dentist. Unfortunately, I will not be competing in track, but I will be playing for their women's hockey team.
Why she competes: One of the main reasons I continued to return to compete in track and field was because of the culture our team has. This is one of the most supportive groups I've ever been a part of and it truly is a second family for me. I love all the coaches and athletes and couldn't imagine how different my experience would be without them.
What she misses most: One thing I am missing most about track and field this year is my opportunity to take my role as one of the girl's team captains. I have bought into this program and this culture, and I was so excited to show the underclassmen and all the new girls who came out what a great program it was.
I am also going to miss competing, as I never got to compete in my last true team section meet, the conference meet, or section meet. I am really missing out on the chance to have gone to true team state for the fourth time and finish out my high school track and field career.
Favorite memory: One of my favorite memories from track and field would have to be my sophomore year when I was placed last minute into the 100-meter hurdle race at the true team section meet. I was so nervous because I hadn't expected I would have to run this race at such a big meet, and I only had about an hour to wrap my head around it.
Two hurdles into the race, I caught my foot, fell, scraped my chin, leg, and hands to the point where I had actual road rash, got back up and finished the race. I was in shock and didn't think I would ever go near a hurdle ever again, but I also couldn't let my team down and step out of my next race either, the 300-meter hurdles.
After what seemed like only a few minutes, I was stepping in the blocks again for the 300-meter hurdle race. When I say I've faced fear head on in this situation, I couldn't mean it more. After never thinking I'd make it over a hurdle again, I finished the race and had one of the biggest PRs of my career! I couldn't have done it without the amazing support I felt from my team, which goes back to that family culture we have. Track has definitely taught me many more things than just how to run faster and jump higher.
Future plans: I will be attending St. Catherine University in St. Paul and plan to major in sonography, and I am so excited for this next step in my life! As of right now, I don't plan on pursuing my athletic career collegiately, but I will never pass up the opportunity to come practice or watch the Alexandria track and field teams.
Why she competes: I compete in track and field for the sport and for the people. The amazing coaches and teammates in this sport are some of the kindest and caring people you will ever meet. I have such a fun time hanging out and building relationships with everyone on the team.
The other reason is the love for the sport. Practices and races are some of the hardest things that I have ever done, but I would be lying if I said it wasn't equally rewarding.
Through this sport, I have learned to push myself as a runner and a person. And I will say that runner’s high is a real thing. Just how good you feel accomplishing your goals is unbelievable. This sport has made me who I am today, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
What she misses most: I miss competing and being with the team. I am struggling this year because of how my time and season was cut short. It is hard not to be able to race along with people I have been running with for the last four years.
Some of the meets that happen during track are full of my favorite memories and that is something that I didn't know I was saying goodbye to last season. It is also hard not having that last season to hit your PRs. What makes me the saddest is the time taken away from the team. Our team was so connected last year, and with coming off a great season you can't wait for more! All of the seniors that I have grown up with, this was our year to lead the team. I was ecstatic to be a captain and live up to the great leaders in the past seasons, but I never got that chance. Yes, I miss racing, but most of all I miss the teammates that I have become great friends with and the coaches that I will never get back time with.
Favorite memory: For the past three years, we have made true team state. Every year, I end up running the 4x4 (relay), which is the last event. It is always dark outside, the lights are turned on, and all of the athletes from all those huge schools cram into the middle of the football field. From the time that the baton touches my hand until when I hand it back off, I just hear the roar of the crowd. As you turn the last corner, you can see all your teammates screaming and your legs just burn, but the excitement is just overwhelming. You're dead tired, but that is always one of my favorite races that I have ever done. Then after the meet we all pack on the bus and enjoy some homemade chocolate chip cookies!
Future plans: Next year I plan on continuing my education at South Dakota State University. I am getting a bachelor's degree in human biology with the intent on getting a master's as a physician assistant. During those four years, I also am going to compete in the cross country and track team at SDSU. I am beyond excited to start this new journey. I know that I can never get this time back that I lost, although hopefully, an indoor and outdoor track season for the next four years will make up for some of that.
Why she competes: I compete in track and field because it makes me stronger in so many areas. Running is even more mentally demanding than physically, and overcoming fears and challenges in this sport sets me up so well for whatever else life has to throw at me.
What she misses most: What I miss most about track and field is just having teammates and coaches surrounding me in training and competitions. As important as training is, sports for me have become much more about the community of a team. I miss cheering on the field events and sprints as I'd run cool down after my own race.
Favorite memory: My favorite memory is either the time Amanda Bittman brought homemade cookies on the bus for the girls team, and we all went insane screaming when she got them out on the way back from the meet, or it's the 4x800-meter relay last year that placed third at state and broke the school record twice.
Future plans: I will be attending the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse to major in biochemistry and run Division III cross country and track and field.
Why she competes: I compete in track and field because it is more than just running, jumping, or throwing. The team and mental aspect is huge, and it has helped me to become who I am today. I also loved how it pushed me individually to reach my goals.
What she misses most: The part I miss most about track and field this season was getting to spend my last couple months of high school with my team. I was looking forward to hearing (assistant coach Jerry) Amundson’s puns every day, getting a Big-O-Honey after pool practice, and most of all just being with my teammates. Track is truly a family.
Favorite memory: My favorite memory from my track career is my first true team state experience my sophomore year! It was a completely different atmosphere than our normal meets, and we got to go up against some of the best competition in the state.
Future plans: My future plan is to pursue a nursing degree from (North Dakota State University) with the hopes of getting my master’s in midwifery or become a physician assistant. Although I will not be running track in college, I do plan on joining a workout group.