Melissa Varpness of Montevideo will join two other former area track stars at the University of Minnesota in the fall.
Varpness, a Class A state champion in the 800 last spring, signed a national letter of intent in February to attend Minnesota. Nikki Swenson of Dawson-Boyd and Natalie Devine Litchfield, bother former state champions in high school, are currently on the Gophers' track team.
"I'm so excited," she said by telephone Tuesday afternoon. "It's such a nice school and the coaches are great. They send me (literature) all the time telling me how the team is doing and that makes it even more exciting."
Varpness weighed offers from other schools and nearly signed with North Dakota State University. She also had Augustana on her short list of possible school choices.
"When I visited the 'U', I stayed with Nikki," said Varpness. "We knew each other from track and we're both smalltown girls from the same area. They were having an inter-squad cross country meet and the cross country coach, Gary Wilson, is the assistant track coach. So I met with him and everything about the place was positive. (Wilson) knew my track coach here, Sue Heikes, because her daughter, Christie, ran for the Gophers a few years ago."
Varpness, who has been a varsity regular since eighth grade, was a state runner-up in the 800 as a sophomore. She also runs on two relay teams with the Thunder Hawks.
"I'm not sure what I will run with the Gophers," said Varpness. "I've been working on distance runs now too and I might go out for the cross country team there."
Varpness didn't run cross country in high school. But she was a five-year letterwinner on the swimming team and made it to state as a freshman and sophomore on relay teams.
She is looking at majoring in Kinesiology or Nutrition at the 'U'.