BOYS' TRACK: WHS advances 7 athletes in 7 events

MONTEVIDEO -- Winning five of the 18 events Thursday at the Section 3A high school track and field meet, the quality-filled Worthington Trojans claimed the team championship, while also advancing seven individuals to next week's state competition.

WHS's Berger
Michael Brauer/Daily Globe Worthington's Brandon Berger (right) crosses the line first in the 110-meter hurdles, ahead of fourth-place Shandon Jones (left) during Thursday's Section 3A track meet in Montevideo.

MONTEVIDEO -- Winning five of the 18 events Thursday at the Section 3A high school track and field meet, the quality-filled Worthington Trojans claimed the team championship, while also advancing seven individuals to next week's state competition.

Sparked by a pair of first-place finishes by sophomore distance runner Mubarik Musa, along with gold-medal performances from the trio of juniors Jordon Bents, Brandon Berger and Will Collin, the Trojans racked up a total of 102.5 points.

Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd, the Sub-Section 12 champion, stayed close to the Trojans throughout the meet, and finished a solid second in the standings of the 30-team meet with 94 points.

Pipestone Area, the champion of Sub-Section 10, was a distant third with 60.5 points, finishing just ahead of Sub-Section 9 runner-up Jackson County Central (57) and Sub-Section 12 runner-up Montevideo (53).

Completing the top 10 in the team scoring were MACCRAY/Renville County West (42), Redwood Valley (37.5), Luverne (31), Yellow Medicine East (30.5) and Benson/Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (26).


The top two individuals in each event and all four winning relay teams earned advancement to the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) state meet, which will be held at Hamline University in St. Paul June 11-12.

Additionally, individuals and relays that had performances matching or bettering the state qualifying standard (determined by a three-year average of the fifth-place performance in that event at the state meet), also will compete at Hamline.

"We had lots of good performances and are happy for the kids who get to compete at the state meet," summed up Worthington co-head coach Ken Henkels.

"Besides our five first places, we had a pair of third-place efforts which advanced by standard. We were very close to meeting the standard with our second-place finish in the 4x800-meter relay."

Worthington's first state qualifier was Bents, who heaved a 12-pound iron ball 50 feet, 10½ inches and won the shot put.

"Winning this meet and making it to state was the ultimate goal," said an elated Bents after the event was over. "I had good throws in the first round (49-9 ½, 50-10 ½ and 50-6), but then scratched all three times in the finals --- I was trying to kill it and get a really big one. I'm glad that I had good distances on my first three."

Bents, who won the event by more than two feet, credited his throwing coach Gene Lais with helping him steadily improve this season.

"Last year, I made it to this meet, but didn't make the finals," he said. "But Coach Lais has always been there and has stressed improving my technique day after day, which has really helped me get better."


While Bents was winning the shot, the WHS 4x800 team was chasing the state standard --- and front-running Jackson County Central.

The Huskies, sparked by a solid leadoff leg by senior Matt Kocak, pulled away from the Trojans, clocking a winning time of 8:12.14, bettering the state standard (8:17.76) by more than five seconds.

Senior Sam Hendrickson ran a strong second leg for JCC, while juniors Marc Strom and Justin Cook completed the impressive victory.

Worthington's team of Naakoo Omot, Michael Patten, Ethan Spittle and O.J. Ojullu was clocked at 8:18.13 -- more than 19 seconds ahead of Montevideo's third-place time of 8:37.83 -- but missed the qualifying standard by a mere .37.

The Trojans had run an 8:16.70, while finishing second to JCC (8:10.10) in the Sub-Section 9 meet (at Worthington May 27) with less of a wind.

"That's about as close as you can come in that long of an event and not make it," noted Henkels. "We really think that an 8:18 will place in the 4x800 at the state. But, we won't get that chance."

Berger made sure that he will get the chance -- twice.

After outracing all the competitors in a loaded 110-meter high hurdle field, clocked at 15.34, Berger utilized his adrenaline to sail close to the 44-foot mark on his first two leaps in the triple jump.


"I felt great in the hurdles," he said about his first-place finish. "I was relaxed and ready to go. I had one of my best starts and ran my second fastest time of the season -- which considering that it was into the wind, was probably my best race."

So, after qualifying in one event, the super-charged Berger streaked over to the triple jump and promptly hop-skipped-and-jumped to distances of 43-9 and 43-10½ on his first two attempts.

"It was pure adrenaline," he said of those distances. "I was so excited and pumped up after winning the highs."

While both LQPV's Bret Deyo (44-5) and Fulda's Devin Kuehne (44-2) exceeded Berger's best distance, the versatile Trojan athlete advanced by bettering the state standard of 43-3.

"I am really happy about going to the state in two events," summed up Berger, who later placed eighth in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles (42.25), giving him 17 points for the day.

Kuehne, who had earlier placed fifth in the long jump (20-1¾), was thrilled to earn a return trip to the state in his favorite event.

"The triple jump is what I like the best," said Kuehne, who was being cheered on by several Raider fans, including his grandparents. "I didn't place last year (at the state), but I am jumping farther this year, and not very many kids have gone over 44."

