Willmar track and field head coach Jerry Popp knows he has good talent on both his boys and girls teams. He just needs to see those athletes getting outside more often to confirm it.
"They just hadn't been able to get on the track," said Popp, whose team is in the sixth week of the season and only recently got outside for meets at Fergus Falls, Rocori and Sartell after last week's snowstorm again delayed the season.
"We have a lot of kids who I know can be good but we've only had three nights on the track (this spring)," he said. "I think just have to get out on the track and compete."
The Cardinals boast about 150 boys and girls athletes. The girls team has placed second at the state Class AA True Team meet three-straight years, and the boys team has won the Class AA True Team state meet the last three years.
The Willmar girls team returns with the more proven competitors.
At a five-team outdoor meet last week in Fergus Falls, the Willmar girls team placed first and the boys team was second.
Willmar's Kirah Kessler-Gross won the 100-meter dash and the long jump. Erica Schramm won the 200, and Heidi Schmitz won the 1,600.
The Willmar 4x200 relay team of Lleyton Rein, Jaida Reiman, Sam Christoffer and Schramm also placed first, as did the 4x800 relay team of Amel Dayib, Serena Monson, Addie Hogan and Abby Coquyt).
Earlier this month, at a Central Lakes Conference indoor meet, the Cardinals' 4x200 relay team ran at 1:50.34 to set a conference record.
Heidi Schmitz, who won the 3,200 and 1,600 at last year's True Team meet, placed third in the 3,200 at the CLC meet, and Leah Hansen, who was sixth in both True Team races last season, was third in the 1,600.
This week, at the Ed Babcock Invitational at Rocori, Kessler-Gross (100 and long jump) and Schramm (200 and triple jump) both won two events, and Schmitz won the 3,200.
At Sartell's Sabre Quad on Thursday, Willmar got wins from its 4x200, 4x400 and 4x800 relays, and Schmitz, Nina Dawson and Leah Hansen placed 1-2-3 in the 1,600.
Schramm won the 200 and Ava Brogren won the high jump.
"(The girls team) is a really nice team," Popp said. "They're balanced and pretty deep."
The Cardinals boys team lost 70 percent of a team that won a third-straight True Team state title a year ago. Popp likens this team to one from two years ago.
"We're still pretty good," Popp said. "We have a lot of young kids but we're not terrible. The second year (the boys won state True Team), it was the same thing. We lost a lot of that team and the next year the goal was to compete to go to True Team. Then they went out and won it (state). I had no clue we had that kind of depth."
The Cardinals boys lost their top three throwers from last year, and they also will need to find sprinters, Popp said.
At least in the sprints, Willmar is seeing progress. They had two top-10s in the 100 at Sartell and Josh Miley was third in the 200.
Brady Krupa won 300 hurdles at Rocori meet and was second the event at Sartell. He was second in the 110 hurdles at Sartell.
In the 400 at Sartell, Shawn Mellies-U'Ren placed third and Adnan Muhumed placed fourth, and Sam May was second in the high jump.
"We have a lot of young kids and a good bunch of seniors," Popp said. "I think we'll see them improve as the season goes on."