Panthers seek titles
The North Central Region Track and Field Championship will take place today at Rugby High School. The Panthers are poised for team title runs for boys and girls. Poor weather has prevented track teams around the region from ample opportunity at securing individual and relay state-qualifying marks, so athletes will be gunning for qualifiers as much as points. The top three in each event receive an automatic state berth.
Here is a look at events to watch for:
Boys 100- and 200-meter dashes: RHS senior sprinter and North Dakota State University signee Nigel Hageness is close to the top-form that led to state championships in the 100 and 200 as a sophomore. Hageness routinely battles nagging hamstring injuries, but he posted a new school record in the 100 in 10.49 seconds on May 10. His status for today was unclear mid-week. He is listed as the top qualifier in the state so far with a time of 10.74 because additional time is added if a mark is timed by hand. Hageness is yet to qualify in the 200.
Girls 200 dash and 300 hurdles: Rugby junior Emily Stier has torn it up as of late. The only Panther on the girls side to qualify for state in two individual events, Stier is looking to peak at the right time. She’s posted the region’s only state-qualifiers in the 200 and 300 hurdles at 26.7 and 48.44 seconds, respectively. Her qualifier in the hurdles came at the Velva Last Chance meet Monday.
“I got my steps down better than I’ve had before,” she said. “It just worked out really well.”
Girls 400: Only one in the region – RHS senior Hannah Christenson – has qualified for state in this event and she did so on May 9, posting an identical time to Carrington senior Paige Anderson. The pair ran 1:01.64.
Boys 110 hurdles: This event may feature the top two hurdlers in the region if they choose to keep fresh before next week’s state meet. RHS junior Nolan Hovland and Josh Horner posted top times of 16.14 seconds. Hovland is hoping to qualify in the 300 hurdles today.
Girls 3,200: RHS junior Allison Foster continues to improve in high school’s longest individual run. Foster won’t have the pressure today as she qualified in 12:16.14 on May 9.
“It’s really a big relief,” she said. “I’ve been working toward it since last year. Every meet I’ve done better, so I knew if I kept doing what I was doing, I’d get the time.”
Boys high jump: Nolan Hovland enters the region meet with the state’s best mark of the year at 6 feet, 3 inches. Hovland is pleased with his mark, but believes it may take 6-5 to win a state title.
“It’s kind of where I wanted to be,” he said. “I knew I could jump that high and it’s a pretty good height.”
Boys long and triple jumps: RHS is stacked in these jumps with Brad Heidlebaugh, Tanner Bernhardt and Zach Miller having qualified for state in all three. Bernhardt has the state’s third-best mark in long jump (21-9.5) and Heidlebaugh has the state’s fourth-best mark in triple jump (43-10).
Boys discus: Heidlebaugh was atop the state after a heave of 161-10 on Monday, but it was short lived as New Town’s Elijah Grady tossed 174-7 the following day at the Hazen Last Chance meet. Austin Cieslak of Hazen threw 169-9 at that meet, but neither are in Heidlebaugh’s region, so he stands a great chance to take today’s title.
“Being (near) the top is kind of fun,” Heidlebaugh said. “Everyone is shooting for you and I like having the pressure.”
Girls shot put: RHS freshman Kari Fritel is coming into her own as a thrower and will battle Harvey’s Kaylyn Frison for the title today. Frison has the region’s best mark so far at 37-11, but Fritel sets a personal best nearly every meet and threw 37-4 on May 9.
Girls javelin: Senior thrower Mattie Schmitt (Towner) is the favorite in javelin as she’s posted the region’s top mark to date at 120 feet. Schmitt hit the mark on Monday.
Boys and girls pole vault: RHS has two eager pole vaulters ready to hit their highest marks of the season. Junior Jessica Blessum has qualified at 9-0 and is the only girl in the region to secure a spot at state. Sophomore Victor Gronvold would need an impressive upset over defending champion Harrison Aide, of Bottineau, but the Panther has a strong chance of advancing by placing today.
Relays: RHS is stacked in both boys and girls and could qualify in all four relays based on place. The boys have qualified in the 400 relay, and the girls are set in all but one, the 800 relay.