North Dakota Class A girls: Help from friends

If Grace Finney successfully repeats as the North Dakota Class A girls pole vault champion, she'll owe a thank-you to the West Fargo Sheyenne track program.

If Grace Finney successfully repeats as the North Dakota Class A girls pole vault champion, she'll owe a thank-you to the West Fargo Sheyenne track program.

Finney, a senior at Grand Forks Central, takes the No. 1 seed in the vault into the North Dakota Class A high school track meet, to be held Friday and Saturday in Bismarck. Finney has finished the season strong-in a 15-day span, she hit season-high marks of 11 feet on May 6, 11-foot-3 on May 13 and 11-9 last Saturday.

The 11-3 matched Finney's state championship height in 2015. The 11-9 was a personal record. Both were achieved with poles that belong to the Sheyenne track team.

"I knew my technique was better than it's ever been,'' Finney said. "But I've been fighting with poles, trying to figure out which one to use.

"Our coach is a friend of the Sheyenne coach. They let me try a couple of their poles at a meet and it was what I needed. It just feels like the right length and weight for me. So we made a deal that I could borrow one that their vaulters don't use.''


At first it was using a Sheyenne pole at a meet. After last Saturday's East Region meet, when she cleared 11-9, Finney was allowed to bring the pole back to Grand Forks to practice with it before state. She says that, most likely, it will be the pole she uses during state competition Friday.

"As a senior, Grace is putting everything together,'' Central coach Eric Polries said. "She's been vaulting in some adverse conditions the last few weeks and done well. That should help her confidence.

"The new pole is helping her. But she's put in a lot of time to become one of the top vaulters in North Dakota. She's athletic, with good speed. But the big thing is she's smart. Grace is a student of the sport. And she's level headed, pretty even-keeled.''

Finney takes the No. 1 seed into the state meet and hasn't been beaten by a North Dakota vaulter. A repeat title would make school history.

Last season Finney joined Julie Strenkowski and Kari Novotny as Central state vault champions. The program has never had a two-time winner.

"I think there's more pressure this year,'' said Finney, who has verbally committed to vault at Oberlin College, a Division III school in Ohio. "Being the defending champion and having the best height in the state, that's exciting. But people will take more notice if I don't do well.

"But I'm not too nervous. I want to win. But if I do my best and and I get beat, good for them. I'd rather have a (personal record) than get a first, even at state.''

And if she does get a PR, it probably will come with borrowed equipment.


"I think track people are good about sharing equipment like that,'' Polries said. "And if that helps one girl get to a higher level, that helps everybody get to a higher level. That competition pushes kids.''

Class A girls

5 area athletes to watch

Karly Ackley, GF Central: The junior is one of the state's dominant distance runners. Ackley was runner-up at state in the 1,600 and 3,200 last season. She's seeded first in the 3,200, second in the 1,600 and fifth in the 800.

Hannah Arason, Red River: The senior is seeded first in the high jump and second in the javelin. Arason won both events at state as a junior, but was third in the javelin and tied for seventh in an injury-filled junior season.

Grace Emineth, Red River: Just an eighth-grader, she's already a dominant long jumper. Emineth won the state long jump title last season and is the No. 1 seed this season.

Grace Finney, GF Central: The senior will bid to become the first two-time state pole vault champion in the Knights' program. She's the No. 1 seed in the event with a season-best 11-9 vault.

Mackenzie Severson, Red River: The freshman is a multiple scoring threat at state. She has top-eight seeds in the 200 (third), 100 hurdles (fourth) and 300 hurdles (sixth).


Returning state placers

800: 8. Karly Ackley, GF Central

1,600: 2. Ackley, GF Central

3,200: 2. Ackley, GF Central

Javelin: 3. Hannah Arason, GF Red River; 8. Elli Strand, GF Red River

High jump: 7. (tie) Arason

Long jump: 1. Grace Emineth, Red River

Pole vault: 1. Grace Finney, GF Central; 6. Bailee Enlow, Red River


Area top-8 open seeds

200: 3. Mackenzie Severson, GF Red River

800: 5. Karly Ackley, GF Central; 8. Alexis Roehl, GF Central

1,600: 2. Ackley, GF Central; 5. Roehl, GF Central; 8. Rachel Torrey, GF Central

3,200: 1. Ackley, GF Central; 6. Roehl, GF Central; 7. Torrey, GF Central

100 hurdles: 4. Severson, Red River

300 hurdles: 6. Severson, Red River

High jump: 1. Hannah Arason, Red River; 6. (tie) Ashley Conneran, Red River; 6. (tie) Beth Alexander, Devils Lake


Long jump: 1. Grace Emineth, Red River

Triple jump: 6. Claire Leach, Red River

Pole vault: 1. Grace Finney, GF Central; 5. (tie) Bailee Enlow, Red River

Shot put: 3. Erin Nelson, Devils Lake; 6. Shelby Frank, Red River; 7. Mia Murph, Red River

Discus: 2. Frank, Red River

Javelin: 2. Arason, Red River; 7. Nelson, Devils Lake

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