Rugby reigns at ‘B’
Rugby came two points shy of a Class B state boys track title a season ago, but the Panthers made sure this year they weren’t coming home empty handed.
Behind three individual titles by junior Eric Kuntz the Panthers rolled to the team championship – their first since 1996 – on May 29 at the Bismarck Community Bowl.
The Panthers placed in nine events and scored 69 points to finish 12 ahead of runner-up Dickinson Trinity.
In addition to Kuntz’s strong performance, the team also scored key points in the 1600 meters and the long jump.
“All the hard work that we did back in February and March and throughout the season paid off,’ said Rugby head boys coach Scott Grochow. “We really peaked at the right time.”
Kuntz’s day-two performance was a fitting end to a dominating season.
He won the 110 meters in a time of :15.67; and followed it up with a victory in the 300 meter hurdles in a time of :38.83, a season best.
Kuntz also won the pole vault, an event in which he was runner-up a season ago. His top vault was 13-6. And just for good measure Eric placed third in the long jump.
“I wasn’t really tired,’ Kuntz said of his busy day competing. “I guess adrenalin took over.”
Kuntz entered the competition ranked second in both hurdle events, and was just hoping to win at least one race. He exceeded those expectations, claiming both titles and became the first Rugby boy since Cody Gronvold in 2006 to win both events at the state meet.
He then followed it up with the victory in the pole vault and became the first state champion in that event from Rugby since Tom Heilman in 1998. “Once I got the hang of the pit, I did well,’ he said.
Eric racked up 36 points for the Panthers – and became the first Rugby athlete since Kevin Miiller 20 years ago to win three events at a state meet. Miiller won the 800, 1600 and 3200 meter events at the 1990 Class A meet.
“He came into the meet ranked high in all three events, and for him to finish where he did was impressive,’ Grochow said. “It showed he was up to the challenge and pressure of this meet and he performed very, very well.”
Of course there were others who contributed to the title, Grochow said.
Ian Keller of Towner placed in both the long and triple jump. He was fourth in the triple jump and the next day was sixth in the long jump. He also ran a leg of the 800 meter relay.
“Ian was a little disappointed in how he finished in the jumps, and that’s the competitor in him, but he picked up big points for us. He had a strong meet.”
Fellow senior Aaron Teigen placed second in the long jump as well as competed in the relays.
The distance events played a big hand in the title run. Senior Dylan Yoder was fourth in the 800 meters while senior Dustin Jundt was fifth in the 1600 meters and sophomore Kyle Volk was eighth. They, along with junior Erik Wangler, teamed up to a third place finish in the 3200 meter relay.
“We entered that race ranked fifth and finished third,’ Grochow said.
Rugby’s 800 meter relay also finished eighth. Relay members included Tyler Vollmer, Levi Schaan, Teigen and Keller.
A handful of others competed in events but did not place. They included: Levi Schaan (long jump); Jarret Lovcik (300 meter hurdles); Zach Thompson (javelin); Wangler (3200 meters) and Michael Houim (high jump).
If there was any blemish, it came at the tail end of the meet in the 400 and 1600 meter relays. A dropped baton in the 400 and running outside a lane in the 1600 disqualified the team.
“I know our relay members felt bad about what happened, but it turned out we didn’t need the points,’ Grochow said.
Indeed, Rugby scored enough to bring home its third Class B title.
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