Track and field: NLS Wildcat is having a season to remember
New London-Spicer's Ellary Peterson, with the help of her 4x100 relay teammates, has repeatedly broken school records this spring
NEW LONDON — Ellary Peterson is wrapping up her decorated athletic career at New London-Spicer High School atop the record books.
Peterson, a six-year competitor for the NLS girls track and field team, broke two program records — the long jump and 4x100 -meter relay — throughout the month of May. She was aware of both records entering the season.
"It's really special," Peterson said. "I never thought I would be able to do it, but I've worked hard and I am determined."
Peterson's first program record came in the long jump at the NLS Invitational on May 4. She leaped 17 feet, 1 inch to break Haley (Stahl) Wolff's leap of 16-9.5 inches from 2011. Wolff also happened to be the one who measured her record-breaking jump.
It was at the 2022 Section 8AA championships Peterson leaped more than 16 feet for the first time in her career at 16-1.5. That filled her with excitement and hope that she could reach the 17-foot mark when she returned to the track this spring.
Peterson took time watching and studying long jump videos online to try and incorporate some of the things she saw into her practices. She also received advice from her older brother, Blake, a 2018 graduate of NLS who also competed in the long jump.
Then, Peterson quickly began to see improvement throughout the 2023 season. She jumped 16-3 in the season-opener and rattled off a 16-6 and 16-5 in the next two meets before the record leap of 17-1.
"It was emotional," Peterson said. "On my first jump, my leg gave out and I only jumped 14 feet, so I was a little discouraged. But my mom, dad and brother were just like, 'Shake it off. It'll be fine.' Then on my second jump — it felt good — but I didn't think it would be the one.
"Then I saw the tape measure past 17 feet and my jaw just dropped and I covered my mouth and looked at my parents. They gave me a big hug. I was just in disbelief."
Less than two weeks later, Peterson etched her name atop the record books once more with the help of three of her teammates — freshmen Ayla Caskey and Katelyn Delzer and sophomore Emma Madison.
The four make up the NLS girls 4x100 relay team that posted a time of 50.81 seconds at the Wright County Conference West Championships on May 16 in Watertown, breaking a 30-year school record of 51.2 that was previously set by Jenna Lien, Beth Rhude, Chantay Ruhland and Heather Mayhew in 1993.
That record-breaking 4x100 time led to a first -lace finish and All-WCC West honors for Caskey, Delzer, Madison and Peterson.
"We've been wanting it and working for it for a long time," Peterson said of the 4x100 record. "Every day at practice we really focus on hand-offs and we practice them until they're perfect because hand-offs are really important and they play a big role in cutting down time and fractions of seconds that ultimately win a race or (in this case) break the record."
NLS head coach Chad Powers added, "She's been one heck of a leader. You couldn't ask for a better leader than Ellary."
Up next, Peterson will look to make it to the state meet for the first time in her career. The Section 8AA preliminaries and finals take place Wednesday, May 31, at 3 p.m. at Rocori and Saturday, June 3, at 9:30 a.m. at Detroit Lakes.
Peterson's 17-1 in the long jump and the 4x100 relay team's 50.81 both currently rank No. 3 among Section 8AA participants. The top two finishers in both events advance to state, unless others qualify through the Minnesota State High School League qualifying standards.
Wildcats freshman Danica Pederson ranks tied for No. 1 in the high jump in Section 8AA and looks to get back to the state meet for a second consecutive season. She broke her own school record of 5-4 with a jump of 5-5 on April 18 at the Wright County Conference Quad at Annandale.
Peterson is not just leaving her mark on the NLS track and field program. She will exit high school as a three-sport athlete who also competed in volleyball and basketball.
Peterson was a three-year starter in her three-year varsity volleyball career. An All-WCC selection in 2022, she was also a captain and voted the team MVP her senior season. She finished her career with 446 kills and a 96.3 serve percentage, which is third in program history). Her 217 blocks rank fourth all-time and a .233 hitting percentage is sixth. And her 476 digs is 10th.
In her final year of high school volleyball, Ellary's mother, Tina Peterson, became the Wildcats head coach. Tina, formerly Tina Kubes, played college volleyball and basketball at Augsburg University and was inducted into the Auggies' Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016.
"My mom was probably the hardest on me," Peterson said. "But I'm very, very grateful because she played college volleyball so she knows a lot and she brought a lot of knowledge to our program that will be used for many years."
As a two-year starter in her four varsity years with the basketball program, Peterson made it to the Class AA state tournament three times with NLS. The Wildcats made it to the consolation championship in 2020, but it was not played due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Then the team made it to the semifinals in 2021 and won the consolation championship in 2023.
Peterson and the Wildcats, who held a 30-2 overall record in 2023, helped Mike Dreier become the winningest coach in Minnesota high school basketball history. He has 1,039 career wins and is the only active head coach to have more than 1,000 wins in Minnesota.
Peterson finished her varsity basketball career with 255 points and 431 rebounds. She averaged 7.5 rebounds per game in her senior campaign.
"I'll definitely cherish the state tournaments for basketball, especially my senior year," Peterson said. "It isn't very often athletes get to experience a state tournament, much less three."
An inspiring setback
With activities suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Peterson opted to have bunion surgery in spring 2020.
Bunion surgery reduces the pain and corrects the deformity caused by the bunion in the foot . A bunion is an enlargement of the bone or tissue around a joint at the base of the big toe or at the base of the little toe, according to John Hopkins Medicine.
In Peterson's case, the bunion was located at the joint of the base of her left big toe and caused her to complain about the pain. The pain she experienced made her struggle to make it through walks with her family.
Admittedly, Peterson was nervous for the surgery. But it all went smoothly and she was in a boot for six weeks before getting back up to speed to compete in volleyball in the fall.
"It was really nerve-wracking because I've never had a surgery before," Peterson said. "But the nurses were really nice and helped calm me down."
Peterson appreciated the way her nurses treated her throughout her bunion surgery, which has led her to pursue a nursing degree in college after graduating from NLS High School on May 21 with a 4.0 GPA, which ranks tied atop her graduating class of 111.
Beginning next fall, Peterson will get away from Minnesota's cold weather and attend Grand Canyon University in Phoenix to pursue a degree in nursing. Following those aspirations, she hopes to attend anesthesia school to become a nurse anesthetist.
"I felt that I could do that or saw myself doing that (in the future)," Peterson said.