BY DAVE PEDERSEN
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
Rockford will send a formidable group of track and field athletes to the state high school meet, starting at 3:30 p.m. Friday, June 6 at Hamline University in St. Paul. The finals are Saturday, June 7.
Eight athletes in six different events qualified for state from the Section 5A meet last week at St. John’s University. The girls finished fifth in a field of 25 teams and the boys were ninth out of 29.
Three Rockets have been to state before and others have proven their athletic ability and competitiveness in other places. The three baseball players who also gave track a try this spring helped two relay teams advance to state.
Rockford’s 4×200 relay took first place at sections with a time that ranks fourth fastest in the state. The relay includes Alex Byers, Brock Deering, Brendon Schumacher and Jordan O’Reilly. The first three are the baseball players working in two sports in one season.
The 4×100 relay took second to qualify for state with Byers, Ken Gilb, Deering and O’Reilly. Gilb and O’Reilly helped the relay go to state last year as well. O’Reilly also advanced to state by taking second in the 300 high hurdles. Erik Olson finished second in the pole vault at 12-7 to qualify for state.
Byers just missed going to state in the 100 by taking third place. Deering had two shots at taking second in the high jump and going to state, but touched the bar just enough to miss out and take fifth at 5-11. Nick Klonne was seventh in the mile.
Seniors Jordan Weeding and Abby Botten are the only Rocket girls going to state, but there almost was a few more. Weeding was third in the 100 hurdles like last year, but this time did top the state qualifying standard to make it to her first state meet.
Weeding, who also is a standout in basketball and volleyball, placed fifth in the 300 hurdles and was part of the 4×100 relay that just missed going to state by a fraction. Three relay teams finished less than a second apart, with Rockford third.
The relay had Weeding, Logan Henrich, Cally Nielsen and Mariah Givens, who was a close third in the 200, just .13 away from making state. Henrich was sixth in the 100 and Weeding was 10th in the high jump.
Botten returns to state in the mile after taking second at sections. She also ran at the state cross country meet last fall, while also playing soccer. In the winter she was a leader in basketball. Emily Eberspacher finished eighth in the triple jump and ninth in the long jump.
Coach Chad Robran said his newcomers to the boys relays had to learn and run fast. He said how the three baseball players would come after practice to work on track techniques.
“Every time out the 4×200 relay did not have their best handoffs,” notes Robran. “We had a big lead in the section finals, but O’Reilly had to stop to get the last handoff. We still won, but we realize we have not reached our potential.”
The first year head coach said the key to Olson making state in the pole vault was getting a vaulting coach this season. Rockford did not have a vault coach until Paul Herda showed up the first day of practice asking to help.
“Paul coached vaulters at Buffalo, helping his son win the state title,” notes Robran. “He was out of the sport and missed it so much that he asked to help. He is one of the best vaulting coaches in the state.”
Deering will finish as one of the top athletes in Rockford school history. A leader for three years in football, basketball and baseball, Deering makes to state in his only year our for the sport.
Rockford had 19 athletes in 21 different events qualify for the section finals. Robran expects more dual sport athletes to come out next year. The new track facility has been a big draw and next year it will host the conference meet.