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St. Croix Central track teams sweep titles at Zirgibel Invitational

The Larry Zirgibel Invitational at Boyceville is one of the most anticipated track meets in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference season.

It certainly is viewed as one of the most important meets of the St. Croix Central season. The Panthers have risen to the occasion each year of the “Larry Z” Invitational. The boys have won the championship in all three years of the meet and the Panther girls earned their second title in the three years of the meet, when it was held last Thursday.

Central’s girls won by 54 points over second place Elk Mound in the eight-team meet. Seven of the teams in the meet were from Dunn-St. Croix schools. The Panther boys won by 28 points over second place Glenwood City.

Panther coach Ben Lamb said the girls went into the meet with an expectation of winning, but the boys knew they’d be in a battle facing teams like Glenwood City and Spring Valley.

“That shocked me,” Lamb said of the boys’ victory. “We killed them with depth.”

Both teams are finding areas on the track that can definitely be viewed as strengths. For the girls, the sprints are becoming something special.

Freshman Katheryn Holter won the 100 and 200 meter dashes, was part of the 400 meter relay winning team and she placed third in the long jump. The Panthers took four places in the 100 meters, with Bailey Booth third, Ema Bond fifth and Hope Hoolihan seventh. Hoolihan was third in the 200 and Booth was fourth. Booth also won the championship in the 400 meters.

Lamb said the girls are seeing the possibilities for success this season and there have been several girls who’ve stepped up to volunteer to try competing in events where the Panthers need help.

One of those was senior Brooke Kopacz, who did the long jump and 300 hurdles for the first time. She placed second in the long jump and sixth in the hurdles.

Lamb said Kopacz and Booth are being good leaders for the girls, helping them to see the individual potential each of them has.

The field events were a strong source of points for both Panther teams. For the girls, they had four placewinners in the long jump, led by Kopacz and Holter. They got three places in the triple jump, led by a second place performance from Madison Malecek and a third place finish from Emma Landry. Kayla Pabst was back among the leaders in the throwing events, placing first in the shot put and second in the discus throw.

The boys also tapped the field events for several victories. Decker Grass was the champion in the discus throw. Josh Freyholtz cleared the bar at 12 feet to easily win the pole vault. He also placed second to Spring Valley standout Zac Webster in the high jump and he was third in the long jump.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the entire meet for the Panthers was the production the team generated in the boys hurdle events. Senior Dante Carlson was the champion in both hurdle races. Brandon Smith placed third in the 110 hurdles and fifth in the 300s. The Panthers took four of the top seven spots in the 110 hurdles and three of the top six spots in the 300 hurdles.

“Dante and Brandon have taken the young hurdlers under their wings,” Lamb said.

Senior Jordan Bringgold also produced a win for the Panther boys, taking the top spot in the 3,200 meters. Derrick Holm made a nice step up in the 400 meters, taking second place. He was also fifth in the 100 and 200 dashes.

Seeing most of the D-SC teams in the meet gave the Panthers a good sense of how they can compete in the conference this year. The one main contender that was missing at the meet was the Mondovi girls. Lamb said the Panthers are trying to compare results from other meets to get a gauge on where Mondovi’s strengths lie.

The Panthers will get to see some strong competition again this Thursday when they compete in the Amery Invitational. The Panthers will get their chance to see Mondovi’s squads first hand next Tuesday when they compete in the Mondovi Invitational.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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