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Luverne girls impressive at Section 3 track & field meet

REDWOOD FALLS -- On a wet and windy afternoon and evening, the best girl track and field athletes in Section 3A battled their opponents -- and the nasty weather conditions -- in the coveted quest for a berth in next week's elite state meet, sponsored by the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL).

The top two finishers in each of the 14 individual events, plus each of the winning relay teams qualified for the state event, which will be held at Hamline University in St. Paul June 6-7.

Additionally, athletes who met the state qualifying standard also earned advancement.

But with the miserable weather, meeting that standard was difficult in most events.

Teamwise, Southwest Conference rivals Luverne and Worthington finished well ahead of the pack of 27 teams that scored in the meet, as both the Cardinals and Trojans advanced several athletes to state.

"We had a great all-around day, and so did Worthington," Luverne head coach Craig Nelson said after the meet. "Our girls have enjoyed a tremendous season, and now we get to test them against the best in the state."

Two weeks ago, the Cardinals won the Coaches' Association's State True Team title, and now with three relays and four quality individual advancements -- LHS will challenge for the MSHSL state championship as well.

Utilizing its outstanding depth, Luverne racked up 106.5 points to easily claim the team championship trophy and remain undefeated in 2008.

Worthington, with four individual state meet qualifications, was a solid second with 79 points.

Benson/Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunberg finished third with 54.6 points, just ahead of a tight pack of teams in the top 10.

Pipestone Area, paced by freshman Bree Woelber, was fourth with 49 points, followed by Canby/Minneota and Central Minnesota Christian, each with 48, Windom (44), Murray County Central (43), Adrian (42) and Montevideo (38).

Leading the Cardinals were the trio of Katlyn Sawtelle, Callen Sawtelle and Lexi Heitkamp who combined to qualify in five events.

Katlyn Sawtelle advances in two events, as she won the pole vault (9-6) and finished second in the 300 meter low hurdles (46.51). She also placed fourth in the 100 meter high hurdles (16.77) and anchored the winning Cardinal 4x400 meter relay (4:12.64), accounting for 33 of Luverne's points.

Callen Sawtelle won the shot put with a distance of 39-2, and Heitkamp, who ran the second leg of the 4x400, finished second in the 800 meter run, clocked at 2:23.17.

Allison Henke, who placed fourth in the 800 (2:27.04) and Britton Dyer ran the other two legs on the first-place Cardinal 4x400 team. Dyer teamed with Liberty Robinson, Alyssa Stegenga and Steph Hendricks to win the 4x200 meter relay in a sizzling time of 1:51.07.

Leading the Trojans were state qualifiers Kaitlin Gerber, Anneli Dudley, Jenny Mammen and Sarah Cham.

After getting fourth in a very competitive 1,600 meter race with a time of 5:33.27, Gerber came back to impressively win the 3,200, clocked at 12:07.06.

Running neck-and-neck with Emiley Schultz of Cedar Mountain/Springfield/Comfrey the entire race, and fighting off a stiff challenge from Adrian's Megan Sauer (on the seventh lap), Gerber broke away with a strong last lap and won the race by four seconds, as Schultz and Sauer finished second and third with respective times of 12:11.17 and 12:12.25.

"I was really determined after getting bumped around a bit in the mile," Gerber said after winning the two-mile. "I just kept surging and holding the lead as much as I could because I knew the race was loaded with good runners. I was glad that I felt strong on that last lap and was able to pull away, avoiding a real close finish."

Dudley is advancing to the state after placing in the pole vault, clearing nine feet. Mammen sprinted to a second-place finish in the 100 meter dash (13.51) and Cham leaped her way to the state by getting second in the triple jump (34-8).

"Getting four girls to advance to the state meet is a nice accomplishment," Trojan co-head coach Mike Traphagen said. "Each of them has worked hard and deserves the chance to compete at the state's highest level."

Woelber and MCC's Colleen Everson each enjoyed banner days, both qualifying in multiple events..

Everson won both the 400 meter dash (60.22) and the 200, clocked at 26.71. She also finished third in the triple jump, leaping 34-4.

Woelber will compete in three events at Hamline, as she won the high hurdles (15.86), placed second in the long jump (15-10.5) and also qualified (by standard) with a fourth place finish in the 300 lows (46.71).

Both Adrian's and Luverne's 4x800 relay teams also qualified by standard, finishing second and third with respective times of 9:39.51 and 9:45.44.

Running for the Dragons were Erica Thier, Austyn Thier, Leslie Stover and Morgan Lynn. Henke, McKayla Schilling, Kayla Raddle and Heitkamp ran the event for the Cardinals.

Other area individuals that qualified for the state meet included Windom senior Christy Nepp, who won the discus (121-7), Southwestern United sophomore Erika Post, who finished second in the shot put (38-1), Windom sophomore Lindsay Elston (second, high jump, 5-0) and Fulda junior Amy Paulzine (second, discus, 113-7).

Both Post and Elston nearly qualified in a second event, as Post placed third in the discus (111-5), scoring 18 of her team's 31 points, and Elston -- who was also fourth in the triple jump (34-1) and sixth in the 100 highs (17.54) -- placed third in the long jump (15-8), accounting for 28 individual points.