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Aim high: Trojan track and field athletes move closer to goals they've set for themselves

It remains to be seen whether the 2021 Worthington High School boys 3,200-meter relay team can actually set a new school record this spring, but you can’t blame them for trying.

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Worthington Trojans Brooklyn Scheitel-Taylor sprints to the finish line in the 4 x 100 Relay sharing the win with teammates Ivy Jenson, Bailey Newman, and Saleen Thepmontry Monday afternoon in Pipestone. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

PIPESTONE -- It remains to be seen whether the 2021 Worthington High School boys 3,200-meter relay team can actually set a new school record this spring, but you can’t blame them for trying.

Trojans Mikele Walu, Jordan Melendez, Filmon Wolday and Ofbeka Morke eased to victory in the 4x800 Monday afternoon in Pipestone, coming in at 8:56.9. The school record is 8:04.9, set in 2019 by Adam Koller, Christian Lietz, Ammanuel Ohja and Andrew Huber, and Walu, Melendez, Wolday and Morke are eyeing it.

Yes, the 2021 foursome still has some time to make up, but the weather on Monday -- although it was mild temperature-wise by recent standards -- was breezy enough to throw them off a little.

“It was a bit windy,” said Melendez, who later captured the boys 1,600-meter run in 4:57.6. “It was a bit more painful than it needed to be. It was bending at the right angle to the curve. Our 200-meter splits were about three seconds faster with the wind than against it.”

The 4x800-meter guys insist, however, that they’ve been improving their overall times every day in practice, and Monday marked only the second time this spring that all four of them have competed together in an actual event.

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So they’re going in the right direction.

And they treat the names of Koller, Lietz, Ohja and Huber with the kind of respect that is justified by newcomers attempting to revise history.

“I look up to those guys a lot, too,” said Walu, “because I ran with them when I was younger. We really want to show them what we can do.”

Walu also won the boys 800-meter run on Monday, in 2:11.4.

This spring, of course, is the first spring since 2019 when any Minnesota high school track team has been allowed to compete at all. The coronavirus pandemic canceled 2020.

But Walu, Melendez, Wolday and Morke aren’t the only WHS boys capable of setting a new school record this year. In Monday’s Pipestone meet involving Worthington, Windom Area, Pipestone Area and Redwood Valley, Trojan Abagotte Opiew won the triple jump with a leap of 44-8, only two inches shorter than the current school record.

Opiew isn’t even hiding his impatience.

“I want to break it next meet,” he said. “I think I have a pretty good chance, depending on what my form is. My last two jumps, my form was good.”

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There are many parts to a successful triple jump, and Opiew knows that as well as anybody.

“I think the secret is in the landing. I think the landing is a big part because it can give you an extra foot. You want to stick your legs out as far as possible and land on your butt,” he explained.

A second outstanding Worthington High School triple jumper, Brooklyn Scheitel-Taylor, did not have her best performance on Monday, finishing second. She achieved a personal best in the team’s previous meet last Thursday, however.

Scheitel-Taylor did experience some success in Pipestone, though. Moments after teaming with Ivy Jenson, Bailey Newman and Saleen Thepmontry to win the girls 400-meter race in 54.9 (Scheitel-Taylor ran the anchor leg), she spoke to the media while awaiting a later run in the open 200, which she would win in 27.9 seconds.

“I think it’s been pretty good so far. I think I’ve been more consistent with my running events than my field events,” Scheitel-Taylor said.

But, of course, there are so many pesky parts to any successful triple jump.

“I think it depends on your pace. You gotta hit the board, and your strides are different every time -- even in the same meet,” she explained.

Bucher, Eagles adjust

It’s still quite early in the high school track and field season, and most of the meets so far have been held in cooler conditions than desired. School programs, like the one run in Windom, are adjusting to other realities, too.

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Windom Area senior Gracie Bucher competed in the girls state Class A 800-meter run two seasons ago, and that is her main event this year, too. But she took a break from the 800 on Monday and ran the 1,600-meter event instead -- winning it in a time of 5:57.6.

“It’s my first mile in two years. It’s not where I wanted it to be, but I’m glad it was a good, strong run,” she said. “I just ran the 4-by-2 right before that.”

The absence of a 2020 track and field season was quite an adjustment for Bucher, who said, “I trained the whole season, until I knew without a doubt there was not going to be a season.”

Bucher is one of three captains on the WAHS girls team who are being charged with not only winning events, but mentoring younger teammates. Both the girls and boys athletes on the Eagles’ teams are less experienced than they were two years ago. The veteran girls, Bucher said, see themselves as mentors not only to other girls but to boys, too.

But do the boys listen?

“I think we get through to them as much as we could,” she suggested.

Final team girls standings on Monday had Redwood Valley with 200.5 points, Worthington 152, Windom Area 146.5 and Pipestone Area 130. For the boys, it was Redwood Valley 183, Worthington 168.5, Windom Area 135.5 and Pipestone Area 112.

Other Worthington firsts were achieved by Ivy Jensen in the girls long jump (16-2.5), Marco Ramos in the pole vault (9-0) and Terbuto Ochothow in the 110-meter hurdles (18.2) and 300-meter hurdles (45.3).

Windom Area received a pair of firsts by Delaney Smith in the girls shot put (44-9.75) and discus (114-0). Kaylee Walklin won the girls 800 meters (2:37.59), and the WAHS girls 1,600 and 3,200-meter relays were also winners. The Eagles’ Alex Altman won both the boys shot put (43-10) and discus (123-8) events, and teammate Dylan Serreyn won the high jump in 5-6.

Complete results from the Pipestone meet can be found online at athletic.net.

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Windom Area Eagles Gracie Bucher widens her commanding lead in the last stretches of the girls 1600 meter race Monday afternoon in Pipestone 04 26 2. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

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