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Three state tournaments vie for attention this week

It’s three in one.

That is, three Minnesota high school state tournaments in the same week -- this week.

The state Class A boys team tennis tournament opened on Tuesday, with the Section 3A champion Luverne Cardinals starting with Rochester Lourdes at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis. The state individual tournament begins Thursday and concludes Friday.

Meanwhile, the state girls softball tournament gets under way Thursday at Caswell Park in North Mankato, finishing up on Friday with championships in four classes. Two area teams, Edgerton/Southwest Christian in class A and Pipestone Area in class AA, are in the mix.

Last but not least, the state track and field championships are set for Friday and Saturday at Hamline University in St. Paul. A deep and talented field of southwest Minnesota runners, jumpers and throwers are ready to go.

A primer:

Boys tennis

Worthington Trojans Blaine Doeden, Cade Lindner and Kipton Jenson left the school parking lot at 11:30 Monday morning to begin state tournament festivities, which included a banquet. When the individual tournament starts, Doeden will face top-seeded Parker Law of Mounds Park Academy at 8 a.m.

Doeden is no state tournament novice. This year marks his second consecutive appearance, and he’s not one to succumb to nerves. But in Law, he faces last year’s state class A runnerup.

“That should be interesting,” Doeden remarked before taking off from Worthington. “That’s always interesting to see the best Minnesota has to offer. I’m going to play what I’ve got in my reservoir. See how it goes from that point on.”

Last year at state, Doeden gleaned much information he’ll use in his senior appearance.

“I learned the style of competition is a little bit different. A lot of the guys have powerful strokes, they make longer rallies. More balls go in, so you don’t get as many free points,” he said.

The other two Trojans, Lindner and Jenson, meshed beautifully in the Section 3A tournament and represent WHS in doubles competition. Jenson said he hasn’t been at a state tournament before, but he notes that he and his partner are well matched -- Cade possesses a powerful serve and Kip is an active presence at the net.

“I’m super excited. I just can’t wait to face some of the competition up there,” Jenson said. “We really executed every point (in the sectional). And we played super relaxed. That’s what it’s going to take up there. … We communicate well. We both have some of the strengths that go well together.”

The Trojan trio will be joined in the individual tournament by a doubles team from Luverne, Matt Sehr and Cole Stoltenberg.

Softball

Here’s one thing you can bank on: The Edgerton/Southwest Christian Flying Dutchmen and the Pipestone Area Arrows won’t be awed. E/SWC is making its sixth straight state tournament appearance, and PA is participating in its fourth straight state tourney and 11th overall.

The Dutchmen finished second in North Mankato last year. The Arrows were third.

Led by dependable hitters like Jessa Nibbelink, Liz and Jazzy Prins and Gabby Buckridge, and armed with strong, consistent pitching from Sierra Van Dyke, the Dutch (17-5) go into this week’s competition as the No. 3 seed. They open with 22-2 New Ulm Cathedral at 1 p.m. Thursday

Cathedral, too, will know its way around Caswell Park. The Greyhounds are making their 17th state appearance and are coming off a fourth-place finish in 2018.

Pipestone Area, led by senior infielder Mandi Miller who sports a .453 batting average, is also a No. 3 seed. The Arrows (24-2) will go against 21-4 Concordia Academy in their first game Thursday at 9 a.m. The Beacons’ Taylor Brunn is Minnesota’s all-time hits leader and takes a .624 average into the PA showdown.  

Track and field

Individually, Worthington Trojans Adam Koller, Christian Lietz, Ammanuel Ojha and Andrew Huber are strong runners. It’s uniquely fortunate that they all compete on the same track and field team, because when they’re together in the 4x800-meter run, they’re electric.

It all came together for the fabulous foursome during the Section 2AA meet at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, where they toured their course in a school-record 8:04.92. A bonus: they qualified for the state meet at Hamline University, joining another Trojan, triple jumper Sean Souksavath.

Altogether, there are literally more area track and field athletes going to Hamline this year than you can shake a stick at. Four new meet records were set at the Section 3A meet, and an outstanding Luverne girls team advanced six relays, including the defending state champion 4x800 team of Regan Feit, Jadyn Anderson, Tenley Nelson and Brooklynn VerSteeg.

Michelle Neece of Pipestone Area returns to defend her class A 100-meter hurdles championship. Kade Boltjes of Ellsworth qualified for state in four events (long jump, 200-meter run, 4x200 relay and 4x100 relay).