Each year, expectations seem to rise for the Alpena girls track team and for the last several seasons, Alpena's athletes are meeting and exceeding those expectations.
This year is no different as the Wildcats will send seven athletes to Saturday's Division 1 state finals at East Kentwood: Emily Duncan, Emily Ferguson, Christina Kollien, Sarah Swider, Elaine Lowe, Kelsey Lewis and Amanda Dort.
Of those seven, five qualified for the finals last season and four of them earned all-state honors.
That kind of success not only raises expectations for the program, but it's also making the competition take notice.
"To have seven girls go back after sending eight last year, that's just awesome especially (because of) the talent we had last year, to come back with just as much talent this year is pretty cool," Alpena girls coach Collin Riffert said. "They (coaches) know who we are. Last year at the state finals, one of the coolest experiences I've ever had as a track coach is when you have the coaches from Ann Arbor Pioneer and Fenton and Holly, all those big schools coming up and saying, 'Nice job coach, you have a great team, Alpena's really turned it around.'"
All of seven of Alpena's qualifiers are seniors and while it's tough to qualify for the state finals, there's an added pressure for seniors who will be competing in the last track meet of their high school careers.
"It's definitely a lot to think about. Last year, starting out as a junior and going into it my first time it was very nerve-wracking, but I got the jitters out and I'm ready to go back to states and conquer this time," Ferguson said.
Ferguson qualified in the discus for the second straight year and was seventh in the state last season with a throw of 113-3.
Fresh off of three first-place finishes at Tuesday's Alpena News Honor Roll Invitational, Kollien is hoping to make the last two races of her high school career memorable before she heads to Wayne State in the fall. Kollien will run both the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles on Saturday and finished first and second respectively in those events at regionals.
"Going down there is just so overwhelming. You have the crowd, you have the competition level, you don't see Up North,"Kollien said. "You see kids who are running in big stadiums with crowds all around them that we just don't get up here. Going down there, it's a true honor just to say I made it, I'm with you guys."
Alpena's other returning qualifiers from last year are Lewis, Dort and Duncan. Lewis will compete in the 800 run for the second straight year and Duncan will run in the 400 dash. Dort, Lewis, Duncan and Lowe will run the 3200 relay.
Dort and Lewis have qualified for the 3200 relay in each of the past three seasons and were part of the all-state 3200 relay team that finished eighth last year. Duncan was part of the fourth-place 1600 relay team.
Alpena's two newcomers are Lowe and Swider. Lowe, who was named Female Athlete of the Honor Roll meet, will also compete in the 3200 run after setting a school record at regionals and Swider will compete in the high jump.
Swider, who sets a personal goal for herself before each meet will be aiming for a personal record jump of 5-3. Entering Saturday, her personal best is 5-2 and she qualified for regionals with a jump of 4-11.
"When I jumped the state qualifying mark at regionals I was just excited. It was my first time qualifying for states," Swider said. "I always set a goal for myself each meet and for the state meet I have my goal set a 5-3. That would be a personal record and if I get that I think I would have a good shot at getting all-state."
In the Division 4 finals at Hudsonville, Alcona's Megan Quick will compete in the 400 dash and 800 run. Quick finished seventh in the 800 run last season and the girls 3200 relay team was eighth.
The Alcona girls will also compete in the 800, 1600 and 3200 relays. The 800 relay team is Nicole Smith, Torie Harmon, Karina Cole and Miranda Schalk. The 1600 relay team is Quick, Harmon, Smith and Cole. The 3200 relay team is Quick, Harmon, Smith and Cole.
Rogers City's Raelyn Hoeft will also compete in the 400 dash.
For Posen, Kristina Wisniewski will compete in the shot put and Korynn Hincka will compete in the high jump and 800 run. Hincka finished fourth in the high jump last year at 5-2.
Onaway athletes Emily Estep and Sam Brasseur qualified in the 100 dash and shot put respectively, but will not compete because they will be competing in softball districts.
For Hillman, Michelle Smith will compete in the discus and the 1600 relay team of Julia Hunt, Riley Appelgren, Shelby Dean and Karena Tracey will compete as well.
For the boys, Fairview will have quite a large contingent of athletes after qualifying in 11 events. As a team, the Eagles will compete in the 800, 1600 and 3200 relays.
David Haskin will have a busy day as he will compete in three events for the Eagles. He will compete in the 800, 1600 and 3200 runs.
Dylan Danhoff will compete in two events for Fairview, running both the 200 dash and 400 dash.
Single event competitors for Fairview will be Austin Klein in the high jump, Hudson Szubelak in the 800 run and Kasson Willobee in the pole vault. Garrett Badgero qualified in the long jump but will not compete as he is a member of Atlanta's baseball team.
Alcona will compete in both the 400 and 1600 relays. The 400 is Aaron Ritchie, Mitchel Havercroft, Eric Hampton and Garrette Norling. The 1600 relay team is made up of the same four runners.
Mio's Bryce Degrammont will compete in the 800 run and Onaway's Joe O'Bradovich will compete in the high jump.
James Andersen can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.