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State-bound Panthers smash regional records

By Sue Sitter - | May 29, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT Anna Clements clears the crossbar to qualify for state at the North Central Regional Meet held at Rugby’s Johnsen Field May 21.

Rugby High’s Panthers track and field team sent a large busload of state qualifiers to Bismarck Memorial Day weekend with hopes high to repeat their 2019 North Dakota Class B title.

The more than 35 state-bound Panthers were fresh from regionals, where athletes not only qualified but shattered meet records in several events.

Athletes on both the boys’ and girls’ teams excelled not only in races, but jump and pole vault events.

Panther Trey Welstad, who had competed in the long jump at Glenburn High School, set a regional record for the event at Johnsen Field May 21 with a 22 foot, 7.25 leap, breaking Brad Heidlebaugh’s 2014 21 foot, 6.75 mark.

In the hurdles, J.D. Matehs shattered the 15.82-second record set by Velva Aggie Josh Horner in 2014 with a time of 15.28 seconds. Matehs qualified for state with nearly a second to spare – lots of time for that event.

Matehs went on to break another record for the 300-meter hurdle event, finishing in 41.49 seconds, beating Nolan Hovland of Rugby’s 2014 time of 41.51.

Matehs ran the anchor leg of the 4×100-meter relay together with Riley Tuenge, Welstad and Warren Walker. The team broke a 45.08 second 2012 record also set by Rugby Panthers with a time of 45.07.

Matehs said, “The most important moment for me so far has been competing in the hurdles because I’ve been competing in the hurdles since I was a seventh grader,” Matehs said of his time with Panthers track and field. “It was an event I really wanted to target and get after this year.”

Matehs said he would miss his time competing on Johnsen Field. The North Central Regional meet would be his last local event as a graduating senior.

“I’m happy for the friends and bonds I’ve made here over the years,” Matehs said. “I’m proud of that. I’m excited and improving for myself and them. You’re going to see me next to the track saying, ‘Go guys, let’s go.'”

After Welstad landed his record-breaking jump, he stood in disbelief, talking to Assistant Coach Steve Mueller.

“I feel weird. It feels surreal,” Welstad said.

“He’s been jumping really good,” Mueller said of Welstad. “He’s dedicated and loves the long jump. His goal is to win at state. He’s the number one jumper in the state right now and it’s a lot of fun. He’s talking about possibly trying to run some track down at Grand Canyon University in Arizona. He’s a repeat region champ. He won the championship as well in his sophomore year for Glenburn High.”

Mueller added, “We always get a good group of kids and this year, we’ve got a bus full. These jumpers jumped well today, both the boys and girls and we’re really excited about that.”

Anna Clements, who qualified for state with an 8 foot, 6 inch pole vault, said she’s shooting for her personal best, a 9-foot vault that qualified her earlier in the season.

“It’s pretty exciting. I’m more excited as a team than for myself because we have a lot of great girls and we’re the defending champions,” Clements said. “So, I’m excited for the team but it is exciting to be ranked to and help our team win again.”

Clements said getting back into pole-vaulting after a year away due to the cancellation of the 2020 season was “hard.”

“It was different just coming back because it was a lot of work getting our form back together,” Clements said. “It was tough.”

However, Clements said she looked forward to state competition, where she could aim for her personal best and cheer on her team.

“It’s exciting. I like watching them get better and supporting each other is a lot of fun. I love cheering for them,” Clements said.

Clements, a senior, saw several teammates qualify for state as freshmen. One ninth grader, Brooklyn Bartsch qualified in six running events. Bartsch has said during the season she plans to stay with track throughout her high school years.

Bill Jansen, coach for the Panthers girls’ team and Scott Grochow, who coached the boys, each received Coach of the Year awards for the North Central Region. Matehs was named Outstanding Senior Athlete for the boys’ team, while Makenna Vollmer of Harvey-Wells County received the title for the girls.

“I think winning coach of the year is a staff award not an individual award,” Grochow said in an email to the Tribune. “You don’t get named coach of the year if you don’t have a great staff and I believe we really do have a great staff.”

“We are very happy with the way we performed at the region meet and got a good number of additional things qualified,” Jansen said of the girls’ team. “We have a good mix of ages and events qualified. What I am hoping for this team at state is that our athletes perform at their highest level of the season and that we finish in the top 10 as a team hopefully pushing the top five. Over half of our qualifiers will be new to the state meet so it will be exciting to see how they handle it, and with our youth it will be great experience for the future which looks very bright!”

Following is a list of girls qualifying for state. Qualifiers may not participate in every event, according to Jansen, as athletes are limited to four events. Relay teams may change at the state level as well, since the schools qualified for state rather than the individual team members.

Seniors: Clements, 100-meter hurdles, pole vault; Riley Grove, shot put, javelin; Tesha Sobolik, javelin.

Juniors: Brooke Anderson, shot put, javelin; Mya Geisinger, triple jump; Taylor Mayer, 100-meter dash, 4×100-meter relay, 4×200-meter relay; Rylie Suchor, 4×800-meter relay.

Sophomores: Megan Buckmeier, 4×800-meter relay; Janikka Miller, high jump.

Freshmen: Tressa Arnston, 4×100-meter relay; Brooklyn Bartsch, 400-meter dash, 800-meter run, 1600-meter run, 3200-meter run, 4×400-meter relay, 4×800-meter relay; Madison Corum, 4×400-meter relay; Ella Jacobson, 4×800-meter relay; Haley Mayer, pole vault; Amelia Shepard, 3200-meter run, 4×800-meter relay.

Eighth graders: Lacie Deplazes, high jump; Elise Fahnestock, 4×100-meter relay, 4×200-meter relay, 4×400-meter relay; Ashley Martodam, 100-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles, long jump, triple jump, 4×100-meter relay, 4×200-meter relay.

Seventh graders: Bostyn Bailey, 4×200-meter relay, 4×400-meter relay; Hannah Senechal, 1600-meter run, 3200-meter run, 4×800-meter relay.

Qualifying for the boys are:

Seniors: Ethan Brandt, shot put; Isaiah Bundy-Smith, discus; Matehs, 100-meter race, 110-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles, 4×100-meter relay; 4×200-meter relay; Cole Slaubaugh, high jump, long jump; Kory Vetsch, 4×400-meter relay; Warren Walker, 4×100-meter relay, 4×200-meter relay; Welstad, long jump, 100-meter dash, 4×100-meter relay, javelin throw.

Juniors and under: Lathan DeMontigny, 4×100-meter relay; Bryceton Deplazes, pole vault; Austin Dibble, 1600-meter run, 3200-meter run, 4×400-meter relay; Kristian Fritz, 4×800-meter relay; Hudson Hooker, 4×200-meter relay; Connor Klein, 3200-meter run, 4×800-meter relay; William Lundberg, 4×400-meter relay, 4×800-meter relay; Connor Ramsey, 4×800-meter relay; Riley Tuenge, 4×100-meter relay, 4×200-meter relay, 4×400-meter relay.

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