SLAYTON — Double individual first-place finishes Friday by Danny Rodriguez and Brandon Berger helped lift the Worthington Trojans to a 19-point victory over Fairmont in the boys’ division of Murray County Central’s Early Bird Invitational high school track and field meet.
In the girls’ division, Fairmont won all four relays and utilized its superior depth to “run away” with the team title, outscoring the second-place Trojans by 101 points.
Individually, however, Worthington senior sensation Sarah Cham had a brilliant day, winning three events in convincing fashion.
Athletes from eight teams competed in the annual outdoor season-opener for most of the squads, including Worthington — which had participated in an indoor meet at Mankato on Tuesday.
“It was nice to get outside and let the kids get a taste of a bigger meet against some good competition,” summed up WHS co-head coach Ken Henkels about Friday’s event. “We had a lot of things go well for us.”
Rodriguez, a fleet-footed junior sprinter, won both the long jump (18-7) and the 200-meter dash (23.75). He also ran the leadoff leg on Worthington’s winning 4x200-meter relay team (1:35.81) and finished a close fourth in a tightly-contested 100-meter dash (11.70), just .06 seconds away from first.
“It was tough running into the wind,” exclaimed Rodriguez after his first-place finish in the 200. “I had a good start in the 200, better than my start in the 100 was. My start in the relay was pretty good and our handoff (to senior Rudy Ramirez) was pretty smooth. We got our timing down pretty well in practice, so that sure helped.”
While being busy with his sprinting events, Rodriguez wasn’t able to get any run throughs before the long jump competition started.
“I thought they were going to do the girls first,” he explained. “So I didn’t really get my steps down good and my first jump wasn’t the best. But Coach (Derek) Schmitz really helped out and my second jump was decent and then each of the next two were better.”
Running and jumping into a stiff wind, Rodriguez ended up leaping a full 13 inches farther than the rest of the 20 competitors in the event.
Berger scored 28 points himself with first-place finishes in both the 110-meter high hurdles (15.63) and the triple jump (39-11 1/2), along with a solid second-place performance in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles (42.64). Berger completed his day by running the third leg on the WHS second-place 4x400-meter relay team, which clocked a time of 3:37.48.
“Those were good hurdle times by Brandon,” declared Henkels. “Especially, that 15.6 in the highs.”
The combined 52 individual points of Berger and Rodriguez sparked the Trojans to a total of 203 — the most of any of the 16 teams.
Fairmont was a solid second with 184, scoring 125 more than third-place Martin County West, which had 59.
MCC (55), Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (26), Fulda (22), Windom (20) and Southwest Christian (16) completed the boys’ field.
In the girls meet, Fairmont tallied 198 points, while Worthington (97) and MCW (80) finished firmly in second and third places, respectively.
Fulda, paced by the dual victories of Kassie Wilkening, was fourth with 65 points, followed by Southwest Christian (54), Windom (46.5), MCC (25.5) and R-T-R (16).
Cham, Wilkening, Turner each girls’ multiple winners
Cham enjoyed a remarkable day, winning the 100-meter high hurdles (15.91) by more than two seconds, claiming an impressive victory in the 400-meter dash (1:02.30) by nearly five seconds and placing first in the triple jump (34-7 1/2) by almost three feet.
While warming up to anchor the WHS 4x400-meter relay team (which placed fifth in 4:38.46), Cham talked about how her first three events had gone.
“The hurdles went really well,” exclaimed Cham in an understatement. “My time was faster than in this same meet last year, so I was happy with that. The 400, that’s something else — it was hard going into that wind on the homestretch. The triple jump, now that’s my favorite event — the perfect meet for me is just doing the triple jump.”
Cham placed second in the state last year in the triple jump and certainly performed well in that event Friday, but her performances in both the high hurdles and the 400 left an impression on Henkels.
“Sarah really ran two great races,” praised the coach. “She has tremendous potential in the 400.”
Cham, who ran cross country for the first time last fall and played basketball for the Trojans over the winter, said that while the 400 is a tough race, it does not compare to the rigors of cross country.
“It’s a lot easier than cross country,” she said. “Running the shorter distance comes more naturally to me.”
