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Thompson's Izzy Shirek is a quick learner

Izzy Shirek

Her disdain for distance running has resulted in Izzy Shirek becoming a state title contender.

Shirek enters today's Class B Northeast Region track meet in Larimore with the state's best high jump. The Thompson High School sophomore cleared a personal-record 5 feet, 4 inches last Saturday.

Shirek is only a second-year high jumper. She thought it would be a fun event—as opposed to what her coaches were suggesting.

"I didn't want to run the 800,'' Shirek said. "That's a hard race. My coaches wanted me to run it and I asked if I could try the high jump instead. I didn't expect to do this well. I just thought it would be a fun thing to try.''

Shirek cleared 5-3 last season. When she made the 5-4 jump, the bar matched Shirek's 5-4 height.

"You'd think that would be a little daunting, looking up at the bar you're trying to jump over,'' Thompson coach Jeremy Anderson said. "But she looked good at 5-4. She nearly hit 5-6; she just clicked the bar with her foot.

"The word we use for Izzy is explosive. She's very quick, an explosive leaper. She gets to the bar, hits the plant foot and soars. Everything she does is leg related with her strong hips and quads.''

Shirek excels in jumps. In addition to the state-best high jump, Shirek is ranked in the top eight state qualifiers in the long jump, triple jump, 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles. "The events she is in are pretty technical,'' Anderson said. "She's a really driven kid. She likes those challenges.''

Shirek credits jumping coach Darian Hedland for much of her success. Technique has helped overcome height, as Shirek says she's generally one of the shorter girls in high jump competition.

"There are a lot of girls taller and stronger than me,'' she said. "And I'm not the most coordinated girl. So I need all the help I can get. Darian is an awesome coach.''

And, as for the bar being as high as Shirek stands, sometimes it is a case of mind over matter.

"I try not to think about it,'' Shirek said. "My coach tells me to pretend the bar is at 4-7. That helps.''

Here are the 2016 region open champions expected to be back today:

Boys—Hillsboro-Central Valley:: Shandon Toenies (100, 200, 400), Benjamin Dryburgh (110 hurdles, 300 hurdles), Oscar Benson, (triple jump), Gavin Longthorne (high jump); Finley-Sharon/Hope-Page: Ethan Brown (1,600, 3,200); Griggs County Central: Wesley Odegaard (shot put, discus).

Girls—Thompson: Lana Krack (3,200); Park River Area: Beatrice Kjelland (100, 200), Elaina Swartz (300 hurdles); Hillsboro-Central Valley: Gracie Wright (400, 800), Katja Berge (triple jump); Larimore: Sloan Smith (shot put); Drayton/Valley-Edinburg: Laiken Larson (high jump); Langdon Area: Sydney Ellingson (long jump); Finley-Sharon/Hope-Page: Mikayla Koenig (1,600).