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Prep track and field: Luverne girls win state True Team title

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STILLWATER — Scoring at least 20 points in 11 of the 18 events Saturday, the deep and talented Luverne Cardinals held off a strong closing challenge from Osakis and won the Class A high school girls track and field True Team state championship.

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The victory, which was claimed by a mere three points, was Luverne’s third girls state title in the annual event — originated by the Minnesota State Track and Field Coaches Association in 1987.

The Cardinals, coached by Craig Nelson, were also Class A state champions in 2008 and 2010.

Even more remarkable is the fact that the LHS girls have finished among the top five teams in eight consecutive state meets, placing among the top three seven times. The Cardinals were second in 2009 and 2013, third in both 2007 and 2011 and placed fifth in 2012.

Saturday, Luverne racked up a winning total of 394.5 points, edging Osakis (391.5) for the top spot, while Lake City (360.5) and Blue Earth Area (356.5) were battling for third. International Falls finished fifth with 331.5 points, followed by Pine Island (309.5), Maple Lake (309), Mesabi East (245.5) and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (231.5).

“We feel very fortunate on come out on top,” summed up Nelson, who was honored three years ago as Minnesota’s girls track and field Coach of the Year by his peers. “The meet Saturday lived up to its name — it certainly is a ‘True Team’ event as everyone on our team contributed. It came down to inches and fractions of a second, with every single point being important. It was very close, as I expected it would be, between us and Osakis.”

The Cardinals took a lead with a victory in the opening event on the track as the LHS 4x800-meter relay team — despite running without two of its best distance runners (Madison Schandelmeier and Makayla Hohn, who both ran two individual races of 800 meters or more) — won by more than 11 seconds with a season-best time of 9:57.34, scoring 27 points.

Luverne ran seventh-graders Jadyn Anderson and Gabrielle Ferrell, along with eighth-grader Lexi Ferrell and senior veteran Anna Tofteland — a member of all three LHS state title teams — on that winning relay.

“That really speaks highly of our distance-running depth,” Nelson said. “Coach Pete Janiszeski (the Cardinals’ assistant coach in charge of the distance runners) really had our distance gals ready to compete at a high level, which they did in every race they ran.”

Schandelemeier (5:27.19) and Hohn (5:28.93) later combined for 35 points with a one-two sweep in the 1,600-meter run. Later, Gabrielle Ferrell (11:53.98) and Hohn (12:02.70) did the same thing in the 3,200, giving the Cardinals a total of 70 points in the two longest distance races.

The discus was another big event for LHS as sophomore Morgan Edwards won with a throw of 112-0 and freshman Kami Sawtelle (103-7) placed third, combining for 34 points. The same two produced another 28 points in the shot put with Sawtelle (33-11) placing fourth and Edwards (32-9) getting sixth.

Peterson, Smedsrud combine for 89 points in six events for LHS Junior sprinter Taylor Peterson contributed 46 points with a pair of thirds (100, 13.26 and 400, 61.46) and a fifth (200, 27.37).

“Tayla has not run that many quarters, but she came through with an outstanding effort Saturday,” Nelson said. “A 61-second 400 is very good.”

Kynzie Smedsrud, a veteran and versatile junior, scored 43 individual points by placing third in the triple jump (31-6.75), fifth in the 100-meter high hurdles (17.14) and sixth in the 300 lows (51.72).

Anderson (2:29.27) and Schandelmeier (2:33.42) combined for 26 points in the 800, finishing third and ninth, respectively, in a very close-contested race.

The Cardinals also scored well in the 400 (24 points), 200 (23 points), pole vault (22.5 points), 100 (22 points), triple jump (20 points) and long jump (19 points).

Eighth-graders Joci Oye and Sierra Schmuck supported Peterson’s performances in the dashes, with Oye finishing eighth in the 400 (65.10) and Schmuck placing 10th in the 200 (28.19) and 13th in the 100 (13.94).

Freshmen Bergin Flom (7-6, three-way tie for fourth, 14 points) and Emma Mumme (7-0, tie for 10th, 8.5 points) came through for the Cardinals in the pole vault, while Schmuck scored another four points in the triple jump (15th, 29-2.5).

Freshman Tianna Doppenberg (14-6.75) and junior Kayla Thone (14-6.50) placed ninth and 10th, respectively, in the long jump and eighth-graders Shelbie Nath (15th, 4-4) and Samantha Pierce (17th, 4-2) combined for six needed points in the high jump.

Pierce completed her day with a total of 12 points, scoring 10 more by finishing 13th in the 300-meter low hurdles (53.51) and placing 15th in the 100 highs (19.29).

The Cardinals scored another 36 points by finishing fifth (15 points) in the 4x200 relay (1:54.01), sixth (12) in the meet-ending 4x400 (4:22.43) and seventh (nine points) in the 4x100 (54.24).

Schmuck, Naomi Dooyema, Smedsrud and Oye ran the 4x200 for the Cardinals and the quartet of Oye, Dooyema, Thone and Doppenberg exchanged the batons in the swift-moving 4x100.

After Ferrell and Hohn took the top two places in the 3,200, Luverne had an 18-point lead on Osakis. But the Silverstreaks from Section 6A, have an outstanding mile relay team and finished first in the final race with a time of 4:12.16, scoring 27 points.

The Cardinals needed to finish at least sixth to win the meet and the foursome of Anderson, Tofteland, Schandelmeier and Thone did just that — scoring 12 points and clinching another state True Team title for LHS.

“Our 4x400 ran a couple of seconds faster than I expected,” Nelson said. “They knew it was important for them to run well and they did. All day long, we had clutch performances in each event — which we needed. It really was a ‘True Team’ performance throughout the meet.”

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