State track and field: Boltjes comes through for Ellsworth; gold eludes Woelber
BY AARON HAGEN
ST. PAUL -- A year ago, the Ellsworth track team was so small, it didn’t need a large vehicle to go to the section meet.
But this year, the Panthers not only needed a bus to travel to the section meet, but they had so many participants they needed one to take the team to Hamline University for the Class A boys state track meet.
And with Sean Boltjes’ eighth-place finish during Saturday’s finals, they will be taking a medal back with them.
“It’s been really good,” Boltjes said of Ellsworth’s season. “We went in kind of surprised. Last year, me and my brother were the only two going to sections. This year we had to take a bus to sections. And we had to take another bus to state. That was really nice.
“(The experience) is going to help a lot. We have nobody on the boys side graduating, we’re going to be just as strong next year.”
Boltjes finished the 300-meter hurdles in 40.95 seconds.
“It went pretty much as good as I expected,” he said. “I went in with the eighth seed and I finished eighth. Pretty much all of them are from bigger schools. It was kind of a rush trying to run against them.”
In the same event, Jackson County Central’s Isaac Johnson was fifth in 40.78.
“Everyone was really close. I was excited for this race out of everything. Just getting up here and getting to the finals, it made me so much more excited. The race gave me exactly what I wanted,” Johnson said. “Coming in to today, I knew it was going to be a hard race. I wasn’t ranked first or second by any means, but I knew I was up there and I had a chance to get a really good medal. That’s what I got. Just looking at the sheets from yesterday into today. Yesterday, I was in Lane 3 and I wasn’t supposed to do very good in my heat. But I still got third and got in the finals, which was exactly what I wanted.”
For Johnson, just making the state meet was an accomplishment.
“I had no intention of thinking I’d get here this year. Last year, I was just a semi-good hurdler, thirds and fourths in most meets,” he said. “This year, I won the first three or four meets we were at, and I was like, ‘This could actually happen for me.’ When I got to that 40-second mark I was like, This is a real possibility.’ I was looking at times and I was like, ‘I could actually get here.’ That really pushed me harder. I have everyone on the team to thank for that.”
Local athletes took home a total of nine medals from the two-day event.
In Class AA, Worthington’s Obang Ojulu was ninth in 40.39 seconds in the 300 hurdles.
Pipestone Area’s Tyl Woelber finished with two medals. He was second in the triple jump with a distance of 46-3.5 feet. He also placed third in the long jump with a leap of 21-7.25. Woelber was 11th in the high jump after clearing 6 feet.
“It was good,” Woelber said of his weekend. “Triple jump went well. It would have been nice to win it. But it was fun. Today was kind of rough. I hurt myself in the first long jump, I hyperextended my knee off the jump. That kind of ended my weekend, I guess.”
Woelber said his knee hindered the rest of his day, including his ability to successfully defend his high jump title.
“I tried to pull it off and say it didn’t hurt. But it hurts,” he said. “I coulda won (high jump) again. Same thing with long. I coulda won it. But it happens.
“Not a lot of people make it up. And for me to make it up in three and four and four (events) the last four years is a blessing. I praise God for all of it. It’s been great.”Goals are reached
JCC senior Damien VanWesten had a goal all year. And in the final meet of his career -- and on the biggest stage -- he got it.
“All year I’ve been trying to get a 49,” he said. “I waited until my very last race to do it in my high school career and I got a 49.8. I’m happy with that.”
VanWesten ran the 400 in 49.86 to finish third in the state.
“It feels great. It was a giant crowd that saw me do it. I’m happy. It was amazing,” he said. “I was feeling pretty good. I was a little tight from (Friday). But I had to stretch pretty much all day. I got loosened up and I felt great running. It felt good.”
But VanWesten and Johnson weren’t done getting medals just yet. They teamed with David Strom and Zach Poelaert in the 4x400 relay to finish eighth in 3:31.
“It’s perfect,” Poelaert said. “This is (JCC head coach Rafiel) York’s first-ever state relay team. I’m just really proud to be a part of it. I was really excited to run. I walked on the track Thursday and it felt like this is my place. I ran the best split of the season and it felt great.”
On Friday, the team broke the school record as they came into the meet seeded 14th.
“I’m so proud I could be a part of that,” Poelaert said. “And we beat it by three and a half seconds, it was amazing. It wasn’t really our goal at the start of the season, but we kept getting faster and faster each week. It felt great to do it.”
For Poelaert, this was his first full year of track after splitting time with golf and track last year.
“It was incredible to be a part of this team. I love everything about it,” he said. “Last year I ended up doing track and golf and I picked golf as my main sport, so I didn’t do too much of track. This year I told myself I was going to do all track and it turned out really good. Some of my classmates were hounding me and I bit the bone and I came out. I don’t regret it for a second.”
Pipestone Area’s Carter Nesvold, who qualified in both the 100 and the 200, was fifth in the 200 in 22.59.
“It feels pretty good. Last year I was only in the 4x400. This year I got to do individuals and it felt good to be on the podium,” he said. “I came in seeded seventh or eighth or ninth and I was just trying to get a higher place than that. I ran a decent time, not my best, but I finished fifth, so it was all right.”
Luverne’s Jedidiah Dooyema was ninth in the pole vault after clearing 12-6.
A few area athletes did not place.
Luverne’s Dalton DeSollar was 16th in the 1,600 with a time of 4:50.35. In the 3,200-meter finals, which were run on Friday, Westbrook-Walnut Grove/Red Rock Central’s Nathan Runck was 15th with a time of 10:07.17. Southwest Christian/Edgerton’s Joshua Raak was 12th in the pole vault. SWC/E teammates Avery Pater qualified in the 800 and Jaden Bloemendaal competed in the 100. Ellsworth’s Kade Boltjes was in the 200, and Kade, Sean and Cole Boltjes teamed with Noah Kruse in the 4x100.