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DES MOINES — Decorah’s Katie Nimrod and Crestwood’s Ellie Friesen have elevated themselves from consistent contenders to champions on the Jim Duncan Track inside Drake Stadium.

These Northeast Iowa seniors will lead a pair of deep teams into competition beginning Thursday in Des Moines at the annual co-ed state track and field meet.

Decorah and Crestwood figure to be part of one of the week’s more compelling of the team races. Based on top season and qualifying times, Pella and Dubuque Wahlert have the potential to push 70 points while Decorah and Crestwood are capable of joining the mix if everything goes their way. Benton Community and defending champion Davenport Assumption also have plenty of depth.

“There’s a lot of really good teams that have the ability to score a lot of points,” Decorah co-head coach Brad Johansen said.

The Vikings are looking to improve upon last year’s fourth place finish when Nimrod led her team with a breakthrough performance. She captured an elusive championship in the 400 hurdles and anchored first place distance medley and 4x400 relays.

“She always has been a great worker — we actually had to tone her back a little bit on working too hard,” Johansen said of Nimrod, who has signed to run at UNI. “She’s brought the attitude that you’ve got to give great effort every single day and you pick up the pieces the next day and figure out where you’re at and keep trying to get better.

“I’d have a hard time ever betting against her if the chips are on the line in a relay.”

Sarah Mikkelson and Brooke Berns return also to championship relays, and Decorah has the potential to score points in seven different relays.

“We take great pride in the fact that we try to put a complete team together,” Johansen said.

Decorah has helped push Crestwood. The Cadets are coming off their top team finish of sixth with Friesen poised to add to her legacy as one of Iowa’s top distance runners.

A year ago, Friesen finished second to 3A record-setting runs by Assumption’s Joy Ripslinger in the 800 and 1,500, while placing third in the 3,000 and runner-up to Decorah in the distance medley. She recently broke through with championships in the 1,500 and 3,000 at the Drake Relays and enters state favored in all three individual events.

Friesen’s personal record of 4:31.11 in the 1,500 ranks seventh all-time in Iowa.

“Getting over the hump with two wins at Drake I think really has built her confidence,” Crestwood coach Jim Obermann said of Friesen, a South Dakota State track recruit. “I think that has propelled her into what can happen this weekend. She’s a great leader for us. She’s been there before and she’s been through the trials and tribulations.”

Crestwood will look towards four-event qualifier Katie Saner as an additional source of points in the sprints and long jump, while Sharon Goodman is capable of scoring points after placing in the discus at the Drake Relays.

Competition with Decorah at conference and the regional meet has helped strengthen the Cadets.

“I think they do bring out the best in us, and hopefully we bring out the best in them, as well,” Obermann added.

Nimrod and Friesen could potentially go head-to-head for a title in the distance medley where their relays enter with the top two times.

“There’s a pretty good chance that (announcer) Mike Jay will be calling a heck of a race coming down that last 100,” Johansen said. “They’re two very special competitors.”

In the boys’ team race, Hudson and Dunkerton have positioned themselves to contend with Class 1A’s leaders.

Hudson has several key athletes back from the squad that placed fifth a year ago with decent point scoring opportunities in seven events. Wyatt Kelly and Alan Jackson have the potential to place in the 800 for the Pirates.

The strength of Hudson is in the throws where Drake discus champion Dawson Ellingson has the top 1A shot put mark. Ellingson’s teammate, Cameron Fulcher, has recorded the second-best 1A mark in the shot put this year, and senior Jackson Reisner has potential to score in the discus.

“We knew districts would be a really good test for us and set us up really well for the state meet,” said Hudson’s first-year head coach Blaire Puls, who was part of multiple team titles at North Tama before joining her sister, Brooke, as a former track athlete at Nebraska. “I am a coach and previous athlete who never believed in the rankings. ... It’s whoever wants it more on the day of competition. It’s going to take a winning mindset out of everybody.”

Juniors Holden Gillespie and Brady Stone along with senior Travis Schake have formed a nice nucleus for an Iowa Star Conference champion Dunkerton. According to state seeds, the Raiders could score in eight different events.

Dunkerton qualified with a win over rival Don Bosco in the 4x100 where Daniel VanBrocklin joined Stone, Gillespie and Schake to produced 1A’s fastest time of the season, 44.26. Don Bosco ranks third at 44.35.

