PREVIEW: Pole vault, distance races are strengths for NB track

Senior distance runner Rhianna Rinke
Senior distance runner Rhianna Rinke
Junior pole vaulter and sprinter Evan Amunrud
Junior pole vaulter and sprinter Evan Amunrud
The pole vault is undoubtedly the most eccentric of all the events in track and field, but it is one in which the Viking teams excel.

A year ago, Mikayla Johnson cleared 12 feet to place third in the Class AA state meet, the highest finish by a Viking athlete.

Johnson has moved on to the University of North Dakota track outfit, but the Vikings retain the services of five outstanding vaulters this season. On the girls team, senior Katie Burnside, sophomore Ashley Robillard and eighth-grader Paige Bauer have been racking up high finishes.

For the boys, junior Evan Amunrud and sophomore Jose Elzarraga Flor have each cleared heights above 12 feet.

In addition to his vaulting prowess, Amunrud was all-conference in the 400 last season.

“(Amunrud is) our most experienced sprinter and a leader on our sprints crew,” boys head coach Bent Lundgren said.

The distance events should also be a highlight for the Vikings, after a very good cross-country season in the fall.

Senior Rhianna Rinke is the lone returner with state meet experience, and she has plenty of it. Rinke has run at state four times in the 1600 and three times in the 3200, with a high finish of seventh place (2015). She has also been to state on the 4×400 relay. In a Post Review feature last December, Rinke expressed an interest in going to state in the 800 for the first time, and breaking her own section meet record in the 1600.

“(Rinke) is our workhorse,” girls head coach Norm Nagel said.

Rinke qualified for the cross-country state meet for the fifth time last fall, and she was joined there by fellow senior Jillian Yerges, who looks likely to make noise in the 1600 this spring.

Sophomores Aiden Bear and Matthew Stuber enjoyed breakout success in cross-country and will lead the boys distance unit.

Sisters Sadie and Khyah Harper, who led the soccer team to state in the fall, will be among the girls to watch in the sprints/jumps group. Junior Keeley Ertl is a top triple jumper and will also contribute to relays. Sophomore Savannah Hoard and junior Alexys Olson are all-conference returners in the sprints. Senior Annie Gladitsch will be strong in the middle distances.

The girls throwing unit lost three all-conference or honorable mention performers, and will look to senior Lindsey Belisle for points.

The boys throwing unit is strong, with senior Derrick Isaacson, junior Colton Bauer and sophomore Dawson Drost already laying down big marks.
Sophomore Rylen Nelson (high jump, sprints) and senior Kyle Hendren (middle distance) will also be athletes to watch.

The girls have made it to the True Team state meet the last four years and will attempt to make it five on May 9 at Grand Rapids.

The coaching staff is Nagel (pole vault), Lundgren (boys head, hurdles, high jump, sprints), Bill Souther (middle distance), Kathy Robatcek (distance), Adam Wilson (throws) and Jeremiah Letourneau (long and triple jump).

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