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Jacks track and golf teams open up playoff season today

Selina Gilbertson enters today's section meet seeded second in the discus. Gilbertson finished second at section a year ago and qualified for the state meet. She will try to duplicate or better that performance today. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

The miles of running, the constant work on handoffs and the concentration on form will be put to the test today as the Bemidji track and field teams head to Sauk Rapids for the 8AA meet.

Bemidji's boys and girls teams will join their section contemporaries at 3 p.m. for the start of the long jump.

State tournament qualifiers will be determined in only a few events today as the bulk of the action will be preliminaries. In each event the top nine finishers will qualify for the finals and head to Brainerd on Saturday.

Among the events which will hold finals today is the girls discus and BHS coach Chris Lehman believes that the Lumberjacks could take both of the state tournament entries in the event.

"Selina Gilbertson is the top-ranked discus athlete in the section while Katie Verchota is ranked sixth and Allie Heifort ninth," Lehman said. "But all three are capable of having a great throw and making state by placing in the top-two."

The other girls events that will determine state entrants today are the long jump, high jump and 3200. State qualifying events in today's boys competition are the 3200, long jump, shot and pole vault.

The Section 8AA field includes 15 teams but Bemidji boys coach Steve Sneide isn't concerned about where the Lumberjacks will finish.

"Our top concern today is to qualify individuals for the finals," Sneide said. "The emphasis has shifted from team to individuals. We won't be looking at where we stand as a team. We will put kids in the events that give them the best chance of getting to state."

"This is the last meet of the season and we want to show that all of the hard work has paid off," Lehman said. "We want to end the year with a bang.

"During the last two weeks we have tapered and, hopefully, that will help us drop our times."

The postseason for the Bemidji boys golfers begins today as the Lumberjacks head to Greystone in Sauk Centre for their section meet. They will return to the course Thursday for the completion of the 36-hole event.

Coach Eric Niskanen will send Joe Welle, Kevin Larson, Rylee Curb, Trey Dale, Max Hazelton and Elliot Leinen into action today and he believes that the Jacks could make a run at the section championship.

"During our nine team qualifying events this season these six golfers separated themselves from the others," Niskanen said. "It was clear that this group earned the section spots."

The section coaches used overall scores, course ratings and a bit of educated guesswork to rank the 12 teams in the Section 8AAA field and Bemidji was seeded fifth with an average round of 324.

Alexandria heads the pack at 308 while Moorhead was second at 311. Fergus Falls and Brainerd tied for the third seed at 316.

Also in the field and trailing Bemidji were Buffalo, St. Cloud Tech, Sartell-St. Steven, Sauk Rapids, Monticello, St. Cloud Apollo and Big Lake.

Today's action begins at 1 p.m. and it will take almost two hours using the No. 1 and No. 10 tees to complete today's tee times.

Thursday's schedule will be less hectic as the field will be trimmed to the low six teams and the low 12 individuals and ties who are not members of the six qualifying teams.

After Thursday's round the section team champion and the top five individuals who are not on the winning team will advance to the state tournament.

"I still am optimistic that our players will perform to their capabilities and if that happens we should shoot around 310 or possibly even 305," Niskanen said. "I would be very happy to have us at 305 and see where we fall in comparison to the top teams in the section.

"We're playing against ourselves and the golf course," the coach continued. "Individually, we have the potential to qualify somebody for state. I believe everyone on our team can shoot a good round in this meet and if that happens we'll leave the course proud no matter where we are in the team standings."­

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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