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Track and field: Worthington is the place Tuesday for Trojan Relays

WORTHINGTON -- The old joke was that you’d better have your umbrella ready for the Trojan Relays.

Just like snowstorms come during the state boys basketball tournament, rain arrives every time the Trojan Relays run.

Well, it isn’t like that really, of course. Yes, there seemed to be a time -- several years ago -- when overcast skies and downpours soured the more pessimistic track and field fans among us. But last year the Relays went off on a dry mid-80s degree day under a bright sun.

The forecast for Tuesday, when the 66th Trojan Relays are scheduled to take place on Trojan Field, is for morning rain. But that’s just the morning, and it may not happen anyway. The 2018 event is set to start at 4 p.m. You can keep your umbrellas handy, if you want, but in the meantime area track and field athletes are preparing themselves to fine-tune their performances with big late-season meets just around the bend.

For the Trojans, the Relays are important -- not just because it’s their biggest home meet of the season, but also because it arrives at a time when runners and field event performers feel a sense of urgency. Section meets begin to arrive less than a week later, and suddenly the Minnesota state meet is here June 8 and 9 at Hamline University in St. Paul.

Worthington competed in a True Team sectional on Thursday, and the Big South Conference meet is Saturday in Pipestone. Add the Relays, and WHS co-head coach Doug Brands said those are the team’s three most important meets prior to the qualifying competitions.

“We usually look at the True Team section, the conference meet and the Trojan Relays. You set up your season for those three,” he said.

There are 16 teams entered in the 2018 Relays, divided in two divisions.

In Division AA, you’ll find Worthington, Marshall, Pipestone Area, Luverne, Windom Area, Jackson County Central, New Ulm and St. Peter. In Division A, it’s Adrian, Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda, Hills-Beaver Creek, Murray County Central, Southwest Christian/Edgerton, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, Westbrook-Walnut Grove/Red Rock Central and Worthington JV.

Last year, Southwest Christian/Edgerton won the A girls division with 196 points, while Hills-Beaver Creek placed second with 120.5. Marshall earned the AA title with 144, followed by St. Peter with 112.33 and Luverne with 102.

On the boys’ side, Murray County Central with 154.5 points and Southwest Christian/Edgerton with 129.5 placed 1-2 in A. In AA, it was Pipestone Area with 122 and Worthington with 109.5.

The Luverne girls have been as impressive as any area outfit thus far, striking a consistency that might seem unusual given a snow-filled April that spiked the progress of every prep track and field team this year. The Cardinals were outstanding in their relays a year ago, and with many of the same athletes returning this spring, they have been every bit as dominant in their foursomes.

On Monday at the Section 3A True Team meet, Southwest Christian/Edgerton placed second in both boys and girls competitions (the Redwood Valley boys and the Canby-Minneota girls won the titles).

Last weekend at the prestigious Howard Wood Relays in Sioux Falls, S.D., which annually brings together some of the top competitors from several Midwestern states, the Luverne girls placed third in the 4x800-meter relay (9.58.19), fourth in the 4x200-meter relay (1:47.89) and ninth in the 4x100-meter relay (52.78).

Also at the Howard Wood, Windom Area freshman Delaney Smith was third in the shot put with a 41-1 throw.

In assessing the boys’ Division AA field Tuesday in Worthington, Brands made special mention of Pipestone Area’s outstanding individual athletes while saying that the Trojans’ depth may give them a chance at competing for a top spot.

“We’ve had a pretty good season to this point,” he declared Wednesday during a sunny afternoon practice. “We’ve run well this season. I think we cover our events pretty well. We’ve got two good competitors in about every event, so I think that sets us up pretty well for the Trojan Relays.”

In predicting what will happen on Tuesday, it may be more difficult to assess the field events. Because of the late 2018 winter, shot putters and discus throwers, and high jumpers and pole vaulters suffered more setbacks than the runners.

Said Trojan shot and discus specialist Bryce Olsen, another of the team’s top male athletes, “It took a little more to get into it this season, ‘cuz we were inside for so long. … Because all you can do is work footwork in there.”

At Howard Wood, Worthington showed strength in its hurdling, as Obang Ojulu placed 13th in the 110-meter hurdles with a 15.64 time and teammate Emmett Bicket was 27th in the 300-meter hurdles (43.23).

As usual, Pipestone Area displayed the exceptional individual talent of defending Minnesota Class A high jump champion Tyl Woelber. At Howard Wood this year, Woelber won the long jump (22-02.25), placed fourth in the triple jump (44-04.5) and was 12th with a 6-2 leap in the high jump (he covered state last year in 6-7). Arrows teammate Carter Nesvold placed fourth in the 400-meter race, in 51.32.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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