The Marshalltown girls' track team just gets out of the blocks today, but the Bobcats are already transfixed on the finish line.
"We always focus on the last three weeks of the year - conference, regional and state," said MHS head coach Chad Pietig, whose team kicks off the season at 5 p.m. in Boone. "Our real goal is to see how many events we can get qualified through state, and how many girls we can get there.
"Then, once we do that, we'll see where we're going to be the strongest."
The Bobcats qualified 12 events for the state meet at Drake Stadium in Des Moines a year ago.
Mackenzie Beals (100, 200 meters), Amanda Schrempf (discus, shot put), Sarah Shirar (800) and Jessie Vopava (long jump) return after qualifying for the state meet a year ago.
MHS also ran a number of underclassmen in its three relays (4x100, 4x200 and 4x400) that qualified for a trip to the Blue Oval.
2012 Marshalltown Girls Track and Field Schedule
March 29 at Boone, 5 p.m.
April 3 at Waukee, 4:30 p.m.
April 7 at CR Jefferson, 10 a.m.
April 10 at Ames, 5 p.m.
April 14 at Jim Duncan Invite
April 17 at Cedar Falls, 4:45 p.m.
April 23 BOBCAT INVITE, 5 p.m.
April 26-28 Drake Relays
May 1 at Mason City, 5 p.m.
May 4 CIML Iowa, 5 p.m., at Fort Dodge
May 10 Regionals
May 17-19 State meet
"I think we have a very motivated group this year as far as wanting to do more than just qualifying," Pietig said. "I think our history of getting that many events into state, the upperclassmen, they know what it takes.
"They know you have to come to work everyday. You have to be serious."
Shirar took fifth at the state indoor meet a week ago after missing most of the cross country season with injury.
The senior underwent surgery to improve circulation to her feet earlier this season.
"She's recovered for the most part, but she knows that someone has worked on her legs," said Pietig. "There's some soreness there, but she's handling it pretty good. I don't see us having the same problems she had in cross country."
Still, the full-recovery time is projected to be a year, meaning Shirar will run this spring not yet 100 percent.
"She's going to feel it and have to deal with it. It's not as bad as she's had in the past," noted Pietig.
While most of the headliners are upperclassmen, there's still room for the younger Bobcats to make an imprint this season.
"We've got a lot of younger girls who will contribute," said Pietig. "We're very young in the hurdle events.
"We haven't had a lot of depth in hurdles the last few years so it's nice to have some underclassmen in there."
MHS is not, however, very deep across the board.
"We're not in a position where we could have someone hurt and plug the next person in," said Pietig.
Marshalltown will host its annual meet at Leonard Cole Field, the Bobcat Invite, on April 23.