Packers take inside track - outside
Foreboding gray skies threatened rain, and the wind blew in gusts across the Fargo South track field last Thursday.
But it was better than being inside.
For the first time in recent memory, and maybe ever, a spring indoor track and field meet was rescheduled and held outside.
"It's something that, as far as I know and from people I've talked to, we can go back at least 40 years and this has never happened," West Fargo track and field coach Darin McKinnon said. "The weather has been in our favor, and it's a pleasant surprise, especially after how poor last year was."
While relishing in the fresh air and green grass, the Packers swept Thursday's Fargo South Invitational in the second win of the "indoor" season.
Led by speedy senior Shane Siverson, the West Fargo boys racked up 358 points to beat out Fargo South with 167 points, and Fargo North with 134.
Likewise, returning state triple jump champion Christian Bruenjes took charge for the Packers girls en route to the team's 333-point win. South finished with 157 and North rounded out third place with 128.
Although it is hard to judge a team's power so early in the season, the Packers do have reasons for optimism on both sides of the gender spectrum.
"We look at is as a team effort, and look at all areas for help," McKinnon said. "And we always look for balance; we want to have that balance and look forward to it every year."
For the girls, that balance will be spurred, in part, by the return of a veteran presence in both track and field events.
As mentioned, Bruenjes returns as the Packers lone state title winner from last year. On Thursday, the junior also showed her versatility by winning the triple jump and long jump, and placing in the 100- and 200-meters.
"She's very consistent, and she comes out and performs at each and every meet," McKinnon said of Bruenjes. "And she is going to be very important to the relays."
West Fargo's big win of the day came in the 3,200 relay. Led by returning All-Conference sprinter Christine Baltezore, the Packer girls rallied to cross the line in 10 minutes, 20.74 seconds to beat trailing Fargo South by more than a second. Also running legs for the Packers were Keanna Karnopp, Taylor Perry and Alissa Mears.
Karnopp and Mears also are returning All-EDC honorees, as is junior Brooke Grooters. That group of girls, in part, are what make the West Fargo track team so strong.
Sophomore standout Amanda Levin also had a good day Thursday, taking first in the 100-, 200- and 400-meters.
"We have a strong core of girls, and our numbers are up, which is nice to have," McKinnon said.
That same strength is echoed on the boys side, where a huge number of returners will be making their marks this season.
And back for his senior year is Siverson.
In the 1,600-meter relay, West Fargo trailed early to Fargo North. Alex Spacek, Shelby Shulz and Chris Hanson kept within a few lengths of the Spartans, but couldn't catch them.
Enter Siverson who snagged the baton and blazed ahead of North's Sem Waha to cross the line in 1:33.63, a mere half second in front, for the win.
But while he undoubtedly will be a team leader, Siverson is not West Fargo's lone standout. In fact, all but three of their 11 All-Conference athletes are back from last season.
Jake Kroke is one of those. Returning for his senior season, the All-Conference middle distance runner took first in the 800 meters on Thursday, missing out on 2-minutes flat by a half second.
Other top runners include juniors Darin Baltezore and Chaz Gunderson.
As for the field, the Packers have their strengths there, too, despite the loss of state triple jump winner Nick Williams to graduation.
Jaime Heinen took first place Thursday in the high jump after clearing 6-feet, 2 inches. The junior also placed first in the long jump with a leap of more than 22 feet. Teammates Gunderson and Connor Erickson rounded out the Top 3 in the event.
Heinen placed first in the triple jump, as well, after hitting 41 feet, 11.5 inches. Jordan Bishoff placed second for the Packers.
"We have a good nucleus of standouts, and our team rallies around them," McKinnon said.