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The Bemidji boys track and field team will compete in two individual events plus the 4x800 relay at the state track meet. Representing the Jacks will be (left to right) John Buckanaga (relay), Scotty Hulsebus (relay alternate), Jake Urban (relay), Alex Schoneberger (relay, 800), Ryan Rude (triple jump) and Matt Lee (relay). Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Seven Lumberjacks set to compete in state track meet at Hamline

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The track and field season at Bemidji High School will end this weekend as the Lumberjacks will send seven athletes to the state meet at Hamline.

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"The kids have worked hard all year for this opportunity and now I want them to reap the rewards," said BHS boys coach Steve Sneide. "Competing at state is icing on our cake and now it's time to have some fun."

His program will be represented by Alex Schoneberger in the 800, Ryan Rude in the triple jump and the 4x800 relay unit of Matt Lee, Jake Urban, John Buckanaga and Schoneberger.

Bemidji also qualified two athletes in the girls meet, senior Selina Gilbertson in the discus and freshman Allie Heifort in the shot put.

Gilbertson and Rude will both compete at 9 a.m. and Schoneberger will race in the 800 preliminaries at 11:20 a.m.

Saturday's schedule sees Heifort throwing the shot at 9 a.m., the 4x800 relay team competing at 9:20 a.m. and Schoneberger racing in the 800 final at 12:30 p.m.

"It is exciting to bring this large of a group to state," Sneide said. "The kids who are competing will have teammates cheering them on and that adds to the fun of the experience."

Heifort was a quick learner to the field events and this year made the switch from softball to track.

"My dad (Ernie) used to throw the shot and we worked on it last summer," Heifort said. "I found that I liked the shot and I thought I might be able to learn how to throw it. But I never expected to be doing it this year at the state meet."

Heifort's best throw this year is 36-8 and last weekend won the section with a distance of 36-6.75.

"My goal is to better my best throw and make it to finals and I'm looking forward to competing," Heifort said. "My dad told me to have fun and throw the shot as far as I can. And that's what I plan to do."

Unlike Heifort who is tasting state competition for the first time, Gilbertson is a veteran of the state experience.

"Before my senior year started my goal was to make it to state in all three of my sports: swimming, basketball and track. And I have been able to do that," she said.

Gilbertson claimed her section championship by sailing the discus 122-11, more than 11 feet past her previous personal best.

"Last year I advanced to state in the discus but didn't do very well. I really wanted to go back this year."

Gilbertson is seeded 11th in the discus but believes she can move up and finish among the leaders.

"It's going to be fun and I have nothing to lose," Gilbertson said. "I want to go out with a bang and finish my career with no regrets."

Rude also will be in action this morning and has his mind set on reaching 44 feet in the triple jump.

At the section meet he sailed 42-1 to finish second.

"To be a triple jumper I've learned that you have to have speed, good spring and you need to pop off three quick jumps," Rude, who switched to track and field this year after years with the tennis team, said.

"It was tough leaving tennis but I thought track would help me improve with my other sports. Track has been lots of fun and I'm glad that I made the change."

Schoneberger will be the busiest Lumberjack at the state meet as the junior will compete in the individual 800 in addition to the 4x800 relay.

"When I run I try to time everything right so I am completely exhausted at the end of the race," Schoneberger said. "I don't want to leave anything on the track."

As the anchor to the relay team Schoneberger has one responsibility.

"I need to get us the win," he said. "Normally my teammates put me in pretty good position and my job is to try and finish things off."

Among the athletes working to making things easier for Schoneberger is sophomore Matt Lee who is the lead relay runner.

"My job is to set the pace," he said. "I'll also pick up the pace at the end of my race to get us in the best possible position."

Once his leg is complete Lee hands the baton to Urban who tries to hang with the leaders.

"If I can stay with the top guys I can put us in the position we need to be to win," Urban said.

Bemidji's relay unit is seeded third among the state entrants and Urban believes that the Jacks can improve upon that position.

"If we can shave two seconds off our time we'll be challenging for first place," Urban said. "And my goal is to trim two seconds off my time."

Buckanaga runs the third leg and he has one thing in mind when he begins his portion of the race.

"I just try to put Schoney in position to do his thing," Buckanaga said. "Making state has been a long journey but we are there now and we may as well win the race."

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Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

(218) 333-9200
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