Coach Nick Koetters and his Lady Panthers enter the season hoping to improve upon last year's third-place finish in the Clarence Cannon Conference.
When Nick Koetters took over the Palmyra girls track and field team during the 2012 season, he inherited a team who had won back-to-back Clarence Cannon Conference championships. The Lady Panthers made it a 4-peat after Koetters second season.
Palmyra hasn’t won a girls conference title since that 2013 season, but Koetters is hoping to right the ship, sooner than later.
Centralia ran away with the CCC team title last season, but Palmyra finished just two points behind Clark County for second place.
“It’s my goal every year to compete for a conference and district championship as well as get as many kids to state as we can,” the sixth-year Lady Panthers coach said. “Last year we ran up against Centralia who was just a juggernaut, but we are hoping to be able to close the gap this season.”
That gap could be closed with a healthy Kaylee Janssen in the mix this season for Palmyra.
Injuries have plagued the senior since her freshman year, but Koetters mentioned he is expecting a big year out of the Culver-Stockton signee.
“Kaylee was still kind of hurt last season but she is finally healthy,” the coach said of his heralded sprinter. “It should be fun to watch her compete and see how far she can go.”
The senior recently signed her national letter of intent to run at Culver-Stockton.
Another athlete Koetters is expecting big numbers from is freshman Bailey Lovelace. She will compete in the 100 meters, long jump, high jump and “possibly a relay or two,” according to her coach.
“She is going to push a lot of our girls this year,” Koetters said of the freshman. “With her times from last year in junior high, she would have placed in our high school conference meet.”
The high jump is another event Koetters expects his team to rake-in some points.
“We have three or four girls who can all jump 4-10 (4 feet, 10 inches),” the coach explained. “They should all be pushing each other each meet as well.”
The high jumpers will be led by junior Kierston Holstine and sophomore Hattie Haerr.
In her first season in the sport, Haerr was an all-conference selection last year in the event.
Pole vault is another event the Lady Panthers are expected to excel in this season.
Senior Erikah Schaible, sophomore Morgan Ingram and freshman Emma Wittler are all expected to vault.
Sectional qualifier Sheyene Anderson returns in both hurdle events (100 and 300).
“She had a good season last year, and I can tell she has improved a lot already this season,” the coach said of his junior hurdler.
In addition to Lovelace, senior Bralynn Kerley, juniors Rebecca Reinbeck and Grace Watson and sophomores Raney Wilson and Kendra Maples will compete in the long jump.
Koetters mentioned he is still working on the best lineup for all the running events, but it's also a good problem to have.
“With 24 girls on the team we have a lot of depth,” he said. “So we have plenty of options in the running events.”
Depth is what Koetters said his conference championship teams in the past both possessed.
“We had two, three and four girls in most of the events on those teams,” he explained. “And I think if some of our girls this year will buy into willing to step up and run other events they may not be used to, to help the team score extra points, it could be the key.”
The Lady Panthers open their season Monday at the Winfield Invitational.