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Track and field: 62nd Trojan Relays are here

Les Knutson

Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON — Once again, it’s the second Thursday of May and while farmers are in the midst of planting corn and the trees are beginning to bud a new set of leaves, area high school track and field athletes will converge on Worthington’s Trojan Field this afternoon and evening May 8) for the 62nd annual running of the prestigious Trojan Relays.

Started by the late Floyd “Baldy” Nelson, Worthington High School’s head track and field coach, in the spring of 1953, the event has seen its share of ups and downs over the decades — as the weather has not always been the best.

But rain or shine — or snow and sleet — the popular annual event has been a big part of the area spring sports’ season through six decades.

Recently, the weather has been favorable for the Trojan Relays as no heavy rains or nasty cold conditions have hampered the meet for several years.

After being graced by the warmest weather of 2014 this week, the possibility of thunderstorms and a drenching rain are in today’s forecast. The temperature, however, is predicted to stay in the 60s and the meet — which could be delayed for a bit — is expected to be held from start to finish.

“We are looking forward to hosting the Trojan Relays again,” says WHS co-head coach Ken Henkels. “It’s been a great track meet for so many years and the overall competition level today should be terrific.”

Powerhouse Luverne, fresh off of dual victories (girls and boys) in Monday’s Section 3A True Team meet, won both Class AA Trojan Relays’ team titles last May and the Cardinals appear primed to defend those championships today.

“We had a super day Monday,” declared veteran LHS head coach Craig Nelson. “We had lots of PRs (personal records) and came through with as many as 18 performances which qualify for listing on our all-time top 10 marks in various events, making our career leader board.”

Joining the Cardinals in Class AA will be Marshall, Jackson County Central, Montevideo, New Ulm, Pipestone Area, Windom Area and, of course, Worthington.

Last year, Luverne scored 191.5 points to literally “run away” with the girls’ team crown. Marshall was second with 137.5 and Worthington was third with 92.

After a five-year reign at the top, Worthington dropped to fourth in the boys’ standings in 2013 as Luverne (165), Marshall (135.5) and JCC (82.5) all scored more than the Trojans’ total of 77.

Worthington racked up 181.5 points in 2011 and scored 149.5 in 2012 in winning its fourth and fifth straight Class AA boys’ titles.

Deep again, Wolverines aim to defend in Class A Mountain Lake Area, a second year combination of Mountain Lake Public and Mountain Lake Christian, won both Class A titles in 2013 and the Wolverines are coming off a strong showing at last week’s (May 2) Sentinel Relays in Fairmont.

Paced by dual victories by senior all-around athlete Cody Klassen in both hurdle races, the Wolverine boys scored 170 points and won the Sentinel’s Class A title. MLA’s girls, sparked by the triple first-place performances (200, 400, pole vault) of junior speedster Lydia Hildebrandt, were a solid second at Fairmont, scoring 135 points.

MLA, which won four consecutive Class A girls’ Trojan Relays’ titles as Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin from 2008-2011, finished third in 2012 with 116 points — behind Fulda’s winning total of 136 and Adrian’s 121. Last year, the Wolverines regained the top position, racking up 172 points as Hildebrandt won both the 400 and 200 and placed second in the pole vault before she anchored MLA’s winning 4x400 relay.

Performing well in the field events, as well as on the track, the Wolverine boys tallied 146 points last year and won their third consecutive Class A boys’ title. Sprinter Jose Gonzales and distance runner Slade Harder join Klassen as lead performers for MLA.

“We have a great senior class and a nice mix of younger athletes, too,” declares long-time MLA head coach Paul Metcalf, whose son Josh still holds the Trojan Relays’ Class A boys’ 3,200-meter run record (9:49.6, set in 1993). “It has been a fun season so far for us and we sure love coming to the Trojan Relays, which is a great meet and an important springboard leading up to the conference (Red Rock) meet next week.”

Adrian, Fulda, Hills-Beaver Creek, Murray County Central, Southwest Christian/Edgerton, Westbrook-Walnut Grove/Red Rock Central and Worthington’s Junior Varsity (JV) complete the eight-team Class A field.

Slater, Scotting, Mulske among Class A’s best In addition to MLA’s top tracksters, Adrian distance runner Nicole Slater, MCC sprinter-hurdler-shot putter Tyler Scotting and SWC/E distance runner Dillon Mulske are among the Class A performers who have done well so far this spring.

Slater, a senior, won the Section 3A cross country title last fall and has been consistently winning on the track in 2014. She finished first in three races — the 400, 1,600 and 3,200 — at Monday’s True Team competition. But her favorite event may be the 800, which requires a combination of speed and stamina.

Scotting, also a senior, is a versatile performer who exceeds 50 feet in the shot put and runs in the low 11 seconds in the 100. His best event, though, may be the 300-meter intermediate hurdles as he placed fourth in that race at the 2013 Class A state meet.

Mulske, a sophomore, has been impressive in both the 800 and 1,600 in several meets this spring and has displayed a blazing finishing kick.

Fulda sophomore Brian Fenske has run a sub-53-second 400 and Raider junior Alex Holmes has cleared 11-6 in the pole vault several times.

Dudley has chance at 35-year-old record Speaking of the pole vault, Worthington senior Will Dudley has a legitimate chance — weather permitting — to challenge the Class AA boys’ record of 14-1 set by Windom’s David Caviness in 1979, 35 years ago.

Dudley won the 2013 Trojan Relays’ Class AA gold medal with a vault of 13-6. Recently (April 26), the multiple-sport WHS athlete soared 15-0 in St. Paul, winning the Hamline Elite meet and notching Minnesota’s highest height of the season.

Luverne sprinters Jon Ehde and Dirk Thone have been impressive, as has Cardinal shot putter/discus thrower Cody Rofshus.

Windom’s Victor Ogeka and JCC’s Darnell Taylor-Breck are both outstanding triple jumpers and will likely run on some fleet-footed sprint relay teams for the Eagles and Huskies, respectively.

Luverne has exceptional balance on its girls’ team, with sprinter Tayla Peterson, distance runners Makayla Hohn, Madi Schandelmeier, Gabrielle Ferrell and Jadyn Anderson, hurdler/jumper Kynzie Smedsrud and thrower Morgan Edwards being among the leading performers for the Cardinals.

Competition begins at 4 p.m. Today’s competition opens with the field events and the girls’ 4x800-meter relay at 4 p.m.

The final event, the boys’ 4x400, is scheduled for 8:40 p.m.

In between those relays, will be the normal order of events of a standard high school track and field meet, operating on a rolling schedule with Class A girls, Class AA girls, Class A boys and Class AA boys in each of the 12 events on the track.

There will be a special Lambert Brandl Memorial Distance Running Scholarship presented at 5:25 p.m. following the Class AA boys’ 4x200-meter relay and before the Class A girls’ 1,600-meter run.