Section 3A track and field: Luverne girls win three relays; Woelber wins all three jumps; Boltjes brothers pace Ellsworth
BY LES KNUTSON
MONTEVIDEO -- On a sunny and warm late-spring afternoon, the best high school track and field athletes from the 25 participating teams in Section 3A converged at Thunderhawk Stadium Thursday, striving to earn a chance to advance to next week’s state Class A meet at Hamline University in Saint Paul.
The competition at Montevideo was extraordinary as several events were extremely closely-contested, including the boys’ 100-meter dash which sent four entrants -- two by standard -- to run at Hamline.
In all other events Thursday, it was the first two finishers who qualified.
In typical fashion, Luverne’s girls were good on the track, winning three relays and finishing a close second in another as the Cardinals advanced all four their relay teams.
Individually, Pipestone Area senior jumping wizard Tyl Woelber earned a trio of gold medals, winning all three jumps, while classmate Michelle Neece did even better, winning three individual events and running the lead leg on PA’s first-place 4x100-meter relay team, which nipped Luverne on a strong anchor leg by junior speedster MacKenzie Haroldson.
Heron Lake-Okabena freshman distance ace Morgan Gehl won twice, pulling away from a quality competitor in both the girls’ 1,600 and 3,200; Jackson County Central senior Damian Van Westen was impressive in winning a highly-competitive boys’ 400-meter dash and later churned a sensational anchor leg to give the Huskies a dramatic victory in the 4x400-meter relay, and the Boltjes brothers from Ellsworth -- along with teammate Noah Kruse -- won a thrilling boys’ 4x100-meter relay, just outracing a fine sprint team from Canby/Minneota.
The Panthers quartet of Sean Boltjes, Kruse, Cole Boltjes and Kade Boltjes zipped around the track in a sizzling time of 45.14 seconds, while the Lancers crossed in 45.19.
Kade Boltjes, who later finished a strong second in the 200-meter dash (22.94), outran C/M’s stellar football running back Isaac Hennen on the anchor leg, advancing the Panthers to the state meet with section gold medals.
“When Kade gets a head of steam going, he’s hard to catch,” declared second-year Ellsworth head coach Ethan Van Briesen, who has done a remarkable job of building the Panthers’ love of track and field in his two years at the school.
“He seemed like he was shot out of a cannon,” interjected a Luverne fan who was impressed with the Ellsworth performance, especially with Kade’s blazing anchor run.
“Our handoffs were great and all four guys ran hard,” summed up Van Briesen. “We really thought we had a chance to win that relay, which we did, and are very happy about getting to run the race again.”
Kade’s twin brother, Sean, will also run the 300-meter intermediate hurdles at Hamline. He attacked the barriers early and held the lead most of the way, before being passed by JCC senior Isaac Johnson over the last hurdle. Johnson clocked a winning time of 40.61, while Sean Boltjes qualified with his time of 40.81.
Kruse and the Boltjes twins are juniors, while younger brother Cole is just an eighth-grader.
Woelber set a new meet record in the long jump with a winning leap of 22 feet, 7.75 inches, bettering by three-and-a-quarter inches the 28-year-old record of 22-4.5 set Danube’s Todd Wallert in 1980.
Woelber, the defending Class A state champion in the high jump, also won that event as cleared the bar at 6-6. He added a third victory with a sensational triple jump distance of 45-7.5, winning the event by exactly two feet. Woelber capped off a 36-point day with a third-place finish in the 300 intermediates (behind Johnson and Sean Boltjes) with a time of 41.60.
Neece was most impressive in her two early first-place finishes on the track, winning the 100-meter high hurdles (14.63) and the 100-meter dash (12.36). She leaped 17-7.25 to win the long jump by more than six inches.
Neece ran the leadoff leg and handed off to freshman America Diaz who gave the baton to sophomore Zoe Velde before Haroldson finished the Arrows victory with a time of 51.18, while Luverne advanced with a second-place time of 51.63
Gehl was challenged by C/M eighth-grader Grace Drietz in the 1,600, but claimed first place with her time of 5:17.77. Drietz, who later won the 800 (2:22.42), was a close second (5:20.40), 27 seconds ahead of third place. In the 3,200, Luverne eighth-grader Tenley Nelson stayed close to Gehl for five laps, but Gehl pulled away steadily over the last three laps and covered the distance in 11:21.80. Nelson’s second-place time of 11:42.24 was 43 seconds faster than the third-place runner’s time.
Van Westen has been impressive all spring and he ran a winning time of 51.21, while Wabasso senior Colton Taylor (second, 51.42) edged Pipestone Area junior Carter Nesvold (third, 51.52) for the second state berth in the 400.
Nesvold later won the 200 (22.68) and had earlier finished second in the 100 (11.12), advancing in both dashes.