Dunkerton’s two medley relays are also seeded among the top four, while Gillespie is ranked third in the 400, Schake fourth in the 100 and Stone fourth in the long jump according to times reported to Quik Stats. Coach Jon Steffen has seen his relays excel after some adjustments prior to districts.

“We pointed out to them, if you guys finish where you’re seeded you’re looking at doing some serious damage down there at the state meet,” Steffen said. “There’s room for improvement too.”

Here are some other area athletes at teams to watch:

  • In Class 4A girls competition, Waterloo East junior Kerris Roberts will attempt to defend her 100-meter title after battling a hamstring injury all season. Southeast Polk’s Sydney Milani has recorded Iowa’s second fastest all-time 100 of 11.55 this season, while Roberts ranks third in state history with an 11.69. East is also the two-time defending champion in the 4x100 with Cedar Falls and Waterloo West also posting top seven qualifying times.
  • The Cedar Falls girls have posted qualifying times in five relays, while sophomore Emerson Green qualified third in the long jump. Waterloo West has also qualified seventh in the 4x200.
  • In Class 4A boys competition, Waterloo West senior Sam Tudor has qualified third in the 100, fourth in the 400 and sixth in the 200. His teammate Deyton Love has qualified fourth in the long jump, fifth in the 110 hurdles and ninth in the 400 hurdles. Tudor will anchor a 4x400 relay that qualified third. Cedar Falls’ 4x400 quartet qualified fourth, while the Tigers also produced top four qualifying times in the sprint and distance medleys. Waterloo East’s Jacee Clark has qualified sixth in the high jump.
  • In Class 3A girls competition, Iowa Falls-Alden’s Grace Juhl has qualified third and Maddy Juhl fifth in the 800. IF-A also has the second-fastest 4x800 relay from qualifying. Independence ranks fifth in the 4x400 and Kaylee Hosch has qualified sixth in the 400. Reagan Dahlquist of Waverly-Shell Rock sits fifth in the high jump.
  • In the Class 3A boys competition, Decorah’s Andew Kephart has posted the second fastest 3,000 qualifying time. Iowa Falls-Alden’s Devin Sheridan sits third in the 400 and is part of a 4x400 relay that ranks fifth. Waverly-Shell Rock’s Mosai Newsom had the third-best discus qualifying throw, and the Go-Hawks are fourth in the 4x200.
  • In Class 2A girls competition, defending shot put champion Marin Ehler of North Fayette Valley had the third-best qualifying mark with Drake Relays champion Jamie Kofron leading the way. Aplington-Parkersburg sophomore Sophia Jungling anchors sprint and distance medleys that have qualified in the top five. Jungling also qualified third in the 800 and fifth in the 1,500.
  • In Class 2A boys competition, Dike-New Hartford’s shuttle hurdle relay has the top qualifying time. Returning runner-up Keagan John of New Hampton has qualified fourth in the 800. Lake LeBahn of Union has qualified second in the 3,200. Jace Burrow of North Fayette Valley sits third in the 110 hurdles. Parker Kiewiet of Dike-New Hartford is coming off a strong long jump at the Drake Relays and has qualified fourth. Noah Fenske of New Hampton sits third in the shot put.
  • In Class 1A girls competition, Wapsie Valley’s Mackenzie Goeller qualified second in the shot put and discus after winning both events two seasons ago as a sophomore. Dunkerton’s Kaitlyn Wilder has the top discus qualifying mark and Starmont’s Vanessa Hamlett leads the way in the shot put. Ellie Loesch of South Winn sits third in the 200. South Winn has top three times in the 4x400, 4x800 and distance medley. AGWSR’s Aubrie Fisher has top five times in the 3,000, 1,500 and 800. Hudson’s 4x800 ranks second.
  • In Class 1A boys’ competition, Saint Ansgar’s Theo Baldus sits second in the discus and Grundy Center’s Jordan Hook has qualified fourth in the shot put. Rodney Schwartzhoff of South Winn sits third in the 200 and the Warriors qualified fourth in the 4x200. Tyler Lynde of Starmont qualified fourth in the high jump. Austin Hellman of Don Bosco qualified fifth in the 100, while the Dons also sit fifth in the 4x200 and sprint medley.
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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for The Courier

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