State Track: DeCock, Nepp claim state titles
ST. PAUL -- It was a banner opening day Friday for several area boys as the 2013 Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) track and field state meet got underway at Hamline University.
Headlining the list of top performances by area athletes were individual Class A state titles, claimed by Westbrook-Walnut Grove/Red Rock Central senior Jeff DeCock and Murray County Central senior Tanner Nepp, both who were participating at Hamline for the second consecutive year.
DeCock, who competes again today in both the high jump and long jump, impressively earned the gold medal in the triple jump, sailing an incredible distance of 45 feet, nine inches on his final leap.
Nepp, who placed third in the discus and sixth in the shot put in 2012, uncorked a heave of 52-3¾ on his first attempt in the shot put Friday. That distance held up as the best throw of the day and Nepp later stood on top of the award's podium as the Class A state shot put champion.
Jackson County Central junior Darnell Taylor-Breck gave Section 3A two of the state's top three places in the triple jump, as he earned the third-place bronze medal with a distance of 43-4.
Earlier in the day, Worthington junior Will Dudley competed in the Class AA pole vault and brought home a fourth-place bronze medal after clearing the bar at an even 14 feet.
After missing twice at 12-6 and once at 13-0, Dudley cleared each of the next three heights -- 13-6, 13-9 and 14-0 -- on his first attempt.
There were two other vaulters, who also made 14-0, but -- like Dudley -- were unable to clear 14-3.
On the basis of fewer misses, Dudley earned fourth place and scored six points for the Trojans, while Eddie Hidani of Wayzata and Michael Adkins of Rochester Century tied for fifth.
William Kolb of Rochester Century (14-3) placed third, while Mitch Valli of Buffalo (15-7½) and Connor O'Neil of Stillwater (15-0) earned the gold and silver medals, respectively.
"It was a quality field of the best pole vaulters in the state," summed up Worthington co-head coach Ken Henkels. "Will started out by missing twice, but he really looked good as he went over both 13-9 and 14-0. He was close to making 14-3 a couple of times, nearly getting third place -- which is really a great accomplishment."
DeCock, who placed 12th in the triple jump at last year's state meet with a distance of 41-5, enjoyed the best day of his exceptional career Friday.
Starting with a jump of 43-9½, DeCock had great leaps on every attempt. His second jump was measured at 43-11¼ and he followed that with distances of 43-7½, 44-8 and 44-0, showing remarkable consistency.
Then on his final jump, everything clicked as DeCock hopped-skipped-and-jumped an all-time personal best of 45-9, winning the event by 21 inches.
Matt Moberg of Park Christian placed second with a best distance of 44-0, reaching that on his fifth jump.
Taylor-Breck, meanwhile, had his best leap of 43-4 on his third jump and scored eight points for the Huskies.
Nepp's winning distance was 4½ inches better than the second-place throw of 51-11¼ by Dustin Gill of LeSueur-Henderson.
Luverne's Alex Weis also competed in the shot put Friday, but his best distance of 48-1 was not enough to advance to the finals.
Nepp, who was near 50 feet on his second, third and fifth trials, had a mark of 50-7 on his fifth toss before fouling on his final throw.
The 12 points scored by each Nepp and DeCock has MCC and W-WG/RRC in a three-way tie (with Foley) for fourth-place in the boys' team standings.
A total of 30 teams have scored so far, with Blake (20), Perham (18) and Pequot Lakes (15) in the top three spots.
Kopplow, Schandelmeier both place in girls' 3,200; Spanier qualifies for finals
While four area boys placed among the top four competitors Friday, it was not as good of a day for the area girls.
Pipestone Area freshman Maria Spanier is the only area girl advancing to today's finals, as she qualified with a time of 47.30 in the 300-meter low hurdles, placing fourth in her heat and making the finals with the ninth fastest time.
Two area runners, however, did medal in the finals of the girls' 3,200-meter run, both improving their section time by more than 12 seconds.
