By Les Knutson
Editor’s Note: This is the ninth feature in a series of articles about past performances at state track and field meets by area high school athletes. This week’s story highlights the state-meet placing-performance by area girls from 1995-1999.
In the last five years of the 1990s, there was a tremendous amount of high school track and field state-meet success by area girl athletes, highlighted by back-to-back 4×200-meter relay victories by the same four girls who ran for the combination of Southwest Star Concept (Heron Lake-Okabena) and Sioux Valley-Round Lake-Brewster, commonly referred to as the SSC Quasars.
The “fearsome foursome” of Brittany Liepold, Ellen Graef, Tami Tungland and Janelle Madsen raced to victory at the National Sports Center in Blaine in both 1998 (1:46.23) and 1999 (1:44.60). Liepold was a senior in ’99, while Graef — who won an individual state championship in the 300-meter low hurdles (more on that in two weeks) the next year — was a senior in 2000. Tungland and Madsen were both in the Class of 2001.
Individually, Heron Lake-Okabena-Lakefield sprinter Kelli Haar earned seven individual state-meet medals during her stellar six-year career, along with a pair of relay medals, as she anchored HL-O-L’s third-place 4×200 team in ’96 (1:46.71) and second-place quartet in 1997 (1:46.20).
Adrian ace Lori Hokeness claimed four state-meet medals, placing among the top six three times in the 400-meter dash and running a leg on the Dragons’ fifth-place 4×400-meter relay (4:13.47) in 1995.
As an eighth-grader, Hokeness finished sixth in the 400 (61.12) at state and teamed with Natalie Scheidt, Bridget Spieker and Amy Henning on Adrian’s mile relay team. Hokeness improved to fourth in the 400 (59.14) as a freshman in ’96 and finished third (59.15) in the event as a junior in 1998.
Another area girl who placed more than once individually was Fulda’s Laura Wendorff. After tying for sixth (with Murray County Central’s Lora Kluis) in the high jump in 1994, Wendorff placed twice in the 1995 state meet, finishing seventh (right behind Hokeness) in the 400 (61.24) and placed ninth in the high jump (5-1). She capped her brilliant all-around Raider athletic career with a fourth-place tie in 1996, clearing the bar at 5-3.
After placing fourth in the 200-meter dash (26.21) as an eighth-grader in 1993, the hard-working Haar placed ninth (26.40) as a freshman. As a sophomore in 1995, Haar placed seventh in the 100-meter dash (12.54) and then finished among the state-meet medalists in both sprints as a junior and senior.
In 1996, Haar tied for seventh in the 100 (12.97) and placed fourth in the 200 (25.89). As a senior in 1997, she concluded her extraordinary career as a Silver Bullet by finishing fifth in the 100 (12.74) and nabbing a close second in the 200, clocked at 25.57. The winning time was 25.40 and the third-place time was 25.74.
The trio of Janelle Madsen, Tungland and Liepold ran the first three legs of HLOL’s second-place 4×200 team in ’97, which was just edged by .04 seconds by Sartell’s winning time of 1:46.16.
In 1996, Janelle Madsen, Tungland and Rachel Madsen ran the first three legs for the Bullets’ third-place 4×200 at the state meet.
Stenzel, Soleta place in discus; Kramer places twice in pole vault, as does hurdler Grandgeorge
The other area state-meet individual placers during the five-year span were HL-O-L’s Tracy Stenzel (1995, seventh, discus, 118-11), Windom’s Tanya Soleta (1996, fifth, discus, 127-9 and sixth, shot put, 36-5), Fulda’s Nancy Grandgeorge (1997, sixth, 100-meter high hurdles, 15.84), HL-O-L’s Jessica Zellar (1998, eighth, 800-meter run, 2:23.81), Grandgeorge (1998, fourth, 100-meter high hurdles, 15.57), Graef (1998, ninth, 300-meter low hurdles, 48.25), HL-0-L’s Hannah Koep (1998, seventh, pole vault, 8-9), MCC’s Teresa Kramer (1998, tie for eighth, pole vault, 8-0), Liepold (1999, sixth, 400-meter dash, 60.09) and Kramer (1999, fifth, pole vault, 9-9).
Liepold ran a time of 59.58 in the ’99 400 prelims and Zellar was clocked at 2:21.31 in the prelims of the 800 in ’98. Soleta lived between Heron Lake and Okabena. She was an HLOL student-athlete prior to the ’94-95 school year.
Six other relay placings by HLOL and SSC; MCC 4×800 finishes fifth in ‘95
Coach Wayne Heisinger produced exceptional relay teams year-after-year with Heron Lake-Okabena (1979-1987), Heron Lake-Okabena-Lakefield (1988-1997) and with SSC/SV-RL-B (later known as Southwestern United), coached by Heisinger from 1998-2003.
In the five-year span from 1995-1999, there 10 relay teams which placed at state meets. The four 4×200 teams (third, second, first, first) from ’96-99 have already been mentioned.
There were six other relay teams which placed.
Before that surge by the Silver Bullets and Quasars, the Rebels of MCC — along with the already-mentioned Adrian Dragons (1995 4×400 team) — had a state-meet placing relay team.
The distance-running quartet of Lisa Veenhuis, Carleen Andert, Krista Parker and Hope Onken placed eighth in the 4×800-meter relay in 1995, running the eight laps in a time of 9:53.38.
HL-O-L placed fourth in that same event two years later in 1997 when the team of Heather Hanson, Kim Freking, Jessica Zellar and Dani Damm were clocked at 9:48.49.
That same year, the Bullet foursome of Liepold, Freking, Zellar and Damm ran a very good fifth-place time of 4:05.29 in the 4×400.
In 1998, HLOL was fifth in the 4×800 as Kim Pohlman, Freking, Damm and Zellar ran the two miles in 9:51.31. The 4×400 team of Liepold, Damm, Freking and Zellar overcame a dropped baton and finished sixth with a time of 4:10.83.
Finally, in 1999 — the third straight year of three state-meet placing performances by relay teams for the elite program — a stellar second-place run by the Quasar 4×400 relay and a seventh-place finish by the 4×100 team complimented SSC’s repeat victory in the 4×200.
Setting a new school record in the 4×100 (51.36) was the foursome of Hannah Koep, Janelle Madsen, Tami Tungland and Candace Kazemba. They bettered the long-standing HL-O record of 51.50 set back in 1981 by Jan Jensen, Cathy Baumgard, Carole Madsen and Jolleen Thiner.
The Quasars finished up the meet and the decade with a brilliant second-place run in the 4×400 as all four girls — junior Ellen Graef, freshman Jamie DeWall, sophomore Jessica Zellar and senior Brittany Liepold — ran their quarter-mile splits between 60 and 61 seconds, producing a new school-record time of 4:01.85.
That ’99 performance snapped the exceptional eight-year school-record time of 4:02.2 run by Adele Gade, Sara Heisinger, Jenny Bass and Shelly Christians in 1991.
The 4×200’s state-championship time of 1:44.6 bettered their own school-record time of 1:45.80 run in the 1998 state-meet preliminaries.
Next week, a look at the boys state-meet performances from 1995-1999, which included a first-place finish by MCC’s 4×800-meter relay team in 1998, a 1999 triple jump victory by SSC’s Ryan Heisinger, along with second-places by high jumpers Jobi Crowell (Ellsworth, 1997) and Jeff Baumgartner (Fulda, 1998). Fulda sprinter Kent Crowley placed fourth twice in 1999 and Heisinger placed second (triple jump) in ’98 before winning in ’99.
Those stories and more in the next track and field history feature.