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Track and field preview: Athletes to watch, three story lines for the season

By DAVID LA VAQUE, Star Tribune, 04/09/19, 5:52PM CDT


Track and field story lines

Shaliciah Jones of North High (5) took first place in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.07 at the Class 2A state meet on June 9, 2019 at Hamline University. Photo: Shari L. Gross • shari.gross@startribune.com

Six top athletes to watch

Joe Fahnbulleh, sr., Hopkins
Already holds state records in the 200-meter dash (20.69 seconds) and as a member of the 4x200 relay (1:26.37). Earned golds in both those event and could be used in others this season.

Jake Marzinske, sr., St. Croix Lutheran
Class 1A triple jump champion (46 feet, 10½ inches) and posted an all-state long jump. He also runs the 110-meter high hurdles and seeks a state qualifying time in that event as well.

Max Otterdahl, sr., Rosemount
Defending Class 2A shot put champion (58 feet, 7¼ inches) and recorded the best discus throw of the regular season (179-2) before taking seventh at the state meet.

Robbie Grace, sr., Blake
Multifaceted talent won the long jump (18-3), placed third in the 100 (12.49), second in the 200 (25.86) and second in the 400 (56.83). Signed with Wake Forest.

Shaliciah Jones, jr., North St. Paul
Won the 100 and 4x100 relay at state and placed second in the 200. Took first in 200 at the recent Mankato Varsity Showcase, running just 0.2 seconds off her best outdoor time last season.

Erika Townley, sr., White Bear Lake
Aiming to win the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles after placing second in both. Suffered a foot injury in the fall, but planned to make her season debut Friday at the University of Minnesota Open’s high school event until it was canceled because of expected inclement weather.


Three story lines for the season

1. Distance field in flux

Two elite distance runners will see partial to no action this spring. Injury will limit Minneapolis Washburn senior Emily Covert and Tierney Wolfgram must sit out the varsity season after a recent transfer from Math and Science Academy in Woodbury to Woodbury High School. Covert, winner of the past two Class 2A cross-country state meets and the 3,200-meter record holder, “has some leg pain and we want to be really careful,” Millers’ coach Curtis Johnson said, adding he hopes “to have her healthy by the end of the season.” Wolfgram, a sophomore who in 2017 swept the Class 1A cross-country meet and both the 1,600 and 3,200 in track, “will not be able to compete at the varsity level for one calendar year,” her mother, Karlotta, wrote in an e-mail. “Tierney is currently healing from a fracture in her left foot so she will most likely not compete at any junior varsity meets this track season.” Lauren Peterson, who won the 3,200 in 2017 then took second to Covert last spring, transferred from Farmington to Rosemount.

2. Wealth of winners

A large number of athletes return to defend their individual titles. In Class 2A, a half-dozen boys and the same number of girls seek a second gold medal. Some must fend off strong competition. In the boys’ 100, champion Ethan Peal of St. Michael-Albertville could again face runner-up Evan Hull of Maple Grove. And Rosemount’s Max Otterdahl, first in shot put, will be pushed by runner-up Kyle Atkinson of Burnsville. On the girls’ side, expect a battle for the title of Minnesota’s fastest female. North St. Paul’s Shaliciah Jones won the 100 ahead of Cloquet’s Kendra Kelley. In the 200, Kelley edged out Jones. And the 400 could once again come down to champion Ella Larson of Lakeville North and second-place finisher Elizabeth Acheson of Northfield.

3. Expand the state meet?

The state meet on June 7-8 could be one of the last two-class events. The Minnesota High School Track and Field Coaches Association will submit a proposal in May to the league’s board seeking to add a third class for the 2020 meet. Association president and Wayzata boys’ coach Aaron Berndt has said, “The biggest thing is better participation in the state meet,” adding, “we put together a schedule that would work” within the meet’s current two-day format at Hamline University “provided the weather doesn’t limit us.” According to coaches association data, Minnesota ranks sixth nationally in track and field participation numbers (about 32,000 athletes) but is the only state in the top 10 for participation to offer fewer than three classes.


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