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Track and field: Luverne girls, Worthington boys are sharp

Luverne's Jadyn Anderson hands off to Tiana Lais, completing the first leg of the girls 4x800 relay Thursday at Trojan field. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- They’re fast. In fact, they’re very fast. But fast isn’t always enough when you’re the Luverne High School 4x800-meter relay team and you’re coming off a Minnesota state Class A championship.

Cardinals Regan Feit, Jadyn Anderson, Tenley Nelson and Brooklynn VerSteeg captured the 2018 crown at Hamline University in St. Paul (with a 9:29.56 clocking), and they’re back again in 2019 and hoping to repeat the deed.

On Thursday at the Worthington Invitational, Feit and Anderson welcomed a pair of newcomers into their little circle. Tiana Lais and Elizabeth Wagner ran the 4x800 with them on a sunny, warm and breezy day and first place was easily attained in a time of 10:13.14. But Feit and Anderson -- the veterans -- know that victories will be harder to come by when the meets get bigger.

“It’s really hard for us all to have our best races at the same time on the same day,” Anderson said. “But you know what? We’re going to try our best.”

It’s remarkable, to begin with, that Feit, Anderson, Nelson and VerSteeg are running the 4x800 again together this year (Thursday was an opportunity to give Lais and Wagner some seasoning). Their goal is, of course, to win at state a second time, and to also set a new record. But Feit offers an insider’s take on what really matters in an event that outsiders might assume is almost all about speed.

“Running is a very mental sport,” she explained.

And the mental aspect certainly asserts itself in relays.

“Definitely mental toughness,” said Anderson, a senior who has been running the 4x800 since she was a seventh-grader. “Our coach (head coach Pete Janiszeski) does a good job to get us to peak at the same moment.”

The excitement of winning last year’s state race hasn’t completely worn off yet, promised Anderson. “It’s just double-whammy emotions,” she recalled. “I can, like, cry right now.”

Later this year, last year’s same LHS girls foursome will likely get their chance for a repeat. Anderson hopes they’re ready.

“Our bodies, they’re going to be ready. It’s just, ‘Are you ready?’ I guess a hurdle would be overconfidence. And our coach keeps us humble. He reminds us that there’s a target on our backs.”

In Thursday’s Worthington meet, the deep and very talented Luverne girls team did what was expected of them and won with 230.5 points. Southwest Christian/Edgerton was next with 118, Worthington 74, Windom Area 71, Hills-Beaver Creek 61, Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda 56, Adrian 43, Westbrook-Walnut Grove-Red Rock Central 33 and Ellsworth 1.5.

On the boys’ side, Worthington scored 171 points, followed by SWC/E 137.5, Luverne 119.5, Ellsworth 76, H-BC 49, HL-O/F 41, Windom Area 40, Adrian 30 and W-WG/RRC 24.

Worthington’s Robert Street had a good day, winning the boys 100-meter dash in 11.54. Next, he ran the last leg of the boys 4x200-meter relay with teammates Eh Kyoo, Abagotte Opiew and Alex Luong, coming from second place to first as the Trojans posted a 1:35.83 clocking. He competed in four events altogether, adding the long jump and the open 200.

Street said he battled nerves in the 100. “I always get a little nervous in the beginning. I just have to overcome my fears, run my hardest, and do my best. Just a whole lot of good competition here. You never know how it’s going to go,” he said.

Winning, though, makes the nervousness worth it.

“Every time I win a race, I feel good. It’s amazing. I know I’m contributing to the team.”

Another athlete in Worthington on Thursday -- one who always contributes to her team in a big way -- is Windom Area’s Delaney Smith. Though only a sophomore, Smith is already a seasoned veteran in the shot put and discus. She placed third in the state Class A shot put last summer.

On Thursday, she won the shot put with a 36-9 toss and won the discus going 127-0.

Smith indicated that she still has a long way to go to get where she wants to be. She described her shot put performance in Worthington as only “OK.”

“It’s been a rough start with the weather and everything. It’s just about getting the feel back,” she said.

Smith explained that she should be hitting her stride in another week or two. Her lifting schedule is key, and she’s just beginning to get into her “speed phase” of throwing (which emphasizes movement across the ring). Her goal is to reach the top of the state meet podium this year, which means she’s got to keep working on technique and “getting that big-meet feel.”

Luverne’s 4x800 girls did well in other events, too. Anderson won the 400 in 1:03.46 and joined Lais and VerSteeg to win the 4x400-meter relay. VerSteeg won the 800-meter race in 2:23.59 and Nelson won the 1,600-meter race in 5:20.30. Lais also won the long jump by going 15-0.

Worthington’s Kya Nickel was a winner in the high jump (4-8).

Ellsworth twin brothers Sean and Kade Boltjes had a good meet. Sean won the 100-meter hurdles (16.08) and the 300-meter hurdles (40.88). Kade went 20-4 to capture the long jump.

Worthington placed 1-2-3-4 in the 1,600-meter run. Christian Lietz won it in 4:45.54 and teammates Adam Koller, Andrew Huber and Jordan Melendez went 2-3-4. Huber won the 3,2000-meter run in 10:34.40.

For the complete Worthington Invitational results, go online at athletic.net.