STATE TRACK AND FIELD: Nepp takes 3rd in discus and Thony finishes 4th in 100-meter dash, as MCC boys claim 17th
ST. PAUL -- Competing in his first-ever state track and field meet, Murray County Central junior Tanner Nepp capped a highly-successful weekend by whirling the discus 147 feet, three inches Saturday afternoon at Klas Field on the campus of Hamline University.
Nepp, who had placed sixth in the Class A state shot put event on Friday, did even better in the discus, as his distance of 147-3 -- which came on his second throw in the preliminary round -- was Saturday's third-best throw and earned him a spot on the medals' stand at Hamline for a second time.
"I am a lot more excited now than I was before I came here (today)," exclaimed Nepp, who only participates in track and field at MCC. "I expected that I would do better in the shot than I would in the discus, so placing third (in the discus) was really quite a surprise."
Placing right behind Nepp Saturday, was Luverne sophomore Cody Rofshus, who had a best distance of 146-6 on his third throw and claimed the fourth-place medal, scoring six points for the Cardinals.
MCC junior Jack Thony also earned a state-medal Saturday, as he sprinted to an impressive fourth-place finish in the 100-meter dash, clocked at 11.27 seconds.
Thony, who had run a personal record time of 11.16 in Friday's prelims, was in lane two for the finals with the sixth-fastest qualifying time.
But in the finals, Thony exploded out of the blocks with power and appeared to be right at the front of the race halfway through.
With the temperature hovering at the 91-degree mark, Breckenridge's Michael Whitney crossed the finish line first, clocked at 11.13.
Tyler Beehler of Foley (11.15) was a close second, while Adam Drenckhahn of Caledonia/Spring Grove (11.25) just edged Thony for third.
Blake Johnson of Kenyon-Wanamingo (11.32) placed fifth.
Getting 12 points (eight and four) from Nepp and six more from Thony, MCC scored 18 points at the state meet, leading the list of area boys' teams and finishing in a tie with Minnehaha Academy for 17th-place among the 71 teams who scored in the meet.
Nepp, Rofshus both throw well in opening round
Nepp and Rofshus had finished 1-2 in the Section 3A meet at Pipestone May 31 with respective distances of 142-8 and 141-4, which ranked them 11th and 14th among the 17 qualifying competitors.
But the competition at the state level seemed to inspire both, as each of them uncorked better throws in the opening round, as they emerged from the first flight with the top two distances.
Then, after only two throwers in the second flight (the top-nine ranked) passed them, Nepp and Rofshus were positioned 3-4 for the finals.
Rofshus put his first throw in the finals over the 140-foot stripe, but did not match his 146-6.
Nepp, who had thrown in the 141-foot range on his first attempt in the prelims, did not get another throw past the 140-foot mark.
But nobody else passed either of the Section 3 performers in the final round and Nepp stayed in third, while Rofshus placed fourth -- both of them finishing ahead of pre-meet favorite and defending state champion Brian Blasey of Ada-Borup.
Blasey, a senior, who won the 2011 title with a distance of 154-7, placed fifth Saturday with a best throw of 146-4, two inches behind Rofshus.
Ottertail Central junior Steffan Stroh won this year's gold medal with a best throw of 159-5, while Foley junior Sam Udermann claimed the silver medal with a distance of 157-3.
"This was a lot of fun," exclaimed Rofshus about competing at the state meet for the first time. "I know I did better than I was expected to do, according to the rankings, so this was a great experience for me."
Rofshus's best throw of the season was his Southwest Conference championship distance of 148-0, which he whirled at Pipestone May 17.
Nepp, who has been consistently improving throughout the campaign, placed sixth in Friday's shot put with a best distance of 49-7, nearly matching his best-ever mark of 49-10 which won him the sectional title.
"I owe most of my success to my throwing coach Brian Christiansen and to my throwing partner Sam Beech," summed up Nepp. "Both of them deserve a lot of credit because each of them has helped me tremendously."
Vongsavanh, LaFollette also claim state medals
Two other area boys qualified for Friday's finals and earned state-meet medals.
Jackson County Central junior Jason Vongsavanh , the Section 3A champion in the 400-meter dash, qualified for Saturday's finals with a time of 51.38 (seventh best) in Friday's prelims.
Running in lane eight in Saturday's finals, Vongsavanh went out strong and was battling for a top six placing coming off the final turn.
He ended up placing eighth with a new PR time of 50.86 and felt good about his second trip to Hamline.
"I ran in the 200 up here last year and didn't make the finals," he said after receiving his medal. "So, moving up to the 400 was good for me. I made the finals this year and was up on the awards stand, which was a good feeling."
Shortly after Vongsavanh's performance, Southwest Christian/Edgerton hurdler Austin LaFollette raced in the finals of the 300-meter intermediate hurdles.
In a very close race, LaFollette finished ninth with a time of 41.88, not quite as fast as his PR clocking of 41.06 in Friday's prelims.
LaFollette, who helped Edgerton win the state championship in 9-man football last November, was very happy about earning his way into the state finals of his favorite track event.
"I stutter-stepped some before one of the hurdles on the curve," he said. "That threw me off a little, but I am really happy about getting to run up here and making the finals. I have really enjoyed this season."
A junior, LaFollette won the 300 hurdles in nearly every meet he participated in this spring, including the Red Rock Conference (May 17) and Sub-Section 10 (May 24) meets.
Westbrook-Walnut Grove/Red Rock Central junior Jeff DeCock, who qualified to compete (at the state meet) in three jumping events in his first year in varsity track and field, was unable to place at Hamline.
After leaping a best distance of 41-5 in the triple jump (12th) on Friday, DeCock was busy on Saturday, moving back and forth between the high jump and long jump.
He was able to clear both 5-10 and 6-0 in the high jump, but did not make 6-2 and finished in a three-way tie for 15th.
DeCock's best distance in the long jump Saturday was 19-11.25 -- more than 10 inches shy of his 20-9.75 section-meet distance which qualified him to compete at the state.
Neither DeCock or Thony (19-6.5) made the long jump finals, placing 14th and 16th in the event, respectively.
Thony -- who had a great start and clocked a PR time of 22.84 in Friday's 200-meter dash prelims, just missing the finals with the 10th-best time -- also competed in three events at Hamline and now has two years of state-meet experience under his belt, with another season ahead of him.