Area athletes reach podium at state track meet
Nevis' Jack McNamee, Ayo Ogundeji and Jade Rypkema along with Park Rapids' Hannah Morgan earned medals at Class A meet.
In addition to having Park Rapids sophomore Eli Bervig, junior Kaleb Stearns, senior Nathaniel Bervig and senior Lane Monaghan in the boys 4 x 800-meter relay, Nevis sophomore Jade Rypkema in the girls 3,200 run, and United North Central junior Tyler Shepersky in the boys 1,600 and 3,200 wheelchair races win gold medals, four other area athletes reached the podium at the state Class A track and field meet at St. Michael-Albertville High School on June 17-18.
Nevis senior Jack NcNamee placed fourth in the boys 800-meter run in 1:58.41, Nevis eighth grader Ayo Ogundeji placed sixth in the boys 200-meter dash in 22.76, Rypkema placed sixth in the girls 1,600 in 5:13.11 and Park Rapids senior Hannah Morgan finished seventh in the girls long jump with a distance of 17 feet, 1 inch.
McNamee entered the state meet as the No. 10 seed out of 16 qualifiers in the 800 after winning the Section 8A title in 1:59.98. The Nevis senior, who was first in the first heat, improved on that time by breaking the school record in his second state appearance to reach the podium. Perham’s Jacob McCleary won the state title in 1:56.92 while Rock Ridge’s Cameron Stocke followed in 1:57.96 and Belle Plaine’s Emmett Gerres finished third in 1:58.25. Section 8A runner-up Jack McQuown of Clearbrook-Gonvick was 13th in 2:02.28. McNamee finished 16th in the 1,600 in 4:43.51 in his state debut in 2019.
“Because of his time in sections, Jack was put in the slow heat. We knew he was capable of running a second or two faster to finish in the top 9 at state,” said Nevis head coach Jen McNamee. “Jack ran an amazing race and was able to win his heat in a new school record time. He had to wait until the second heat was done to see where he placed. It would have been fun to see him run in that fast heat to see where he would have finished. He was thrilled with the outcome of the race to end his senior season.”
Ogundeji made an impressive state debut, finishing sixth and breaking the school record in the 200 after entering as the No. 6 seed with a 22.79 to finish second at the Section 8A meet. Morris Area’s Ethan Lebrija won the state title in 22.30, Spectrum’s Max Reis was second in 22.36 and Section 8A champion Noah Kiel of Crookston finished third in 22.46. Pine Island’s Jarod White (22.52) and Minnehaha Academy’s Sanjay Redd (22.57) followed in the 17-runner field.
“Ayo had a great first state meet for an 8th grader,” said McNamee. “Ayo was in the fast heat of the 200 and we knew he had a great chance of finishing in the top 9 at state to reach the podium. Ayo had a great start and finished the race with a time of 22.76, which is a new school record. Ayo has an exciting future ahead of him.”
After winning the state title in the 3,200 the night before, Rypkema followed by earning another medal in the 1,600. Rypkema, who won the Section 8A title in 5:08.52 to earn the No. 5 seed out of 16 qualifiers, ended up placing sixth as Canby/Minneota’s Grace Drietz led the pack in 5:00.45. Heron Lake-Okabena’s Morgan Gehl was second in 5:00.71 while Fairmont’s Laura Thompson (5:04.65), Albany’s Olivia Goebel (5:05.09) and Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s Natasha Sortland (5:05.30) followed. Section 8A runner-up Lindsey Rotz of Barnesville was ninth in 5:20.12.
“I wasn't feeling the best. It was a rough 48 hours surrounding both of the races. I had some bug in my system, and I wasn't able to go when I needed to in the mile race,” said Rypkema. “Overall, I knew I could be somewhere on the podium and I was extremely happy to be there under said conditions, especially after the previous night’s finish.”
“Jade had hopes of placing higher in the mile, but she just didn't have it in her after her amazing 3,200 race the night before,” said McNamee. “Placing sixth at state is a great accomplishment and she was very happy with the results.”
Morgan also earned a medal in her first trip to state in the long jump. The Park Rapids senior entered as the No. 10 seed out of 18 qualifiers after finishing second at the Section 8A meet with a jump of 17-2, which was just short of her school record of 17-4. Morgan went 17-1 on her third attempt after going 15-10.75 and 16-6 on her first two jumps. Morgan ended with a leap of 17-0 on her final attempt. Annandale’s Nyalaam Jok won the state title at 20-0.50 with Maple Lake’s Maggie Larson (19-1.75), St. Charles’ Lindsey Root (17-8), Concordia Academy’s Shaina Zinter (17-7.50), Eden Valley-Watkins’ Brielle Kuechle (17-6.50) and Brooklyn Center’s Nayeli Williams (18-1.50) following. Section 8A champion Tatianna Wiley of Pelican Rapids was 13th at 16-4.50.
