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State track and field: Luverne relay team, Neece pace area girls at Hamline

Happy members of the Luverne 4x800-meter relay team (from left) Regan Feit, Jadyn Anderson, Tenley Nelson and Brooklyn VerSteeg pose after placing first in the girls state Class A field in the event. (Aaron Hagen/The Globe)1 / 5
Realizing she had just secured first place in the Class A girls 100-meter hurdles, Pipestone Area junior Michelle Neece (middle) allows herself a smile. (Aaron Hagen/The Globe)2 / 5
Delaney Smith of Windom Area lets fly with the shot put Saturday at the 2018 Minnesota Class A track and field meet. She finished third in the event. (Aaron Hagen/The Globe)3 / 5
With the look of resolve etched across her face, Morgan Gehl (in black) of Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda moves ahead in the 1,600-meter state finals. She placed fourth in both the 1,600 and the 3,200 at state. (Aaron Hagen/The Globe)4 / 5
Southwest Christian/Edgerton pole vaulter Kaitlin Schuur makes a run at the bar Saturday at the 2018 state Class A track and field meet. (Aaron Hagen/The Globe)5 / 5

ST. PAUL -- When the Luverne girls 4x800-meter relay team captured first place Saturday in the Minnesota state Class A track and field meet, the giddiness -- the crying -- the shock of being at the top of the pecking order -- was almost too much.

“I’ve wanted this ever since I started (in track),” said junior Jadyn Anderson, who had run the 4x800 at state three times before. “I was bawling. I’m sure there are some ugly pictures of me,” she said after stepping off the medal stand.

Tenley Nelson didn’t wait for the race to start before she felt the tears.

“I was like crying before the race. I was so nervous.” she said.

Cardinals Regan Feit, Anderson, Nelson and Brooklyn VerSteeg toured the oval Saturday at Hamline University in St. Paul in 9.29.56, setting a new school record on the way to the championship. They easily beat second-place Stewartville, which came in at 9:37.64.

It was a great day for southwest Minnesota girls high school track and field Saturday. Moments after the LHS 4x800-meter relay foursome claimed gold, Pipestone Area’s Michelle Neece won the Class A 100-meter hurdles.

Three of the Luverne girls who ran in the 2018 4x800-meter relay (Feit, Anderson and VerSteeg) captured a sixth in last year’s state race. On Saturday, Feit put the team in third position on the first leg, Anderson upgraded to second place, and Nelson pulled the team into first. VerSteeg maintained first place all the way to the finish line, extending her lead as she did so.

“We broke our school record,” said Anderson. “I came here so many years and always wanted a school record. With these young ‘uns,” she gushed, smiling at her teammates, “we did it.”

Feit is a freshman. Nelson and VerSteeg are both eighth-graders.

“I don’t think it’s real yet,” Anderson continued. “We prayed so much. We prayed after every leg. We left it all on the track.”

“I was worried at the beginning,” confessed Feit. “I got cut off and I was like, oh no! I just went around her after she tripped me. She cut in front of me and I tripped on her leg.”

When VerSteeg took off with her anchor leg, she had history at her back.

“All I could hear was everybody behind me. I knew I had to finish it. It was go time from then on,” she said.

VerSteeg competed later on a cool, overcast Saturday in the 400-meter run finals. She finished ninth in a time of 1:01.4. Nelson added the 3,200-meter run to her state meet events, finishing fifth on Friday with a time of 11:04.85.

The Luverne girls qualified for four relays. They were unable to place in the 4x100, the 4x200 and the 4x400.

Pipestone Area’s Neece, a junior, competed in three state events after enjoying a regular season where she was a consistent multiple-event winner. Shortly after winning the state 100-meter hurdles in 15.21, she was on the track again for the 100-meter dash, where she finished fourth in a time of 12.80. She also finished 11th in the pecking order in the long jump, going 16-03.25, and participated in the school’s 4x100-meter relay team.

“I felt pretty good the whole way through,” she explained after Saturday afternoon’s hurdle race. “I felt a little slow over the hurdles, but today I was running for place, and I got where I wanted to be. … I don’t think I hit any hurdles.”

Neece has already experienced an interesting high school sports career. She played basketball from the third grade through the ninth grade, but dropped the sport as a freshman. She tried gymnastics as a tenth-grader but decided that wasn’t for her.

“I was too clumsy for that sport. I hurt myself all the time,” she said.

To get ready for this spring’s track season, she lifted weights.

“It feels unreal,” she testified. “It hasn’t set in, I think. I did a lot in the off-season. I think it paid off. I felt a lot more ready than in previous years. I worked really hard.”

Gehl, Smith finish well

Spritely Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda freshman Morgan Gehl also had a satisfying state meet. After getting a fourth place in the 3,200-meter run on Friday (10:59.91), she grabbed fourth on Saturday in the 1,600 meters (5:04.23).

She was happy that on Friday she broke the 11-minute mark, and she was pleased with her performance on Saturday, too.

“The whole, entire race was really fast,” she explained. “And this is my best time. It was kind of crowded in the beginning. Like I was kind of boxed in. And I didn’t want to slow down, so I kind of crept in the middle.”

Another happy camper on the second day of competition was Windom Area ninth-grader Delaney Smith. She placed third in the Class A shot put with a throw of 41-10.5.

“I was kinda nervous, but after my first throw it was like a weight off my shoulders,” she said. “I came in seeded fourth, so I’m real happy with how I finished.”

There were other area girl competitors who placed.

The Pipestone Area 4x100-meter relay squad consisting of Neece, America Diaz, Zoe Velde and MacKenzie Haraldson finished sixth in 50.99 -- but only four one-hundredths of a second off fourth place.

The Southwest Christian/Edgerton 4x800-meter relay team of Audra Homandberg, Savannah Schultz, Mikayla Johnson and Annika Brands went 9:43.33 for sixth place in that event.

Kourtney Rozeboom of Hills-Beaver Creek was fifth in the shot put with a 40-7.5 toss. Kaitlin Schuur of Southwest Christian/Edgerton was ninth in the pole vault at 10-0.

Sierra Schmuck of Luverne did not place in the 200-meter dash. Others who did not place included Molly Boyum of Jackson County Central in the 300-meter hurdles, Jessica Christopher of JCC in the 800-meter run, Mallory Thorson of Luverne in the triple jump and Sommer Schaap of Southwest Christian/Edgerton in the 100-meter hurdles.

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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