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Prep track and field: Close finishes highlight Fulda meet

SLAYTON — Nearly ideal spring weather conditions graced the 12-team Fulda Invitational high school track and field meet Tuesday, and many stellar performances were turned in by the competing athletes.

The day’s best race developed in the boys’ 1,600-meter run when two of the area’s top distance runners squared off. Murray County Central senior Jack Erickson and Pipestone Area sophomore Michael Suda have each experienced loads of success in lots of endeavors during their high school careers. Both of them earned advancement to last year’s state track meet.

Erickson took the early lead in Tuesday’s mile, churning the first lap in 66 seconds. Suda stayed close and then surged ahead on the second lap and widened the gap on the third. Erickson, however, began chasing down the talented all-around Arrow athlete and with 300 meters to go, the Rebel ace was back in front.

Erickson, who combines great speed along with strong stamina, crossed the finish first in an excellent early-season time of 4:39.44. Suda was right behind, clocked at 4:40.13.

“Fortunately, my strategy worked and I had enough in my legs to hold my sprint to the finish line,” Erickson said afterward. “I knew that I couldn’t let (Suda) get too far ahead on that third lap, so I had to start making a move to catch him sooner than I planned.”

While the Erickson vs. Suda race was certainly a showcase event, the exciting up-front duel between PA senior Eli Stevens and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton senior Josh Kirk in the boys’ 100-meter dash was also a classic.

Kirk blasted out of the blocks quickly and had an early lead in the 100, but Stevens (11.58) crossed the finish line first, barely nipping Kirk’s time of 11.63. The third-place time was 12.08.

There were three star performers in the girls’ meet, as MCC’s Nicole Thovson, PA’s Michelle Neece and T-M-B’s Kendra Ludeman were all multiple-event gold medalists.

Thovson won both the 100 (13.62) and 400 (1:05.06), while also placing second in both the long jump (14-5) and 200 (28.47).

Neece finished first in the 100-meter high hurdles (16.38) and soared 15-6 to win the long jump. She also ran the leadoff legs on two first-place Arrow relay teams.

Ludeman cleared 5-2 to easily win the high jump, clocked a first-place time of 27.77 in the 200, anchored T-M-B’s winning 4x400 and anchored the Panthers’ second-place 4x100 relay.

Pipestone Area swept both team titles, racking up 148.2 points to win the girls’ title and scoring a day’s best total of 157 points to finish at the top of the boys’ standings.

MCC’s girls were second with 81 points, followed by Mountain Lake Area (66.2), Fulda (64.2), T-M-B (47), Westbrook-Walnut Grove/Red Rock Central (36), Hills-Beaver Creek (33.2), Adrian (32), Heron Lake-Okabena (29.2) and Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (20).

MCC was also second in the boys’ meet with 117.5 points, followed by Fulda (48), R-T-R (44), T-M-B (30), W-WG/RRC (29), H-BC (26.5), Ellsworth (25), Adrian (24), Harris-Lake Park (23), MLA (20) and HL-O (14).

Kooiman, Woelber, Heezen join Stevens, Erickson with two firsts

PA’s Justin Kooiman won both boys’ hurdle races, running the 110-meter highs in 16.31 and the 300-meter intermediates in 42.54, while teammate Tyl Woelber won both the high jump (5-10) and long jump (20-7.5)

MCC’s Wyatt Heezen was the gold medalist in the shot put (40-6.25) and discus (123-3). Stevens (400, 51.32) and Erickson (800, 2:08.38) each won a second individual event. Woelber and Stevens both earned a third gold medal by running the first and fourth legs on PA’s winning 4x400 (3:41.12). Carter Nesvold and Devin Tinklenberg ran the middle two quarters.

Seniors Slade Harder of MLA (10:23.81) and Clayton Hartle of MCC (10:33.95) raced ahead of the field in the 3,200-meter run. W-WG/RRC’s Koua Vang cleared 11-6 to win the pole vault and Ellsworth’s Malik Herman leaped 38-4 for first place in the triple jump.

Tinklenberg, Suda, Matthew Kennedy and Lucas Griebel teamed together for a PA victory in the 4x800 (8:41.34). The Arrows also won both the 4x100 (47.29) and the 4x200 (1:36.73). Nesvold ran the first leg on the 4x100 and Kooiman ran leadoff on the 4x200. The trio of Isaac Clipper, Carson Onken and Jake Evans finished both relays.

Pipestone won seven of the eight relays, as three Arrow girls’ teams also finished first. The team of Neece, Zoe Velde, MacKenzie Haroldson and Claire Femrite won the 4x100 (53.42). Neece, Haroldson, Maria Spanier and Femrite cruised to a winning time of 1:51.25 in the 4x200 and the quartet of Jori Strasser, Maddie Kennedy, Angel Martens and Livia Wallace was first in the 4x800, clocked at 10:47.45.

Taylor Schmidt, Alecia Christian and Kendra Nelson preceded Ludeman on T-M-B’s winning 4x400, which ran the event in 4:22.62.

Other individual girls’ winners included Spanier (300 low hurdles, 50.74), HL-O’s Cheyenne Schaffer (800, 2:35.01), Wallace (1,600, 5:45.97), Fulda’s Morgan Gehl (3,200, 12:35.87), W-WG/RRC’s Mariah Hicks (pole vault, 7-6), PA’s Maya Bledsoe (shot put, 34-10.75), MLA’s Carly Paulson (triple jump, 30-3) and PA’s Lexi Carstensen (discus, 98-11).