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brian korthals/daily globe In this file photo, Fulda's Sylvia Zanini participates in the shot put at the Red Rock Conference meet this season. Zanini won state in the discus Friday and will participate in the shot put today at Hamline University in St. Paul

No discusion: Zanini a champ

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No discusion: Zanini a champ
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ST. PAUL -- With one attempt remaining Friday in the finals of the Class A girls' discus competition at Klas Field on the campus of Hamline University, Fulda senior Sylvia Zanini uncorked the best throw of her amazing track and field career and claimed a Minnesota State Championship gold medal.


Zanini's sixth and final throw measured 141 feet, one inch, which was 26 inches better than the leading throw of St. Clair senior Ashley Thooft (138-11) and 14 feet and two inches beyond her own previous distance Friday (126-11), which she launched on her first throw in the preliminary round.

"That last one just felt great," exclaimed a jubilant Zanini after accepting her first-place medal. "It came out (of my hand) just right, the way it's supposed to. I had been stuck in the 126's on most of my other throws, but that one -- I thought was maybe a 135, so I was shocked and pleased when I heard it was 141."

While Zanini's last throw moved her from sixth to first, Windom senior Hannah Steele also utilized a tremendous effort on her final throw, improving more than seven feet and moving from eighth-place to third.

Steele's last throw measured 132-10 and put her in third place -- until Zanini's final performance positioned the defending state discus champion into fourth place. It was Steele's fourth state-meet medal, as she has placed sixth in the shot put twice and won the 2011 discus title with a distance of 119-11.

"The conditions (weather) were better this year," Steele said about throwing 13 feet farther this year. "Plus, the competition was so good. This was really fun to be a part of. I love competing and there were lots of good throwers here (today)."

Steele, who exceeded the 133-foot mark once this season, had two good throws (123-5 and 125-2) prior to the big distance on her last throw.

"I knew I needed a good one and was able to get it," she said of her sixth throw, which ended up putting her ahead of four top-notch competitors who had the edge on her before that final effort. "There were a lot of great throws this year."

Thooft, the pre-meet favorite, struggled on her first two throws and then whirled her 138-11 on her third throw, putting her in the lead and into the finals.

Annadale senior Katie Gruys moved into second place on her first throw in the finals with a distance of 134-3.

Neither Providence Academy senior Katie Nordick (128-1) or Foley senior Cassandra Cardinal (127-1) were able to improve on their preliminary throws in the finals and settled for fifth and sixth places, respectively.

Both Zanini and Steele will compete again today (3:30 p.m.) in the shot put.

"Sylvia is such a great competitor and really loves the discus," praised her coach Brad Holinka, who placed in the boys' discus at the state meet in 1975 and later became a decathlete in college. "She has such good form and has been so consistent all season, including today, hitting the 126-foot range on three of her throws.

"But to win it, she needed a better one and she sure came through, as that last throw came out flatter and straighter and it just sailed."

Indeed, Zanini's winning throw was straight down the middle and continued to rise before finally landing 13 inches beyond the 140-foot stripe.

Zanini's state discus championship is Fulda's second in four years. Amy Paulzine won the Class A title in 2009 with a throw of 138-10.

"Amy did that on her last throw, too," summed up Holinka, who learned the discus from long-time Fulda throwing coach Vern Olson, who guided Class A state record-holder Nancy Overman (154-0) to the 1994 Class A girls' discus gold medal.

"You've got a dynasty going here," head Fulda girls' coach Greg Erdmann told Holinka while congratulating him after the final results were in.

"It's not me, it's the kids," countered Holinka. "They put in the time and work to improve. Sylvia has been such a great teammate here for us and has been so involved with everything that we do as a team. She has had a great all-around season and this sure caps it off in style."

Nepp earns state medal; Thony, Vongsavanh, LaFollette, qualify for finals

Earlier in the day, Murray County Central junior Tanner Nepp earned the area's first state-medal when he competed well in the boys' shot put, placing sixth in the field of 15 participants with a mark of 49-7, nearly matching his Section 3A winning distance of 49-10.

"Tanner continues his consistent performances, as he was close to 50 feet again," praised MCC head coach Tim Bobeldyk. "Getting sixth in the state is pretty good and he has another season left."

