True Team finals will challenge SSC squads

Five from league will compete Friday in Stillwater

Rosemount’s Alex Wolf (right) runs the final leg of the girls 4×100-meter relay at the Hamline Elite Meet. Rosemount will send its girls team to the state Class 3A True Team finals Friday in Stillwater. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

Almost one-third of the teams in the state Class 3A True Team track and field finals will be from the same conference.

Lakeville South, the defending Class 3A True Team champion, returns to the state finals Friday at Stillwater High School. Also in the girls field are Rosemount and Eagan. All three teams won section True Team meets last week.

Section 1 champion Lakeville South and Section 3 champion Prior Lake are in the boys Class 3A True Team field for Friday’s meet, which begins at 4 p.m. with several field events. Running events begin at 5 p.m.

Last year Lakeville South came in 14.5 points ahead of Mounds View in a closely contested girls meet. The Cougars probably won’t be favored to win this year, and “we’ll have our work cut out for us as there are some great teams, but hopefully we can perform well and see where we fit in the mix of the best teams in the state,” South coach Andrew Hilliard said.

Lakeville South’s chances for a high finish at the Class 3A girls meet hinge on the Cougars’ balance and depth. Last week South won only two individual events at the Section 1 meet but took the team championship over Lakeville North and Farmington. The Cougars were a force in relays at the section meet, winning three and finishing second in the 4×400 meters.

Jenny Mosser, in her final season of high school track before heading to UCLA on a volleyball scholarship, cleared 5 feet, 4 inches in the high jump at the Section 1 meet. It was the first time this season she competed in the high jump. Distance runner Brianne Brewster also is expected to be one of South’s top performers.

Rosemount went to Prior Lake and won the Section 3 girls championship by more than 100 points, impressing a number of rival coaches in the process. “I really like Rosemount’s team,” said Eagan coach Rob Graham. “Not a lot of people are talking about them, but I’ve seen this coming for a while.”

Rosemount also won the South Suburban Conference relays May 2. The Irish’s top athletes include sophomore Alexys Berger, who won the high jump and pole vault at the Section 3 True Team meet, and junior Shae Buchman, who won the long jump and both hurdles races. A team of sophomores Arianna Passeri and Alyssa Eichten, ninth-grader Madyson Dye and Buchman won the 4×200 relay at the Section 3 meet.

Minnetonka, Mounds View and Rosemount could be among the contenders for the Class 3A girls True Team title, Graham said. Eagan finished ninth in last year’s meet and is looking to move up, Graham said. “It’s a tough task when you’re putting nine of the top teams in the state,” he said, “but we’re happy to be in that circumstance.”

The Wildcats qualified for the True Team finals for the seventh time and the second time since being moved to Section 2.

Getting healthy would be a bonus, too. “We’re in better shape than we were last week, but we’re still fighting through some illnesses,” Graham said. “High school kids with 102-degree fevers, you don’t see that every day.”

The Wildcats could get a lot of points from junior Natalie Windels, who tops the state honor roll in the 300 hurdles, is second in the 100 hurdles and is in the top 10 in the long jump.

Eagan also might have uncovered a sprinting standout in ninth-grader Nyeaee Robins, who finished in the top four in all three sprints at the Section 2 meet. Sydney Flannery, Carly Czaplewski, Michelle Passe, Ashley Lentsch, Payton Kenealy, Jailyn Robinson and Windels helped the Wildcats win two relays in the Section 2 meet.

Wayzata and Edina are regarded as the favorites in the Class 3A boys True Team finals. Lakeville South, which finished fourth in last year’s state meet, could have been building toward a run at those teams. But injuries have put the Cougars a little behind schedule. Now, a finish of anywhere from third to sixth seems move likely, South coach Jon Gilmer said.

Injuries have hit South particularly hard in the distance events, which the Cougars expected to be one of their strengths. Their athletes are recovering, but the Cougars will be closer to full strength at next week’s South Suburban Conference meet and the Minnesota State High School League Section 1AA meet in early June.

Sprinter Jeremiah Jacobson, weight thrower Eric Rousemiller and pole vaulter Noah Shafer – all medal-winners in last year’s MSHSL state meet – are among those leading the Cougars.

“In True Team, our biggest strength might be from the 800 on down,” Gilmer said. “We have a chance to go one-two in some of those races.”

Lakeville South will be host of the South Suburban Conference meet Tuesday, May 23, and Wednesday, May 24. The SSC athletes that are competing in the True Team finals have three days to recover – not ideal, but probably enough, Gilmer said.

“Our goal is to put the best team we can on the track for the True Team finals,” Gilmer said, “and then to give them enough rest so we can do the same thing in the conference meet.”