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Juanita Mendoza

Juanita Mendoza of Fremont High School clears a height during the A-2 district track meet last May at Appleget Field. Mendoza won the event and went on to place fifth in the Class A state meet. The senior is one of the returning letterwinners for Coach TJ Roffers. 

Members of the Fremont High School girls track team aren’t complaining about the challenges the winter weather has thrown at them during the preseason.

The Tigers have just gone about their business the best they can.

“We’ve talked on a regular basis about making the most of every day,” Fremont coach TJ Roffers said. “Whatever is presented to us, we’ll adjust. We aren’t going to sit around feeling sorry for ourselves. We are going to make the most out of each practice that we can. The girls have had a real positive mental attitude and approach to practice.”

The Tigers, who are scheduled to open their season at 9 Saturday morning at the Concordia Invitational in Seward, have eight state qualifiers returning from last season.

“I think everything starts with our senior leaders,” Roffers said. “We have a great core group that knows how to do things the Fremont way. They lead by example and that trickles all the way down to the freshmen class.”

That freshmen class features 40 athletes, including Elli Dahl, who finished third overall at the Class A state cross country meet in the fall.

“That is the largest freshmen class that we’ve had in more than a decade,” Roffers said. “It is probably one of the most talented classes that we’ve had in a while. I think overall, we feel pretty good about our team.”

Senior Juanita Mendoza returns after finishing fifth in the Class A pole vault. She tied the school record at Omaha Burke by clearing 11-0.

“She swam (for FHS) during the winter and that was good for her to work on her strength and endurance — some of the things that are key components to the vault,” Roffers said. “She was able to also get some vault work in over the winter. I think she is prepared as she can be. She is motivated to continue to improve. I know she has her eyes on beating the school record. It may not happen right away, but she has a good shot at it.”

Junior Myia Johnson and sophomores Emily Nau and Shelby Bracker return from the Tigers’ 3,200-meter relay squad that placed sixth at state in 2018. The distance crew also includes Nebraska Wesleyan recruit Avery Decker, sophomore state qualifier Mara Hemmer and juniors Aubrey Rathke and Madi Ustohal.

“They had a great winter and look to build on their success in the fall in cross country,” Roffers said. “I think every one of those girls will help us in one way or another. We’ll have as much distance depth than we’ve had in years. That will allow us to do a lot more with our entries and be creative.”

State veteran Kennedy Jones, a senior, returns to lead the sprint crew.

“She’ll be in the 100 and 200, but we might branch her out into the 400,” Roffers said. “She is looking to have a great senior season.”

Mikayla Paulson, a Creighton University softball recruit, is back after qualifying for state in the 300-meter hurdles.

“Mikayla will also provide us some sprint depth,” Roffers said.

Bracker also qualified in the 300-meter hurdles and may be one of the most versatile athletes on the roster.

“She is the freshmen class record holder in the 300 hurdles,” Roffers said. “We could run in a lot of different events. There are a lot of areas she could help us.”

Juniors Tori Baker, Marlee Kjeldgaard and Chloe Miller are the leaders in the triple jump and long jump.

“They have a ton of experience, but we have some younger girls that will work their way in there, too,” Roffers said.

Kylie Schurz and Taylar Masters are the top candidates in the high jump while juniors Hannah Maly, Kloee Morgan and Maddie Schleicher are the early leaders in the throws.

“We also have a solid five or six freshmen tho could contribute there,” Roffers said about the throws.

The Tigers are competing in the Heartland Athletic Conference that welcomed three new schools to the mix in 2018-19: Kearney, Lincoln Pius and Norfolk.

“It creates a whole new dynamic when you bring those three into it,” Roffers said. “What was already a pretty tough conference gets tougher. When you look at the depth those three teams have, earning a conference medal is something you can be very proud of.”

Roffers is eager to have his athletes open the season.

“Due to (the weather), we’re behind where we were at this point last year, but the girls have worked hard to be as good as they can be,” he said. “We’re excited to finally get a chance to compete.”

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