Uphoff leads LHS into SWC track & field season
LUVERNE -- Senior Ben Uphoff, who runs both hurdle races and ran a key leg on Luverne's school record-setting (3:27.23) 4 x 400 meter relay team, is the only returning member of the "Magnificent Seven" -- the group that claimed the Class A boys' state track and field championship last June at Hamline University in St. Paul.
Jake Hendricks, Mike Kunstle, Tom Ward, Jordan Siebenahler and Tim Miller each received LHS diplomas in 2006.
Chris Ashby -- who scored 11 individual points for the Cardinals (second in the 300 intermediate hurdles, ninth in the 110 high hurdles) and ran with Uphoff, Miller and Ward on the fourth-place 4 x 400 team, helping Luverne win the state title -- died in a tragic car accident last summer.
An outstanding three-sport athlete, Ashby would have been a junior this year and was projected as a starter in both football and basketball -- along with being one of the premier track athletes in the state.
Ashby's death has been in the hearts and minds of LHS athletes throughout this school year, as the Cardinals have worn a black strap on their uniforms in his memory.
While Uphoff is the only LHS runner returning with state meet experience, 12 other Cardinals lettered last year and look to keep the Luverne tradition going.
Seniors Aaron Altman, Craig Rogers and Mike VanWhye are joined by juniors Markus Staeffler, Tyler Williams and Matt Syphokam as upperclassmen coming back.
Sophomores Sam Dooyema, Devin Nelson, Codi Swanson, Mark Van Aartson and C.J. Xaisongkham, along with freshman Erick Phommaracksa, give veteran coach Craig Nelson a nucleus of athletes to build around.
Having graduated the one-two tandem of Creighton Schroyer and Scott Boomgaarden -- who frequently took first and second in both the shot put and discus events -- Pipestone Area loses lots of sure points from last season's meets.
This spring, however, the Arrows look to be more competitive on the track.
"With the boys being a year older and stronger, I am looking for them to be better on the track," says head coach Todd Tinklenberg. "We should be competitive in more events."
The trio of senior Ryan Houg, junior Derek Sumption and sophomore Taylor Pals will lead the Arrows in the shot and discus this year.
Senior David Steffen (high jump) and sophomore Shelby Jones (high jump, long jump) also look to score in field events.
Senior Cody Ossefoort and junior Bo Johnson -- along with Steffen -- return with experience in the distance races.
Sophomore hurdler Brian Kooiker is back and will run on the Arrow relay teams, along with Steffen and the sprinting corps of juniors Brian Westebur and Jared Purdin, freshman Colin Cooper and eighth-grader Tyler Evans.
Jackson County Central
The Huskies, who finished fourth in the conference meet last year (98 points), return five of their top nine scorers and have a total of 13 lettermen coming back.
Junior Cole Von Ohlen, coming off a state wrestling championship, is one of the area's best pole vaulters and looks to defend his conference title in that event.
Junior Jason Cook was JCC's third-leading scorer last spring and brings back versatility as a sprinter, triple jumper and long jumper. He also scored in the 300 hurdles last season.
Sophomores Jordan Cholick (sprinter) and Nathan Brandt (middle distance) finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in scoring for JCC last spring.
Von Ohlen and senior Brad Hartzler (shot, discus, middle distance) were in eighth and ninth in points for the Huskies in 2006.
Senior Sterling Bargfrede (pole vault, middle distance) junior Isaac Handzus (shot, discus) sophomore Tyler Schultz (middle distance) eighth-grader Marc Strom and freshmen Matt Buschena (shot, discus) Colin Fischer, Matt Kocak and Nate Schultz (sprints, triple jump) give co-head coaches Brian Cook and Bob Ruby additional returning experience.
Brandt, Kocak, Strom and Fischer lead a promising group of young Husky distance runners.
The Eagle boys were hit hard by graduation, losing seven quality seniors -- including the distance running corps of Mike Nagorske, Pete Turner, Derek Jones and John Hartberg, that experienced success as a 4 x 800 relay team.
Returning with experience, for first-year head Kelly Brinkman, are junior jumper/sprinter Mike Johnson, junior hurdler Jesse LaMaack, sophomore pole vaulter Dillon Schwalbach and junior sprinter/jumper Brett Lohse.
Leading the newcomers is freshman sprinter Travis Haley, who has impressed Brinkman in early season trial runs.
With increased numbers -- especially in the lower grades -- Brinkman, who was a three-time girls' Class AA state champion in the 800 meter run at Hutchinson in 1996, 1997 and 1999, looks for Windom to improve both individually and team-wise as the season progresses.