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GIRLS TRACK: A bundle of nerves -- and success

Ashley Perez

As she lines up before almost every race, Ashley Perez feels a little nervous. Nothing -- not even the fact that the Nelson County freshman already is a state champion -- calms those nerves.

"My friends will tell me, 'You'll be fine. You have won state,' '' Perez said.

Perez will be seeking to add to her state titles this week as she runs the distance events at the North Dakota state Class B high school track meet, to be held Friday and Saturday in Bismarck.

Perez was runner-up in the 3,200 and placed fourth in the 1,600 at the state track meet last season. She followed that up by becoming the first Dakota Prairie athlete to win a state championship when she took first at the Class B state cross country meet last fall.

"I'm pretty proud of that one. I didn't see it coming,'' Perez said.

But that title also may have increased some of the nervousness she deals with before races on the track.

"It adds a little pressure,'' Perez said. "I feel like there are higher expectations for me now. I guess it's good to have that."

"But I think I have higher expectations for myself than others do. I want a PR (personal record) every time I race. When I don't get that, I'm hard on myself.''

A PR every meet might seem unrealistic. But Perez's drive to compete was apparent in cross country, when she won state as a first-year participant in the sport.

Dakota Prairie hasn't had a cross country program. When Perez showed an interest, the school attempted to form a co-op with nearby Larimore. But the deadline for required paperwork wasn't met.

An arrangement was made where Perez could travel to meets with the Larimore team, competing for Dakota Prairie. But Perez mostly was on her own as far as practicing.

"Ashley played volleyball in the fall,'' Dakota Prairie track coach Brendon Parsley said. "Then she'd run nights after volleyball with her mom (Jodee Aubol).

"At first, we'd get reports that she was doing pretty well in cross country meets. Then she started winning meets. It was surprising, and very exciting, for us to see her doing so well. But we knew Ashley had ability, that she could be right up there with the best in the state.''

Perez doesn't take the favorite's role to Bismarck.

She's seeded fifth in the 1,600 with a season-best time of 5:26.99. She's seeded second in the 3,200 behind Watford City freshman and defending state champion Asha Smith (Smith has a season-best time of 11:36.28 to Perez's 11:50.14).

"They're two different sports,'' Perez said. "I'm more of a long-distance runner. Track is a little harder for me. And, in cross country, it's one race and you're done. In track, you race, you wait for the next race and the nerves build up.''

Five to watch

Here are five other area athletes to watch at the Class B girls state track meet:

• Jocelyn Dinius, Langdon Area: The freshman was the star of the Northeast Region meet Saturday, winning four open events (100, 200, 400 and pole vault). Dinius goes to state with top-eight seeds in the 100 (second) and pole vault (sixth). She's a returning state placer in the 100 (fifth), 400 (seventh) and pole vault (tied for fifth).

• Shaice Marx, Thompson: The sophomore, coming off a title in the 300 hurdles at the Northeast Region meet, takes the No. 4 seed into the event at state. Marx had a pair of state open places last season, finishing fifth in the 300 hurdles and sixth in the 400.

• Annika Rotvold, Hillsboro-Central Valley: The sophomore anchors the Burros' strong group of distance runners. Rotvold has top-eight seeds at state in both the 1,600 (third, 6:26.24) and 3,200 (fourth, 12:02.94).

• Brooke Shimek, Thompson: The senior has owned the 800. She's three-time defending champion in the event. Shimek is the No. 2 seed with a season-best time of 2:22.07 (Watford City's Asha Smith has a 2:21.61). Seeding hasn't been a big factor in the past for Shimek; last season she had the fifth-best time entering the state meet and still won.

• Lexy Wittmeyer, Rolette-Wolford: The freshman takes the No. 1 seed in the high jump into the state meet. Wittmeyer has cleared 5-foot-7 this spring, two inches higher than any other Class B high jumper. She placed third in the high jump last season.

DeVillers reports on sports. Call him at (701) 780-1128; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1128; or send e-mail to