Luverne’s winning girls’ relay teams were freshman Regan Feit, junior Jadyn Anderson, Nelson and eighth-grader Brooklyn VerSteeg in the 4x800 (9:45.35), Feit, freshman Autumn Nath, Anderson and VerSteeg in the 4x400 (4:11.48) and the quartet of senior Sierra Schmuck, sophomore Sydney Biever, freshman Gracie Zewiski and sophomore Ivy Hudson, which clocked a time of 1:48.93 for first place in the 4x200. The same four sprinters ran on the Cardinals second-place 4x100.
In between her two anchor relay legs, VerSteeg was extraordinary in the 400-meter dash, winning with a sub-60-second time of 59.53.
“Brooklyn was one of several Cardinal girls who had exceptional days,” praised LHS head coach Pete Janiszeski about VerSteeg’s effort in the 400. “That was a very strong field of quarter-milers and she really stepped it up down the stretch to win in impressive fashion.”
JCC’s boys -- Johnson, sophomore David Strom, senior Zach Poelaert and Van Westen -- capped off the meet with a thrilling victory in the 4x400, clocking a winning time of 3:34.94 as Van Westen ran an amazing anchor leg, bringing the Huskies from fourth to first in a very close race as less than five seconds separated the first five teams.Smith, Thorson, Schuur, Dooyema win field events
Windom freshman Delaney Smith (41-2.5) and Hills-Beaver Creek senior Kourtney Rozeboom (39-6) both advance to the state meet with a one-two finish in the girls’ shot put.
Luverne sophomore Mallory Thorson won the girls’ triple jump (35-0) and Southwest Christian/Edgerton freshman Kaitlyn Schuur cleared 9-5 to claim gold in the girls’ pole vault.
Luverne junior Jedidiah Dooyema (11-11) and SWC/E junior Joshua Raak (11-5) will each pole vault at Hamline after finishing first and second among the boys in that event Thursday.
HL-O/Fulda junior Sam Cheadle soared over the bar at 5-11 in the high jump, one of four competitors (besides Woelber) to make that height. But on the basis of misses, Cheadle placed fourth, while Montevideo junior Christian Riley will advance as the second-place finisher.
Red Rock Central senior Nathan Runck, who runs for Westbrook-Walnut Grove/RRC, finished second in the boys’ 3,200-meter run (10:19.83), Luverne junior Dalton DeSollar advanced as the silver-medalist in the 1,600 (4:45.75) and SWC/E sophomore Avery Pater is state-bound in the 800 with his second-place time of 2:04.00.
SWC/Edgerton senior Jaden Bloemendaal qualified for Hamline with a fourth-place time of 11.27 in the 100, running faster than the state-qualifying standard of 11.31.
Redwood Valley’s Logan Josephson, who won the 100 (11.07) and placed second in the long jump (21-4), pulled a hamstring on the anchor leg of the 4x100 and did not compete in the 200-meter dash.
Southwest Minnesota Christian/Edgerton’s girls’ 4x800 relay team (junior Audra Homandberg, seventh-grader Savannah Schultz, freshman Mikayla Johnson and senior Annika Brands) qualified with a second-place time of 9:51.91.
A pair of area girl hurdlers advanced as SWC/E junior Sommer Schaap ran a fine second-place time of 15.89 in the 100 highs and JCC senior Molly Boyum finished a strong second in the 300 lows with her time of 48.24.
JCC senior Jessica Christoffer earned a repeat trip to Hamline by finishing second in the 800 (2:23.51) and Schmuck will represent Luverne in the 200 (26.78) after finishing second to Montevideo senior sensation Molly Reeves (26.55). Reeves also won the 300 lows (47.91), finished second in the 100 (12.76) and placed fourth in the long jump (16-4).
Kade Boltes placed third in the long jump (20-8) and finished seventh in the closely-bunched 100 (11.43), as he placed in four events. Sean added a fifth in the high hurdles (15.92) to go with his second in the intermediates and his stellar leadoff leg on Ellsworth’s 4x100.Luverne girls, Montevideo boys win team titles
Racking up 93.5 points, Luverne won the girls’ team title Thursday, while Canby/Minneota was second with a score of 74. Completing the top 10 were Pipestone Area (62), Southwest Minnesota Christian/Edgerton (50), Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd (49.5), Montevideo (46), Lakeview (44.5), Redwood Valley (42.5), Jackson County Central (36) and Windom Area (33).
Montevideo claimed the boys’ team title with 98.5 points, followed by LQPV/D-B (76), Pipestone (62), Redwood (62), Wabasso (54), JCC (52), Canby/Minneota (49), SW Christian/Edgerton (46), Ellsworth (44) and Luverne (29).
The state meet begins at Klas Field on Hamline’s campus next Friday June 8 with most event finals staged on Saturday, the 9th.