Rockford qualifies six to state track and field meet

Delano’s Wittinger earns third trip to state in hurdles

BY DAVE PEDERSEN

SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS

Rockford track and field coach Andy Kahler said prior to the Section 5A meet that some of his team members had a chance at qualifying for state and he was right.

“We had an incredible section meet,” said the first-year head coach about the meet conducted last Thursday at St. John’s University. “We qualified six athletes in five events for state.”

Rockford is sending six to the state Class A track meet June 7-8 at Hamline University, including from left, Thomas Hayden, Sasha Galka, Zach Guthrie, Abby Botten, Kenny Gilb and Jordan O’Reilly.

Rockford is sending six to the state Class A track meet June 7-8 at Hamline University, including from left, Thomas Hayden, Sasha Galka, Zach Guthrie, Abby Botten, Kenny Gilb and Jordan O’Reilly.

The achievement is even more impressive when considering Rockford has not sent anyone to state in track in five years.

Delano was one of the smaller schools entered in the Section 2AA meet at Gustavus University Friday. Sophomore Alex Wittinger will compete in both hurdle events for the third time. Along with sophomore Marissa Bartels in the wheelchair division, Wittinger will represent Delano at state June 7-8 at Hamline University in St. Paul.

Rockford’s Abby Botten captured the title in the 1600-meter run at the section meet. Sasha Galka claimed second place in the 400 and Jordan O’Reilly was second in the 300-meter hurdles. The top two in each event qualified for state.

Sophomore Alex Wittinger advanced to state for the third year in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdle events. (Photo by Dave Pedersen)

Sophomore Alex Wittinger advanced to state for the third year in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdle events. (Photo by Dave Pedersen)

Two relay teams also advanced. The boys 4×100 relay finished first with Thomas Hayden, Kenny Gilb, Zach Guthrie and Galka. The boys 4×400 relay was second with O’Reilly, Hayden, Guthrie and Galka. The boys 4×200 relay was one place away from making it to state, taking third with Hayden, Gilb, Guthrie and O’Reilly.

“Every single runner, those who qualified and those who didn’t, ran with guts,” adds Kahler. “This was a dream meet where every runner in every race had a season’s best time. I have never seen anything like it before. My runners showed me that when the most is on the line, they will run their best.”

Hayden may have been the missing link for the boys relay teams. He transferred from St. Louis Park last season but did not go out for track, which he did do at SLP. He primarily ran on the three relays.

“When it comes down to it, the handoff will win the relay race,” said Hayden, who also plays football. “We focus on it more than normal.”

Rockford’s 4×400 relay is seeded third at state and the 4×100 is fifth. Hayden says the relays will work extra hard this week, trying to make the top two at state.

Also at sections, junior Jordan weeding was fourth in the girls 100 hurdles and took eighth in 300. She also was part of the girls 4×100 relay that placed fourth with seventh-grader Logan Henrich, junior Mariah Givens and sophomore Marie Jakubowski.

Delano girls coach Jake Pedersen also was pleased with the effort of his team. Senior Andi Jo Shrode placed third in the discus throw. Senior Grace Bauman would have placed second in the discus had she not scratched on her longest throw. Bauman finished ninth.

Junior Nicole Bressler had her best time in the 3200-meter run to place seventh. Bartels was the only competitor in the 100-meter wheelchair race. She will be one of three competing at state in the event.

“The high school league added the event last year,” said Pedersen. “There are only five wheelchair racers in the entire state and this will be the first time she will not be alone on the track.”

Pedersen said last year Wittinger was a better performer in the 300 hurdles, but this year the 100 hurdles has been her best event. She was first in the 100 and second in the 300 at the section meet.

The coach believes it is because the runners have not had time to increase endurance this season with the cold and wet weather keeping teams training indoors and meets being canceled.

The Tiger boys were paced by sophomore Adam Armbruster, who placed third in both the 1600 and 3200 events, missing state by one place. He broke his own school record in the 3200. Junior Sam Thomas was sixth in 1600 and ninth in 3200 with season best times.

Seth Norling captured fifth place in the 400 and senior Zach Checkal was seventh in the long jump. The boys 4×100 relay was fifth with Justin Elstad, Nathanial Hood, Adam Kraft and Aaron Klaers. The same group set a new school record in the 4×200 relay this season and won the league title in the 4×100 relay.

Delano defended its section True Team boys title this season.

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