Everything seemed to come together at once for the West Fargo boys' and girls' track teams last Thursday at their very own Packer Relays.
The fact that Fargo South was fielding only split squads against the Packers shouldn't take away from the twin victories West Fargo pulled off for the first time in at least eight years. Packer track coach Darin McKinnon said his teams hadn't each won Packer Relay titles since at least 2000.
"It's really nice to have the balance that we do have and go into a meet and perform that way," said McKinnon.
Relay teams help boys
The Packer boys went into the final event, the 1600 relay, only one-half point ahead of Jamestown and knowing they had to beat their Blue Jay counterparts. West Fargo, which had already qualified for state in the event, took second to Fargo North to secure the team title on their home field.
West Fargo's 400 relay team of freshman Shane Hillen, junior Luke Solum, senior Kyler Eid and sophomore Justin Gibson tied Fargo North for second at the Packer Relays, and had already qualified for state previously.
"We have a lot of young kids," said Eid. "We always have a good group of fast young kids, and if you look at a lot of them, many are no older than sophomores or juniors, and I think that's going to help in the long run."
Hewson makes it three
Senior hurdler Tyler Hewson qualified for state in the 300 hurdles for the third straight year with a win at the Packer Relays. He has the eighth-best reported time in the event in the state this season.
"We were in the wind right away and had to power through that, so it's kind of hard," said Hewson. "It's like a sprint because you have to go all out all the time."
Hewson said it's a relief to qualify, so that he doesn't have to concentrate so much on his time, which will allow him to concentrate more on beating his competitors.
"It's a guarantee you're in state now, and you don't really have to beat the clock anymore," he said.
Hewson will try to join sophomore teammate Zach Stromsodt, as a West Fargo qualifier in the 100 hurdles.
Ellie dominates - again
Sophomore Ellie Grooters won a meet-high four individual events at the Packer Relays - both hurdles events, as well as the 100 and 200.
She broke her own school record in the 300 hurdles at the relays and has the three top reported times in the event in the state, by almost two seconds. She also has the three top times in the 100 hurdles.
Grooters is the defending state champion in both events.
Grooters had never competed in the 100 before the Packer Relays and won the event and qualified for state with the fifth fastest time this season.
"I was kind of surprised, because I had never run it before. Running the 4x100 and the 4x200 helped in the sprints, because you know where you're going and know what you're going to do, just without the hand-offs," said Grooters.
She also has the fourth-best time in the 200 this season. Grooters said she'd like to run the 400 individual event more, but it often conflicts with the 100 hurdles at meets.
"I feel stronger this year and am doing things with more confidence, especially in the 100 hurdles because I know I can compete and be the top competitor," she said.
Junior Sarah Denne, fourth at the state meet last year in the 100 and 200, competed for the first time this season last week. McKinnon said her foot injury still causes her pain. Denne anchored the 400 relay at the Wahpeton Invite and Packer Relays.
The Packers haven't been close to their dominating times from last season in the 400 and 800 relays for several different reasons.
West Fargo is the defending state champion in both events and ran some of the fastest times in the history of North Dakota girls' track last season. Denne has sat out most of the season. Sophomore Cassie Shorma is done for the year with a leg injury that will require surgery. Last year relay member freshman Andrea Muller chose to play girls' soccer this season.
"Every year is different," said McKinnon. "You go into a new season fresh, and we never look at what we had last year. You have the kids that you have and you hope they're injury free."
A host of titles
Other West Fargo champions from the Packer Relays include senior Cassie Sayler (800), freshman Kaitlyn Stoppler (1600), eighth-grader Alyssa Mears (3200), the 800, 1600 and 3200 relay teams and sophomore April Andersson (pole vault).
Andersson is tied with others for the second best vault in the state this season at 10 feet. Mears has the top time in the 3200, while seventh-grader Christine Baltezore and freshman Britny Bucholz have also qualified in the event.
Sophomore Jamison Gehrig won the 3200 at the Packer Relays for the boys' team and had already qualified for state in the event.