Rugby High School track and field is in great shape following the program’s first outdoor meet of the season. The boys won the Clark and Sharon Lloyd Memorial meet in Fessenden on Tuesday, and the girls took a close second to two-time defending state champion Carrington.
Nolan Hovland had one of four state-qualifying marks for the boys team as the junior beat his personal best by five inches in the high jump. Hovland cleared 6 feet, 3 inches in a surprise to himself and coach Scott Grochow.
“I think that gave him a lot of confidence,” Grochow said. “That was a really nice surprise. I expected it, but not this early.”
Said Hovland: “My legs were feeling pretty good. I kind of surprised myself.”
Hovland took first in the event beating Velva-Drake-Anamoose senior Chris Peterson by one inch.
“(The qualifier) just makes it easier to focus on hurdles and if I don’t qualify in hurdles I can focus more on high jump or other events coaches want me to do.”?Other boys qualifiers included senior Nigel Hageness in 100-meter dash (10.51 seconds), senior Brad Heidlebaugh in triple jump (41 feet, 11 inches) and the 400-meter relay (45.61). The relay included sophomore Victor Gronvold, Heidlebaugh, senior Chris Hamilton and Hageness. RHS also won the 800 and 1,600 relays and took third in the 3,200.
“Any time you get some qualifiers in the first meet out it’s nice,” Grochow said. “We ran pretty well, especially in the three shorter relays. Our handoffs were far from perfect, but we know we have some work to do.”
The Panthers scored 169 points and Carrington was second with 132.5. V-D-A was third at 80. Other first-place finishes on the boys side for RHS included Hovland in the 300 hurdles (45.05). He beat Gronvold by 0.12 seconds. Gronvold won pole vault with a mark of 11 feet and Heidlebaugh won discus (137-02).
Freshman thrower Kari Fritel secured the girls’ lone state-qualifier of the day with a personal record of 36 feet, 10 inches in shot put. The throw was nearly two feet better than her previous best.
“I think it was because when I was in between throws I warmed up and jogged a little,” Fritel said.
RHS throwing coach Jessica Fritz said it was clear Fritel’s success was a confidence boost for the rest of the team. Carrington senior Kayla Hochhalter took first at 48-08, and the Cardinals and Panthers split the top six spots in the event.
Carrington won the meet with 194 points followed by RHS with 167 and Medina-Pingree/Buchanan with a distant 61.
“I was pleasantly surprised at how we sprinted,” RHS coach Bill Jansen said. “We haven’t had a normal schedule to begin with and we had three days off for Easter break and weren’t really in the swing of things. Really, it was just getting outside.”
The open air did the Panthers girls well. The 400-meter relay (freshman Kaitlyn Jones, eighth-grader Sara Stier, junior Kassi Jorgenson, junior Emily Stier) missed the state qualifier by 0.02 seconds in a winning effort of 52.82. RHS won all four relays.
The 800-meter relay team of Jones, Sara Stier, Jorgenson and Hannah Christenson ran 1:56.04, holding off Carrington by more than half a second.
“We haven’t run the 4 by 200 well the last couple years,” Jansen said. “We won it three years ago and the last two years have not looked good in that relay.”
The Panthers’ lone individual winner was junior Jessica Blessum with a mark of 8 feet in the pole vault. Blessum is recovering from a fracture at the bottom of her fibula suffered last fall.
“I haven’t practiced for like two weeks, so I guess I got lucky,” Blessum said. “I was taking it easy those two weeks, iced and did the I could.”
Blessum also took third in the high jump at 4-09.
The Panthers fared well in the distance events as eighth-grader Tristen Lunde took fifth in the mile at 5:44 and junior Allison Foster was sixth (5:56) as she broke the 6-minute mark for the first time. Foster was fourth in the two-mile race with a time of 12:39.
The boys and girls are competing today in Langdon.
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