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Willmar Notebook: It's true, girls track team back to state

(Tribune photo by Rand Middleton) Ready to go the distance at the State True Team Meet on Saturday in Stillwater are these Cardinals who excel in runs from 400 to 3,200 meters. Front from left, Cassandra Johnson (senior), Sophie Schmitz (eighth grade), Samantha Hanson (sophomore), Ingrid Figenskau (freshman). Back from left, Grace Graves, Savannah Anez and Jessa Hanson, who are all eighth graders. All have run at one time on the point-producing 4x800 relay this spring.

For the fourth straight year, the Willmar girls track and field team is headed off to the Class AA True Team State Meet at Stillwater. Races begin at 3 p.m. Saturday.

The event is sponsored by the Minnesota Track and Field Coaches Association. The Class AAA meet is Friday and Class A starts at 10 a.m. Saturday morning. The Montevideo boys finished second to Pine Island in the paper Wild Card Meet which selects a ninth team from all the section runners-up. The T-Hawks were the runner-up in 5A. The Morris Area girls were 5A runners-up and ranked fourth in the computer runoff.

The Willmar boys were the 6AA runner-up to Hutchinson and placed fourth of eight teams in the Wild Card tabulation. Interestingly, at the section meet, Willmar finished just 11 points behind Hutchinson which had athletes from its Class 4A state championship. In the computer meet the Cardinals place fourth but just 13 points behind the AA Wild Card winner, Totino-Grace, which won the 5A football title. The Wild Card rankings stacked Willmar’s Chris Cunningham first in the long jump (20-5) and Jordan Linde first in the 110 hurdles (16.35).

Coach Jerry Popp notes that a hamstring injury to Josh Holz who was competing in the triple jump cost some points.

“I’m very proud of our guys,” commented Popp. “We had a great team effort.”

Under Popp, the Cardinals have geared training for True Team, which allows two entrants per event (three in AAA), more than, say, conference or the season-ending section meet followed by state individuals.

“Our girls team has a great chance to be on the podium Saturday with a focused effort,” Popp stated. “Plainville-Elgin-Millville and Sartell are deep and talented but we are right there in the top three, which we have not done before.”

Until now this has been a tough season for practice time. Willmar is yet to have its 10th practice outdoors though the season is over nine weeks old.

The true team series was originated in 1987 by the state track and field coaches, which claims Minnesota is the only state holding true team competition in track and field.

The Willmar girls will count on sprinter/long jumper Rose Jackson, middle distance runners Cassandra Johnson and Samantha Hanson, and its distance runners. All four relays should finish well with the 4x800 setting the early pace. The Cards are not as deep in the field events but Bailey Hovland and Caroline Bell finished 1-2 at section discus, Jackson won long jump and Hailey Mottinger placed second pole vault.

On the fly The National Collegiate Equestrian Association selected South Dakota State junior reiner Laura Dunlavy of Willmar to represent the Jackrabbits and the NCEA at the 2013 NHRA Reining Derby on June 29, in Oklahoma City. Laura posted a 12-3 record in the ring for the Jackrabbits this season on the way to becoming only the second Jackrabbit to ever win NCEA All-America honors. The Collegiate Reining Championship consists of 12 riders — four from the NCEA, four from the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, and four that are selected by the National Reining Horse Association.

With three of four CLC girls golf meets in the bag, Willmar senior Raelin Setrum is sixth in scoring average with an 83 stroke average. Junior Megan Iiams ranks 24th at 92.0 with junior Jenny Muesing of Brainerd leading with a 77.67 average. Four Alexandria ball strikers are in the top seven.

Jordan Smith doubled twice and drove in two runs on Monday raising his average to .272, but the Mudcats were swept by the Lynchburg Hillcats in a four-game series at Zebulon, N.C. On Tuesday, the Cats lost their fifth straight, 2-1 to the Salem Red Sox. Smith tripled and scored Carolina’s run.

The concrete patio along the third-base line has been extended 100 feet along the berm and now is nearly to the warning track in left field. The cement work was done by a crew from the city streets and park department. Also noted, a timekeeper shed is being installed at midfield at the Kennedy soccer pitch. It might be called “Manny’s Chicken Coop;” Manny Ronneberg, an educator for over 42 years, spent most of this century at a small table running the clock entirely exposed to the wind, rain and cold.

While Ridgewater College didn’t make it to the Region 13 baseball tournament field, some area athletes will be at St. Cloud’s Putz and Faber fields for the three day eight-team playdown starting today for a spot in the NJCAA DIII nationals.

Former Cardinals pitcher Alex Lotthammer throws for the St. Cloud Tech Cyclones, who open with Central Lakes. Also listed on that roster are Tyler Hebrink and Shawn Dollerschell of BOLD. In the Fergus Falls Spartans line-up are Andrew Brooks of Olivia (BOLD) and Randy Beyer of Morris, the MCAC home-run king with five clouts.

Former Ridgewater head coach Dwight Kotila has got his Century Wood Ducks in the tournament, though the White Bear Lake junior college is not an MCAC member. The Ducks are 34-11 and ranked No. 3 in NJCAA Division III. Kotila, who prepped at Dassel-Cokato, is going for an eighth NJCAA appearance. He took Riverland once and the Warriors six times to nationals.

Listed on the Century roster are pitchers Colton Vien and Eldon Evans of Montevideo and Ryan Fransen of Renville County West.

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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