“I was more excited than nervous before my jumps. The 4x8 boys had won their race earlier that day, so that put some good pressure on me. I didn’t want to go home empty handed. Going in I was ranked 10th so I was the best jumper in my flight, but I knew I had to jump further than at least one girl in the second flight if I wanted to place. After I had finished all four of my jumps I wasn’t feeling the greatest about my chances of getting on the podium, but then I found out I took seventh. My coaches told me it was going to come down to who shows up to compete and they were 100% right. I must’ve done something right,” said Morgan. “I am grateful I ended my high school track career on a high note. As much as I wanted to break my school record, I still accomplished my goal of getting on the podium. It felt impossible in the beginning of the season, but I put in the work to make it possible. I am satisfied with my performance, but I know I have so much more to give. This gives me new goals to work for in college.”
Others miss medals
Missing a spot on the podium were senior Tristan Hill in the boys discus and shot put and the boys 4 x 400 relay team of junior Josiah May, Nathaniel Bervig, Stearns and Monaghan for Park Rapids; Ogundeji in the boys 100, senior Jack Johnson in the boys 3,200 and sophomore Evan Pohl in the boys 1,600 for Nevis; and junior Gabby Hrdlicka in the girls 100 hurdles for UNC.
Hill placed 11th in the discus with a throw of 140-8 and tied for 12th place in the shot put with a throw of 47-6.25. After a foul on his first throw, Hill had his best throw on his second attempt before finishing with distances of 128-4 and 131-9 on his last two attempts in the discus. In the shot put, Hill opened with tosses of 43-3.25, 45-9 and his best throw before fouling on his final attempt. Hill entered his first state meet seeded No. 5 of 16 qualifiers in the discus after winning the Section 8A title at 155-2 and No. 15 out of 16 qualifiers in the shot put after winning the Section 8A title at 47-1.50. Stewartville’s Will Tschetter won the state title in the discus with a throw of 175-7 while Section 8A runner-up Brady Skeim of Badger-Greenbush-Middle River finished 14th at 135-11. Tracy-Milroy’s Tony Nelson claimed the state title in the shot put with a toss of 59-2.25 while Skeim was 14th at 46-7.50.
“Tristan has been an absolute workhorse for us all season. He has such high expectations for himself and I know he was disappointed with how the state meet played out. I know he will grow from this and we're lucky to have him back next season,” said Park Rapids head coach Andrew Lachowitzer. “ I know he will be contending for a state title next season in both shot put and discus. I am super proud of Tristan. He is just a fantastic young man. Watch out for him on the track as well as he has become one of top sprinters in the section.”
The Panthers’ 4 x 400 relay team finished 15th in 3:41.37 after entering the state meet as the No. 16 seed out of 16 qualifiers with a Section 8A runner-up time of 3:36.79. Lake City claimed the state title in 3:27.43 while Section 8A champion Thief River Falls was fourth in 3:33.14.
“The 4 x 400 relay team just ran a little off. I think nerves got the best of some and that's all it takes sometimes,” said Lachowitzer. “I know our athletes will learn and grow from that. It was a great experience to get our 4 x 400 team there and we will look to make another splash next season.”
Ogundeji placed 11th in the 100 in 11.26 after entering as the No. 11 seed out of 16 qualifiers with a Section 8A runner-up time of 11.51. Spectrum’s Max Reis finished first in 10.84 while Kiel finished eighth in 11.23.
“Ayo was a little overwhelmed at first and his nerves got to him a bit, but that is expected in your first state meet appearance,” said McNamee. “Ayo had a great start in the 100 and finished with one of his best times of the year.”
Johnson finished 13th in the 3,200 run in 10:17.75. Johnson entered his first state meet seeded No. 17 out of 17 qualifiers with a Section 8A runner-up time of 10:37.10. Staples-Motley’s Emmet Anderson won the state title in 9:17.11 while East Grand Forks’ Tyler Mahar, the Section 8A champion, finished sixth in 9:43.15.
“Jack finished his last race of his high school career with a personal record. Jack has always been a part of our cross country team, had a great senior season and decided to come out for track this year. He put in many miles this winter and capped his first year in track off with a trip to state,” said McNamee. “I couldn't be happier for Jack. That is quite an accomplishment.”
Pohl, who was seeded No. 7 out of 16 qualifiers with a Section 8A runner-up time of 4:31.36, finished 15th in the 1,600 in 4:40.75. The state title went to Rock Ridge’s Cameron Stocke with a 4:12.94. Mahar was ninth in 4:28.28.
“Evan had an excellent season for a 10th grader. His first appearance in the state track meet wasn't exactly what he had in mind, but he gave it his all despite not feeling 100%,” said McNamee. “Evan is a competitor and will leave everything he has on the track. He has an extremely bright future ahead of him.”
Hrdlicka placed 11th in the 100-meter hurdles in 16.19. Hrdlicka, who placed 15th in the 300 hurdles in her state debut in 2019, was the No. 9 seed out of 16 qualifiers after winning the Section 6A title in 16.08, which broke the school record. Concordia Academy’s Shaina Zinter won the state title in 14.29 while Section 6A runner-up Jessa Kimman of Pillager was 12th in 16.35.
“Gabby's one goal this year was to be on the podium. She was pretty emotional after the race, but when goals are set high that has a tendency to be the outcome,” said UNC head coach Tom Smith. “She ran her second fastest time of the season at state. She did hit a couple hurdles, but overall I was pleased with her race. She just had some fast girls to run against. It is pretty huge just to qualify for the state meet.”