PREP TRACK: Riders excel in relays with quality depth

There is strength in numbers for the Grand Forks Red River girls track team. Entering the weekend, only two Roughriders had qualified for the state meet in open events on the track -- junior Hadley Steffen in the 100 and senior Rachel Todhunter i...

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There is strength in numbers for the Grand Forks Red River girls track team.

Entering the weekend, only two Roughriders had qualified for the state meet in open events on the track -- junior Hadley Steffen in the 100 and senior Rachel Todhunter in the 300 hurdles.

Yet the team's quality depth showed in that Red River already has qualified for state in all four relays. And the top showing to date hasn't been in a short relay; it's in the 4x800.

The 4x800 quartet of freshman Ashley Rone, eighth-grader Hannah Arason, Todhunter and sophomore Rachel Loehr qualified in a meet Monday in Fargo with a time of 10:01.08. That's the third-best time in the state this season in the 4x800, less than one second off second-place West Fargo (10:00.32).

"We haven't really pushed to get our kids qualified in the open 800,'' Red River coach Tracey Heisler said. "We're taking our time, making sure the kids are healthy before we really start attacking those open events on the track.


"We've got some very talented runners. But we also have a lot of very good runners who are working hard and dropping times. What makes us strong in the relays is that we have a lot of kids we can sub in and out, keeping them fresh and still having good times.''

The 4x800 is a mix of different talents.

"Rachel and Hannah are more sprinter types who we've converted into 800 runners,'' Heisler said. "Rachel is a very good hurdler. Hannah is a very good high jumper. We don't run her in the open 800 very often because it takes a lot out of her legs. Ashley and Rachel both are regular 800 runners.''

While Red River has only two qualifiers in open events on the track, Heisler looks for that number to increase. She anticipates that runners such as Rone, Arason, Tiahna Burian, Christa Benson, Gretchen Schreiner and Andrea Hollingworth, among others, will qualify.

"I'm just proud of how all the girls are progressing,'' Heisler said.

Tough loss for Knights

Grand Forks Central's baseball team has struggled so far this season with two wins in its first 13 games. The Knights' situation wasn't helped by an injury to Taylor Cantrell.

The senior pitcher-infielder apparently is done for the high school season with an arm injury. Central coach Kyle Beckstead said there were at least a few games the Knights may have won with Cantrell either pitching or hitting.


"Taylor had arm issues with us last season,'' Beckstead said. "He was fine in Legion ball last summer, and at the start of our season. But he started having trouble, went to a doctor and found out he had tendinitis. So it looks like he's pulling the plug for our season. He's still planning to play the Legion season.

"He would be our No. 1 pitcher. He'd probably hit third in our batting order and be at shortstop or third base when he wasn't pitching. It's a big blow, to lose a senior, one of your better hitters and your top pitcher."

Without Cantrell, the young Knights have only one senior -- first baseman-pitcher and No. 3 hitter Nick Moe -- on the roster.

"Nick's been a heckuva leader,'' Beckstead said. "I can't say enough good things about him.''

Wave mound depth tested

East Grand Forks Senior High has played only seven baseball games this season. But three of those went extra innings and another was a nine-inning game, so the Green Wave pitching depth has been tested.

With a 3.12 team earned run average, the 4-3 Wave have received solid performances from an inexperienced staff.

"Our staff was a question mark," Senior High coach Garret Hjelle said. "We didn't have a ton of experience coming back. We were hoping some of the kids could step up, and the arms are holding up really well.


"We keep pitch counts down, so with the long games we've had to use a lot of pitchers. And they've been throwing strikes."

The top two pitchers have been Mike Kinzler (2-0, 1.65 ERA) and Tyler Olson (0-1, 1.66). Dallas Dragich is 1-0 without allowing an earned run; neither has Dan Thompson in three relief appearances. In all, Hjelle has used 10 pitchers.

"Kinzler and Olson are the two who can overpower batters with their speed," Hjelle said. "And Olson has four pitches he can throw for strikes. He really keeps batters off balance."


Grand Forks Central senior T.J. Poole has signed a letter of intent to wrestle at Dickinson State. Poole was 43-4 and 160-pound state champion. Grand Forks Red River senior Ashley Knecht has signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake.

DeVillers reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1128; (800) 477-6572, ext. 128; or send e-mail to .

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