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STATE TRACK: Area athletes going for the gold

Chris Murphy/Daily Globe In this file photo, MCC's Jack Thony wins the 100-meter dash at the Sub-Section 10 meet in Luverne this season.

ST. PAUL -- Fulda's Sylvia Zanini and Windom's Hannah Steele are each among the top qualifiers in both the girls' discus and shot put events at the Class A Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) track and field state meet, which begins this afternoon at Klaus Field on the campus of Hamline University in St. Paul.

Class A competition begins today with field event finals in six events -- three each for boys and girls -- along with running event preliminaries in most events, starting at 3:30 p.m.

The Class A finals in the girls' 3,200-meter run are scheduled for a 6:14 p.m. gun time today, with the boys' 3200 finals following.

The rest of the running-event finals will start at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, beginning with the girls' 4x800-meter relay. The boys' 4x400-meter relay concludes the meet with a 7:00 p.m. gun time Saturday.

Today's field event finals, include the boys' pole vault, triple jump and shot put, while the girls will compete in the high jump, long jump and discus.

Zanini, a senior foreign-exchange student from Italy, will also be running in the preliminaries of the girls' 100-meter high hurdles at 3:30 p.m. today, as she won a trio of Section 3A gold medals at Pipestone May 31.

"My favorite event is the discus," exclaimed Zanini, who has been nearly unbeatable throwing the platter this spring. "But, I like the shot put and the high hurdles, too. So, I am looking forward to competing in all three at the state meet."

Zanini's winning throw of 132 feet, 11 inches at the section meet ranks second in a highly-competitive discus field, which features seven throwers coming in with sectional distances exceeding 120 feet, including Steele -- the defending state champion in the event.

Steele, who has placed sixth in Class A in the shot put in both 2010 and 2011, won last year's state title in the discus with a throw of 119-11.

She has surpassed 120 feet several times this season, including her distance of 120-8 at Pipestone, which ranks seventh entering today's competition, which begins at 4:45 p.m.

Ashley Thooft, a senior from St. Clair who won the shot put in 2010 as a sophomore and placed second in the shot put last year, has the best sectional-winning distance in each event..

Thooft whirled the discus 137-4 to win Section 2A and unleashed a distance of 44-4 to top tomorrow's (3:30 p.m.) shot put list.

Zanini ranks second in the shot put (42-2.25), while Steele is listed sixth (39-8.25), as both are in the top flight in each event.

The section has done well in recent years at the state meet in both girls' throwing events, as evidenced by Steele's three medals, and a state championship discus performance by Fulda's Amy Paulzine (138-10) in 2009.

Southwestern United's Katey Granstra (123-2) placed second in the discus in 2010 and Fulda's Kassie Wilkening was fourth at Hamline in the shot put (38-10) last year.

Fulda's Nancy Overman has the Class A state-meet record in the discus, whirling the platter a remarkable distance of 154-0, while claiming the gold medal in 1994.

Thony, DeCock both competing in three events

While Zanini and Steele are both expected to place high in their respective throwing events at Hamline, a pair of junior all-around athletes are each competing in three boys' events.

Murray County Central's Jack Thony will run in the prelims of both dashes (100 and 200) today, and will compete in the long jump Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Red Rock Central's Jeff DeCock will represent the combination of Westbrook-Walnut Grove/RRC in three jumping events -- high, triple and long -- having qualified for two of them by reaching the state standard in the Section 3A meet.

DeCock, who also plays baseball for the spring cooperative, placed second in the section meet in the triple jump (41-9) and finished third in each the high jump (6-3) and long jump (20-9.25), but earned advancement by matching or surpassing the state-qualifying standard (average fifth-place performance at the state meet over the past five years).

"We knew from watching Jeff play basketball that he could jump," declared W-WG/RRC head track and field coach Steve LeBoutillier. "But, he has developed in all three events faster than we imagined and qualifying for the state in each of them is an amazing accomplishment."

Another former Fulda athlete, Ken Larson, holds the Class A state-meet record in the high jump, clearing 6-10 in 1981.

Thony, who won the section meet in both the 100 (11.27) and 200 (23.23), returns to Hamline in both events and will also long jump this year after leaping 21-1.5 and placing second at Pipestone.

"Jack's had another great season and has state-meet experience," noted MCC head coach Tim Bobeldyk. "He could really put the capper on things by performing well at Hamline."

Nepp is in top flight in boys' shot put

MCC's Tanner Nepp, also a junior, has been coming on strong this season and claimed section titles in both the shot put (49-10) and discus (142-8). He is ranked seventh in the shot put, which begins at 3:30 p.m. today.

"We have really been pleased with how Tanner has progressed this season," summed up Bobeldyk. "Winning two section titles was remarkable and now he gets to compete twice at the state meet."

Jackson County Central's Jason Vongsavanh and Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin's Jose Gonzales finished 1-2 in the 400-meter dash at the Section 3A meet and both will run in the second-heat of the prelims this afternoon.

Pipestone Area senior Aaron Kozlowski won the section title in the 110-meter high hurdles and will run in the prelims today, as will both of Luverne's sprint relay teams.

Running for the Cardinals in the 4x100 (which won the section title) are Jackson Winter, Matt Oehlerts, Alex Weis and Bo Biever. Winter, Daniel Muller, Ethan Rust and Biever finished second at Pipestone in the 4x200 and also qualified to run in today's prelims at Hamline.

Southwest Christian/Edgerton hurdler Austin LaFollette will compete in his favorite event, the 300-meter intermediate hurdles today, while Weis participates in the shot put.

Luverne's Cody Rofshus will join Nepp in the boys' discus competition Saturday.

Thier one of six under 2:20 in 800

Adrian's Austyn Thier has enjoyed a stellar distance-running career for the Dragons and will compete in her final high school athletic event this weekend.

After anchoring Adrian's 4x800-meter relay -- which also includes Jordin Kopplow, Megan Sauer and Nicole Slater --Thier will be one of six girls in the open 800-meter run, who enter with times under 2:20.

Katie Shepardson, a junior from La Crescent, ran a 2:17.68 in the Section 1A meet and has the fastest seed time. But Thier's 2:19.59 is among the leaders.

Luverne sophomore Makayla Hohn will run in the 3,200 finals today, and Hills-Beaver Creek senior Siera Wilgenburg (the Section 3A champion) will run in the prelims of the 400-meter dash and also anchor the Patriots 4x400 relay team.

Jenna Wilgenburg, Kayla Thone and Haley Van Wyhe are the first three legs of H-BC's 4x400.

W-WG/RRC senior Chloe Arfsten competes in the pole vault today, SWC/E's Hannah Van Dyke runs in the 300-meter low hurdles and both Luverne's and T-M-B's 4x200 relays are competing.

Running for the Cardinals are Erin Sietsema, Kynzie Smedsrud, Naomi Dooyema and Tayla Peterson, while Sammie Gervais, Lauren Schaar, Kendra Nelson and Kelli Soupir will run for the Panthers.

MCC's 4x100 relay team of Dunnevan Muldoon, Lydia Homandberg, Kara Homandberg and Hannah Schmidt will run in the prelims at 4:37 p.m. today in lane one of heat one.