While cross country may have helped Cham’s endurance for the grueling 400, it certainly had a positive effect on Windom senior Emily Turner, who turned an impressive twin victory performance Friday with wins in the 1,600 (5:43.84) and the 800 (2:32.48), pulling away impressively in each race.
Coming off a state-meet qualification in cross country, Turner didn’t do a lot of running over the winter.
“But, I stayed in shape some by figure skating,” said Turner, who was preparing for her leg of the 4x400 relay by jogging back-and-forth across the infield, cheering on Eagle teammate Meredith Hentges to victory in the 3,200 (12:48.16).
Fulda’s Kassie Wilkening enjoyed a stellar day for the Raiders, winning both the discus (100-3) and shot put (36-5), scoring 20 points for her team. She won the shot put event by exactly three feet.
Worthington’s Tara Svalland won the high jump (4-10) and MCC’s Kara Homandberg leaped 14-3.25 to claim first place in the long jump.
Area athletes who finished second Friday included Southwest Christian’s Megan Walhoff (200, 28 1/4), Fulda’s Tiffany Gehl (800, 2:38.26), Southwest Christian’s Hannah Van Dyke (300 low hurdles, 50.06), Windom’s Danielle Antes (discus, 99-8) and the Fulda duo of Micaela Paulzine and Haley Baumhoefner, who tied for second in the pole vault, each clearing seven feet.
Worthington’s 4x100-meter relay team (Alina Keodouangsy, Svalland, Samantha Thuringer and Brooke Henning) finished second in a time of 56.07.
Whitney Coriolan scored a pair of individual thirds for the Trojans in the hurdle races, clocking a time of 18.35 in the 100 highs and a 50.08 in the 300 lows. Meredith Moore (800, 2:47.22), Marin Korthals (shot put, 33-1) and Svalland (long jump, 13-5) also contributed individual third-place finishes for the Trojan girls.
Ojullu, Musa, Bents, Weg win, Trojans sweep triple jump
Individual wins by distance aces O.J. Ojullu (1,600, 4: 43.72) and Mubarik Musa (3,200, 10:30.79), along with first-place finishes by Jordon Bents (shot put, 49-31/2) and Mitch Weg (high jump, 5-10) gave the Trojans a total of eight individual winning performances.
The Trojans won a pair of relays — both by large margins — as the 4x200 team of Rodriguez, Ramirez, Will Collin and Jeremy Clark won by 10 seconds and the 4x800 quartet of Musa, Ethan Spittle, Nathan Mejia and Ojullu clocked a time of 8:49.22 and won by 17 seconds.
WHS swept the triple jump, scoring 24 events in that event, as Weg (37-9 1/2) and Mejia (37-1) finished 2-3 behind Berger.
MCC’s Tanner Nepp won the discus with a throw of 143-4. Jalen Voss (134-6) and Bents (131-0) gave the Trojans 14 points with a 2-3 finish in the same event.
Nepp placed second in the shot put (43-6) and Fulda’s Max Dibble placed fourth in both throwing events (121-4 in the discus and 38-11 in the shot).
Clark and Collin gave WHS a third 2-3 finish by clocking respective times of 52.72 and 53.67 in the 400-meter dash.
Eighth-grader Matthew Jirele finished third in the 3,200 (11:19.28).
Omot Okello placed fourth in both hurdle races, clocking a time of 17.85 in the highs and running the 300’s in 43.35.
Spittle (1,600, 4:59.45), Morgan Traylor (high jump, 5-4) and Will Dudley (pole vault, 11-0) added additional fourth-place points for WHS.
Collin, Clark, Berger and Ojullu were second in the 4x400 and the 4x100 team of Jesse Guerra, Spittle, Dudley and Mejia blazed a time of 48.28 and finished third.
MCC’s Jack Thony sprinted to a second-place finish in the 200 (23.90), just after Rebel teammate Schuyler Canfield placed third in the 800 with a time of 2:09.53.
Fulda’s Nate Getting was fourth in the 400 (55.34) and Windom’s Travis Mattson was fourth in the long jump (17-1).