Four of the top five placers in the event were seniors, including Ada-Borup's Brian Blasey, who won the event with a distance of 53-11.5.

Luverne junior Alex Weis placed 10th Friday with a best mark of 46-2.25.

Nepp's teammate Jack Thony finished third, out of nine sprinters, in the second heat of the 100-meter dash prelims and qualified for today's finals with a time of 11.16 -- which was the sixth-fastest qualifying time.

Thony ran a 22.84 in the 200-meter dash prelims, finishing fourth in his heat of six (three heats) and just missed making the finals with the 10th-best time.

Jackson County Central junior Jason Vongsavanh did qualify to compete today, running a time of 51.38 and placing fourth in his heat of the 400-meter dash prelims. He had the eighth-fastest qualifying time.

Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin sophomore Jose Gonzales ran in the same heat, finishing seventh with a time of 52.54 and did not make the finals.

Southwest Christian/Edgerton junior Austin LaFollette competed well, earning a trip to the finals with a fourth-place (second heat) time of 41.06, which tied him for the seventh-fastest overall time in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles.

Pipestone Area senior Aaron Kozlowski clocked a time of 15.97 in the 110-meter high hurdles, finishing sixth in his heat and tying for 10th overall, just missing the finals.

Luverne's 4x100-meter relay team (Jackson Winter, Matt Oehlerts, Weis and Bo Biever) finished seventh in the first heat (45.82) and did not make the finals.

Earlier the Cardinals' quartet of Winter, Daniel Muller, Ethan Rust and Biever were clocked at 1:34.35 in the 4x200-meter relay, finishing a very close 10th overall (seventh in the second heat), just missing ninth (a spot in the finals) by .01 of a second.

Westbrook-Walnut Grove/Red Rock Central junior Jeff DeCock got himself accustomed to the state meet (he has two more events -- long jump and high jump -- today) by competing in the triple jump Friday. His best leap was 41-5, placing him 12th among the 16 jumpers.

Austyn Thier qualifies for girls' 800-meter run finals

Adrian senior Austyn Thier ran strong from start to finish and qualified for today's finals in the girls' 800-meter run, clocking a time of 2:21.78, placing a close third in the first heat (winning time, 2:21.67). The winning time in the second heat matched Thier's, as all nine qualifying times are within .97 seconds of each other.

Based on those times, a very competitive 800-meter final is expected at 6:12 p.m. today.

Thier was the only area girl to qualify for the finals, as the competition level was keen at Hamline.

Luverne sophomore Makayla Hohn did compete in the finals of the 3,200-meter run, clocking a time of 12:05.44, passing a pair of runners on the last lap and placing 12th.

SWC/E junior Hannah Van Dyke ran a time of 48.82 in the 300-meter low hurdles and was eighth in her heat and Hills-Beaver Creek senior Siera Wilgenburg was eighth in her heat of the 400-meter dash with a time of 1:01.51.

In the relays, both Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (1:51.99) and Luverne (1:52.36) finished eighth in their heats and did not advance in the 4x200.

Running for the Panthers were Kendra Nelson, Lauren Schaar, Sammie Gervais and Kelli Soupir, while the quartet of Erin Sietsema, Naomi Dooyema, Kynzie Smedsrud and Tayla Peterson ran for the Cardinals.

MCC's 4x100 team of Paris Thomas, Hannah Schmidt, Dunnevan Muldoon and Kara Homandberg were clocked at 51.59 and finished seventh in their heat, missing the finals by four places overall.

H-BC's 4x400 relay unit of Jenna Wilgenburg, Kayla Thone, Haley Van Wyhe and Siera Wilgenburg finished eighth in their heat with a time of 4:14.11 and were not able to qualify for today's finals.

Svalland clears 5-2, ties for 11th in AA girls' high jump

Early in the morning, Worthington junior Tara Svalland competed in the Class AA girls' high jump.

She cleared both the opening height (4-10) and 5-0 on her first jump. Then, after missing once at 5-2, the all-around Trojan athlete cleared the bar at that height, too.

A total of 12 jumpers cleared 5-2 and the bar moved up to 5-4.

Svalland was one of four competitors left who were unable to make 5-4.

Alexandria's Briquelle Bowden had cleared 5-2 on her first attempt, earning her the ninth-place medal, while Svalland and two others finished in a three-way tie for 10th.