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Instant success didn't come to Francis Mendee on the track. Mendee was recruited by coaches to try out for track as an eighth-grader. There were no expectations of wins. For Mendee, just getting around the track was an accomplishment at that time. The sport was a chore. "I'd go around the track once and start walking," Mendee says. "I was tired. I didn't know much about track. "I had to work my way up." Mendee has come a long way running long distances competitively.
Grand Forks schools will be chasing the Pack next Saturday. West Fargo hosts the Class A East Region track meet. And West Fargo figures to have the favorite's role in the boys division. Red River has beaten the Packers once, at the Sertoma Club Invitational on April 25 when the Riders won the seven-team meet with 199.5 points, followed by West Fargo (177) and Grand Forks Central (157.5).
Shane Robinson doesn't consider any of the pitchers on his Minto baseball team to be overpowering types. The numbers indicate otherwise, however. Minto is off to an 8-0 start, largely behind the stingy work of pitchers Nathan Linstad, Sammy Gonzalez and Philip Schanilec. The most runs the Rockets have allowed in a game is four; it's been two runs or fewer in seven games. "They've gotten some strikeouts,'' Robinson said. "But we don't really have anybody with a dominant fastball, who goes out and blows his pitches by hitters.
CROOKSTON -- Hayley Solheim opened the track season by winning the discus with a personal-record throw of 104 feet, 2 inches -- a performance that was cause for celebration amongst her throwing teammates. It also was incentive. "We're all really good friends," Heather Schumacher said. "We were so happy for Hayley. But that also motivated me. I improved; breaking my PR in each of our last two meets." The trio of Solheim, Schumacher and Ciara Brewster has been highly productive for the Crookston High School girls track team. They're friends. They're rivals.
LANGDON, N.D. -- Dylan Crockett enters this week tied for the fastest time in the North Dakota Class B boys track ranks in the 110 hurdles. The Langdon High School senior has three of the state's four fastest times in the event this spring. Yet Crockett doesn't consider himself the favorite to win the event in the state meet. He tabs Rugby's Eric Kuntz as the hurdler to beat. "He's good, definitely one of the best in the state," Crockett said. "The hurdles are pretty tough competition. And I'd rather not be the favorite.
Because of the wet spring, Thompson hasn't been able to practice fielding on its dirt infield this spring. That hasn't seemed to hurt the Tommies' glovework. Thompson is off to a 6-1 start. A key to the fast start has been a defense that has made no more than two errors in any game and, in four of the wins, has played errorless ball. "Our pitchers are throwing well,'' Thompson coach Ryam Brantl. "They're good pitchers, smart pitchers. I wouldn't say they're the dominant, overpowering types.
THIEF RIVER FALLS -- C.J. Jackson was the one who got away at Thief River Falls. To the delight of track coach Lynn Dyer, however, the Prowlers have Jackson back. After spending his junior year in Florida, Jackson returned to Thief River Falls High School for his senior year. And he's already making a run at the school's boys track record in the 100 meters. When Jackson left, "I almost felt like crying," Dyer said. "It was a disappointment. C.J. is such a good athlete, just natural, God-given talent. You hate to lose somebody like that. I wish I could take credit for how good he is.
LARIMORE, N.D. -- For Taylor Morten, the spring is like grandfather, like granddaughter. The Larimore High School senior is one of the top triple jumpers in North Dakota's Class B ranks. Morten is a two-time state placer in the event, finishing fifth last season at the state meet and fourth as a sophomore. She's not the first in her family to excel in the event. Her grandfather, Allen Rud of Brainerd, Minn., was a standout track athlete in the jumping events and the 400 at Concordia College in Moorhead in the early 1960s. "He's big in track," Morten said of her grandfather.
The East Grand Forks Sacred Heart offense is on a roll. The Eagles have won five of their first six fastpitch softball games. They've scored more than 10 runs in four of the wins. They've twice hit the 20-run mark and twice have scored 10 runs in an inning. "We've had a good start," Sacred Heart coach Mike Marek said. "I can't think of any better starts offensively that we've ever had. "We're hitting the ball well. And our aggressive baserunning is putting defenses in difficult situations. It isn't just stealing bases.
After three straight seasons with sub-.500 records in North Dakota Region 4 play, Jim Hanson looked at this as a baseball season in which St. Thomas-Drayton-Valley-Edinburg could show significant improvement. Tuesday, the Blue Knights coach's hopes may have been validated. St. Thomas-Drayton-Valley-Edinburg scored three runs in the top of the seventh to rally to a 9-7 win against perennial Region 4 power Grafton.