Musa finishes first twice, Collin wins 400


Musa had to use everything he had to win a grueling 1,600-meter race, clocking a personal best time of 4:23.41. Later, he breezed to an easy victory in the 3,200 (9:57.30), accounting for a team-high 20 points.

Trailing LQPV's Ryan Swenson for the entire race, Musa utilized a superior finishing kick to win the mile by .36, as Swenson was timed at 4:23.77.

Swenson, who later won the 800 (1:59.51), appeared to be pulling away from Musa heading into the homestretch.

"He is a good runner, I have a lot of respect for him," Musa said about Swenson. "He kept a good, steady pace, which was nice. I was able to stick with him and surge past him right at the end. It was a good race."

Adrian's Jordan Pater won the race between the rest of the field, finishing third with a time of 4:45.20.

Strom claimed a state meet berth by finishing second in the 3,200 (10:23.59), while Mountain Lake Christian's Taylor Klassen moved up into third place (10:30.83).

Collin, who has been a steady quarter-miler for the Trojans each of the past two seasons, came up big again Thursday, winning the 400-meter dash, clocked at 50.62.

"That was fun," said Collin about winning the section gold medal. "About as much fun as a 400 can be."


Collin, who made a strong surge coming off the last turn and then hung on to hold off a fast-finishing Andrew Roiger (50.69) from LQPV, later anchored the Trojans' 4x400-meter relay team to a third-place finish -- qualifying by running the four laps in 3:27.89 (under the standard of 3:30.02).

Jeremy Clark, Omot and Ojullu ran the first three legs for Worthington.

"That was the first time that I ran anchor," said Collin, who normally runs the leadoff leg. "I don't think that I ever took an open handoff before. But Jeremy got us off to a great start and then both Naakoo and O.J. gave it everything they had."

Collin, who has been nursing an injured back, will now get to run two quarters at the state track meet.

Peterson wins vault; Arrows win 4x200; Jones, Kirk advance

Murray County Central senior Alex Peterson, despite being "in between poles," repeated his section title in the pole vault, clearing the bar at 12-3.

"One pole is a little soft and the next (size up) is a bit too stiff," explained MCC coach Dominick Damm. "He has gone 13-3, so we're hoping that he's on his way up again."

On the track, PA won the 4x200-meter relay, as the foursome of Colin Cooper, Aaron Kozlowski, Tyler Evans and Casey Kooiker blazed to a first-place time of 1:31.89 (better than the 1:32.42 standard).


Luverne (Bo Biever, Derek Petersen, Jon Ehde and Greg Muller) finished a close second, just missing the standard with a time of 1:32.46.

PA's Shandon Jones, a senior, was a two-event qualifier, placing second in the long jump (21-4) and advancing by standard after running a time of 15.63 and placing fourth in the 110 highs.

The standard of 15.70 was bettered by the top four finishers, including Berger and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton's Dalton Kirk, who claimed the silver medal with a time of 15.41.

Quiring, Ehde, Muller, Cook, Kooiker, Cooper all earn state trips

Windom senior Bryce Quiring qualified for a state trip by placing second in the discus, whirling the platter 138-10, missing first place by just 10 inches.

"I was consistent in my throws," said Quiring. "But, I was disappointed that I didn't get the one big one, which could have won the event."

Ehde, just an eighth-grader, sprinted to a second-place finish in the 100-meter dash (11.58) and will run that race at Hamline next week.

"That's quite an accomplishment for a young boys' sprinter," praised Luverne head coach Craig Nelson. "We're excited to see what he can do at that level."

Muller, a senior, will join Ehde in a state sprint, after finishing second in an extremely-competitive 200-meter dash.

The event, which was won by Yellow Medicine East's Nick Lecy (who also won the 100, 11.21) in a time of 22.63, had the first six finishers all run faster than the state standard of 23.09.

Muller's second-place time was 22.88, while PA's Kooiker (22.89) and Cooper (22.93), finished third and fourth, respectively, and will join Muller at Hamline.

Cook, who took and held the lead for much of a very competitive 800-meter race, finished second (2:00.28) to Swenson and will run a pair of half miles (4x800 anchor) at the state meet.

Ojullu, Dudley, Omot, Clark, Voss, Grafing complete Trojan scoring

Ojullu (third, 800, 2:01.11), freshman Will Dudley (tie for third, pole vault, 11-9), Omot (fourth, long jump, 20-2¾; fourth, 300 hurdles, 41.28), Jalen Voss (seventh, shot put, 42-9), Clark (seventh, 400, 53.10), Junior Nguyen (eighth, pole vault, 11-3) and Aaron Grafing (eighth, 1,600, 5:01.86) completed the individual scoring for the Trojans, who also placed fifth in the 4x200 relay (1:34.85).

Danny Rodriguez, Collin, Clark and Derik Verdoorn ran on Worthington's 4x200 team, as the Trojans had a total of 14 boys contribute to the winning point total.

JCC's Matthew Buschena (shot put, 46-4) and Jones (300 intermediates, 41.24) both had third-place finishes Thursday.

Area boys that scored fourths included JCC's Nathan Schulz (high jump, 6-1) and Kocak (400, 52.40), along with Windom's John Curley (1,600, 4:48.25).

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