Adrian senior Jordin Kopplow capped her brilliant high school distance-running career by placing sixth with a time of 11:28.06.
Luverne eighth-grader Madi Schandelmeier finished among a tight pack of runners and claimed the ninth-place medal with a time of 11:34.38.
The seventh-place time was 11:31.96 and a time of 11:35.15 finished 11th.
Luverne sophomore Kynzie Smedsrud ran a time of 16.83 in the prelims of the 100-meter high hurdles, finishing seventh in her heat but not qualifying for the finals.
Southwest Christian/Edgerton's 4x200-meter relay team (Devin Bloemendaal, Chantel Groen, Hannah Van Dyke and Kara Homandberg) placed sixth in their heat with a time of 1:49.22. The Eagles 4x100 team of Bloemendaal, Chantel Groen, Cassie Groen and Homandberg clocked a time of 52.12 and finished eighth in their heat. Neither team advanced to the finals.
Luverne's 4x200 team was disqualified in its preliminary race and will not compete in the finals.
Mountain Lake Area's 4x400-meter relay team ran to a fifth-place finish in its heat, timed at 4:11.48. But, the Wolverines missed making the finals by less than two seconds with the 11th-fastest overall time. Running for MLA were Mikayla Falk, Brianna Soutthivong, Whitney Klassen and Lydia Hildebrandt.
Hildebrandt was close to making the finals in the 400-meter dash (12th overall) as she finished sixth in her heat with a time of 1:01.23.
Klassen clocked a fine time of 2:22.70 in the 800-meter run prelims, but finished seventh in her heat and did not advance.
In the field events, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton eighth-grader Kendra Ludeman was 13th in the high jump (4-10) and Windom senior Holly Larson whirled the discus 102-9 -- which was fourth-best in her flight, but not far enough to make the finals.
Russell-Tyler-Ruthton junior Jada Carr, the Section 3A champion in the long jump, came very close to winning a state title. She placed second Friday with a best leap of 17-2, while Warroad's Deidre Hahn claimed the gold medal with a jump of 17-2¾.
Patriots, Cardinals both qualify in 4x100; Thony, Rivera, Scotting advance individually
While Spanier is the only area girl advancing, several boys qualified for today's finals, including both the Hills-Beaver Creek and Luverne 4x100-meter relay teams.
Both the Patriots (Dalton Bass, Dylan Gehrke, Dirk Thone and Tate Bork) and the Cardinals (Jackson Winter, Alex Weis, Bo Biever and Darrion Jones) finished third in their respective heats and they each clocked identical times of 44.89.
Byron had the fastest qualifying time, clocked at 44.25.
Individually, MCC's Jack Thony qualified in three events, Windom's Michael Rivera advanced in both the 100 and 200, while MCC's Tyler Scotting qualified for the finals in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles.
Thony sprinted to a third-place finish in his heat of the 100-meter dash, clocked at 11.12, which tied for the fifth fastest.
Rivera was fourth in his heat (11.18) and enters the finals with the eighth-best time.
Thony was impressive in the 400, running an all-time personal best of 49.90, finishing third in his heat and fourth best overall.
Scotting clocked a time of 41.15 in the 300 hurdles, which placed him third in his heat and sixth fastest overall.
Both Thony (22.42) and Rivera (22.86) ran fast times in the 200 and will race in today's finals. Thony won the second heat (fourth best overall) and Rivera finished fourth in the first heat (seventh fastest overall).
MLA's Jose Gonzales ran a sizzling time of 1:58.04 in the 800-meter run prelims, but was not fast enough to make the finals. He was sixth in his heat and 12th overall, but very close to the ninth-best time of 1:57.70.
Luverne's Cody Hess finished 15th in the 3,200-meter run finals with a time of 10:55.01.
Redwood Valleys' Randy Juell, who finished second to Dudley in the Southwest Conference pole vault, placed fifth in Class A Friday, clearing the bar at 13-6. Juell, like DeCock, will compete in both the high jump and long jump today.
The Class A finals begin at 3:30 p.m.