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Track teams stay hot

Wildcat junior Calla Dexheimer competes in the girls 1600 meter run at the UW-Stout Elite Meet at Johnson Fieldhouse in Menomonie Friday, April 6. Dexheimer posted a personal best time of 5 minutes, 34.23 seconds to finish eighth in the 38-runner field. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

If the River Falls track and field teams can continue the success they had during their indoor season, there's no telling what they will be capable of once they move outside.

The Wildcat girls set two more school records on their way to a second place finish while the boys won the team title at the 20-team UW-Stout Elite Meet Friday, April 6, at Johnson Fieldhouse in Menomonie.

It's the second team championship in three indoor meets for the Wildcat boys while the two teams have combined to break five indoor records.

"We have been getting contributions from many event areas which is great to see," boys coach Matt Kumershek said. "All the little things add up."

Those "little things" included some pretty big performances Friday, including new school records from junior Sofia Naranjo-Mata in the girls 55 meter dash and sophomore Emily Banitt in the girls' 200 meter dash, and three first place efforts by Jared Creen to lead the Wildcat boys.

Naranjo-Mata broke the tape in a first place time of 7.43 seconds to break the mark of 7.44 set by Katie Kolpin in 2001.

"So fun to see Sofia have this success," girls coach Kristi Wagner said. "She has been working so hard to come back from her ACL repair one-and-a-half years ago and I think she is just getting started."

Banitt posted her school record in the 200 meter dash with a third place time of 26.84 seconds to break the mark of 26.86 set by Amelia Kjos in 2014. Naranjo-Mata placed fifth in the race in 27.13 seconds while freshman Rachel Randleman gave the Wildcats three of the top seven spots with a seventh place time of 27.39.

Banitt also anchored the girls 4x400 relay team, following freshman Ambrea Kjos, sophomore Sarah Schneckenberger, and junior Sarah Langlois to score a come-from-behind win at the tape with a time of 4 minutes, 9.65, narrowly missing the school record established just a week earlier by Randleman, Schneckenberger, Langlois and Banitt at the Mankato Showcase.

"We decided to switch up the 4x4 a little bit, give Ambrea some experience, rest Rachel and play with the order a little bit," Wagner noted. "Emily showed tremendous heart with her dramatic come from behind win but each of the girls ran beautifully to get that win."

After winning four individual titles at the state gymnastics meet one month earlier, senior Sam Krueger cleared 10-feet to win the girls pole vault in her first action of the season Friday and added a fifth place time of 9.13 seconds in the 55 meter hurdles. Langlois contributed a second place time of 1:01.86 in the 400 meter dash and senior Emma Pupungatoa threw a personal best 34-feet, 6.5 inches to place third in the shot out and junior Calla Dexheimer placed eighth in the 1600 meter run with a personal best time of 4:34.23.

"So many PR's," Wagner pointed out. "The kids are doing great. Nice to see Calla have a huge breakthrough in the 1600, and Emma Pupungatoa in the shot."

Creen won the 55 meter dash in 6.7 seconds, the long jump with leap of 21-04, and the triple jump with a distance of 41-11.5 to pace the Wildcat boys. Senior Evan Rank finished right behind Creen in the triple jump with a second place effort of 41-2.5.

Creen also took third in the 200 meter dash in 23.55 seconds, just behind sophomore Stefan Klechefski's second place time of 23.53.

The boys scored big in the 400 meter dash with sophomore Payton Flood winning the race in 53.29 seconds, junior Jared Syverson third in 54.07 and junior Karl Linton sixth in 54.97. Klechefski, Flood, Syverson and Linton also teamed up to win the 4x400 meter relay in 3:35.87.

Senior Michael Rebozo boosted the boys team score with a second place leap of 12-feet in the pole vault and senior Brayden Richison was fourth in the 800 meter run in 2:04.65 while sophomore Maso Shea was sixth in the 3200 meter run in 10:31.54.

The Wildcat boys claimed the team title with a total of 97 points while White Bear Lake was second with 87.25. Hudson won the girls championship with 93 points while River Falls was second with 63.

The Cats are scheduled to open their outdoor season at the Knights Under the Lights Invitational in Lakeville, Minn. this Friday, April 13, before hosting the Wisconsin-Minnesota Border Battle Friday, April 20, beginning at 4 p.m. at UW-River Falls' Ramer Field.

"Both teams are looking to continue working hard and making improvements every single practice," Kumershek said. "Both teams are led by a strong group of emerging leaders who bring hard work, focus, and energy each practice."

Bob Burrows

Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.

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