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Four more gold for area girls at state track

ST. PAUL -- For a spring remembered for endless hostile weather, the track and field season had a sunny ending Saturday at Klas Field on the campus of Hamline University.

Liberty Slinden of Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City in shot put, Melissa Varpness of Montevideo in the 800 run, the Benson/Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg 4x800 relay team and distance runner Linda Keller of Paynesville all won first-place medals in the Class A girls division.

The 1,600 run provided Keller, the state small-school cross-country champion, with her second gold of the meet after winning the 3,200 run on Friday.

, a day of high-winds and threatening skies.

Also on Friday, Briana Wubben, a junior at Central Minnesota Christian School, won the long jump and placed fourth in the high jump. She added a third medal Saturday with a seventh place in the 100 dash.

While there was no gold in the boys division, there were many high finishes. Joe Plante finished second in the discus and the two-time champion Micah Hagerle of Kasson-Mantorville. Hagerle also won shot put on Friday with the MACCRAY senior placing fourth.

The Class A boys discus was the area's strongest event with Wade Powers of New London-Spicer taking third and Kyle Pietig of BOLD/BLH placing seventh in the finals.

The unheralded MACCRAY 4x100 relay came in seeded ninth of 12 foursome's but ran two perfect races and took second place in the finals.

Nick Spaeth, Montevideo's outstanding senior hurdler, ran outstanding races on Saturday but each time had to settle for third behind the same two highly-ranked hurdlers, Paul Mallory of Fairmont and Laquone Robinson of Brooklyn Park.

The boss

The Class AA meet started at 3 p.m. with the girls 4x800 meet relay. Minnewaska seventh-grader Madi Sachs led after one lap but with 30-meters left Benson/KMS's Emma Peterson, another seventh-grader, took the lead.

The Benson/KMS quartet never gave up the lead as the baton shifted to sophomore Cathy Rosemeier, eighth-grader Samantha Goff and finally junior Kendra Mooberry. They won by two seconds in 9:31.93 over Section 3A rival Luverne.

"She's a born 800 runner," Mooberry said of the quartet's youngest member.

"She's the boss," Peterson said referring to the team's veteramleader.

"We thought we had a chance," said Goff. "We talked about winning it. Strength and courage was our motto."

Keller's double gold goes with a gold in cross-country in November. A year ago she ran the 800, 1600 and 4x800 with modest results. Entering post-season, her coaches Darrell Carstens and Todd Spanier scaled her back to two events and emphasized her strengths.

"She wasn't too happy to run the 3200 because she says its just too many circles, but I think she's happy now," said Spanier. Her 3200 time (11:03.29) was over four seconds better than the winning AA time.

"She ran textbook races each time, though all she'll probably tell you is that she just runs," said Spanier, noting the junior's shyness when it comes to interviews.

Slinden, second in discus on Friday, was between 40 and 42 feet on every shot-put throw to mash the competition.

"I'd thrown a couple of forties in practice so I knew I could do it," said Slinden, a junior who never lost in shot this spring. "Today, I kept my feet under me and my weight back like my coach (Misty Langseth) had told me."

Brock Madsen was inserted into MACCRAY 4x100 after the sub-section as an alternate after the Wolverines 4x200 failed to advance. Madsen finally gave baseball for track fulltime after his junior year at MACCRAY "Because all my best friends were in track and I thought it would help me get ready for football (at Sioux Falls University)."

He was inserted into the foursome for the sections which the MACCRAY team won. They practice handoffs and more handoffs leading up to state. And it was perfect: a season-best 44.2 on Friday moved them from ninth to second seed and then a school-record 43.8 in the final.

Montevideo junior Varpness, the 2007 runner-up in the 800, went to the lead by the second turn and truly never looked back.

"I started out doing the 400 as a sophomore so I'm use to going out fast," she said. "I just run. I never look back."

She held a comfortable lead until the end when Savana Weller of Sauk Centre appeared on her shoulder to take second by a step.

"Well, I heard the crowd noise but I didn't know," said Varpness.

Benson/KMS's Mooberry took second by a fraction in the 300 hurdles after leading much of the race.

The defending champion expressed disappointment that she was unable to successfully defend.

"I slacked off going around the corner when I should have pushed it," she said. "Next year."

The 300 final was her fifth race of the meet and she still had the 200 dash to go where the fatigue showed and she took ninth.

With his elevated expectations, Plante said he was disappointed with his performances both days. He said he will visit the University of Minnesota today and the University of Wyoming later as he breaks down his college choices.

Powers said he knew he knew he couldn't beat the two leaders he knew he was a lot better than state qualifying throw of 152 and used the memory of his school-record 171-8 to prompt a 167 throw in the finals.

LQPV/DB freshman Ryan Swenson, the youngest runner in either race, ran personal best's in both races to medal in both the mile and two mile.

Travis Jimenez, Paynesville junior, medal in three events.