At the Section 5A track and field championships, held on St. John’s University’s Collegeville campus May 29, things went from great to all-time great for Jamie Guptill.

The Rush City senior became one of the first athletes to qualify for the Class A state meet when she finished second in the girls discus throw, an event contested in the morning, before the meet really got going in earnest, on a field some distance away from the main stadium.

Guptill’s best throw traveled 110 feet, 1 inch, trailing only Litchfield’s Jadalyn Wagner (116-1) in the 16-thrower field. The top two finishers in every event earned spots in the state meet.

With her trip to state confirmed, Guptill was able to enter her other event, the shot put, with no pressure. The result was a throw that outdistanced her previous best — already the Rush City school record — by more than 2 feet.

“I was so relaxed after the discus because I was already going to state; everything went so smoothly and it went pretty good,” Guptill said.

Guptill’s effort (41-0.75) beat the runner-up, Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted’s Bethany Groos, by nearly 5 feet and, naturally, improved the school record. Guptill is the only Tiger to ever surpass the 39-, 40- and 41-foot barriers.

“I didn’t even think I could make it over 40,” Guptill said. “‘Wow!’ is all I’m thinking.”

Rush City senior Elena Herberg will also head to state after finishing second in the girls 1600 meters (5 minutes, 21.12 seconds).

Herberg allowed Erika Swanson of the Northwest Nighthawks home-school team to set the early pace, which a number of other competitors followed.

Herberg maintained a steady pace some distance behind the leaders in the first half of the race, then picked off the other contenders one by one when they found themselves unable to keep up with Swanson.

“I was just trying to run my race,” Herberg said.

Herberg made a strong move with around 500 meters to go to pull alongside Swanson at the bell, and although the home-school runner kicked hard for the win (5:15.78), none of the trailing runners had the energy left to catch Herberg, who took the second state berth with five seconds to spare.

Herberg, more of a pacer than a last-lap sprinter, executed to perfection a strategy that played to her strengths.

“I’m more of a consistent runner rather than a kick runner,” Herberg said. “I had to get a good ways up on them, and then push [the last lap]. I was nervous the whole last lap, but when I finally crossed the finish line, I was like, ‘That actually happened!’ I worked my hardest and it all paid off in the end.”

Herberg also placed fifth in the 3200 (12:02.93).

Cornelius wins 400

Braham will send one athlete to state, sophomore sprinter Hannah Cornelius.

The meet started well for Cornelius, who won her preliminary heat in the 100 in 12.86.

But in the final, she found herself in a battle with Taytum Klink (Mora) and Sara Byers (Rockford). The three athletes came across the line together, and more than just the Braham fans were shocked when the names and times were displayed on the electronic board: Klink (12.89) and Byers (12.90) had made state, while Cornelius would be left out (12.94) despite having run the fastest time of the day in the prelims.

“I was pretty sad, I’m not going to lie,” Cornelius said.

Cornelius moved past that disappointment — and all of her competitors — in her best event, the 400, which she won in a new personal best time (58.09).

“I was kind of down after the 100, so I just wanted to P.R. [in the 400],” Cornelius said. “I just gave it my all.”

She later finished third in the 200 (26.46).

Cornelius has twice finished fifth at state in the 400 and hopes to move higher on the podium this time around.

“It would be nice to get a different place,” Cornelius said. “Top three would be nice.”

15 others compete

Quite a number of other Tigers and Bombers made it to the section meet, by virtue of placing in the top four in their events at the Subsection 18 meet the week before.

Rush City eighth-grader Tayla Lenzen claimed a medal with a sixth-place finish in the girls 400 (1:03.62). Senior Shawna Mell was 11th (1:04.38). Seventh-grader Cora Sayotovich finished 10th in the 300 hurdles (50.45) and 13th in the 100 hurdles (18.15); sophomore Ashley Linberger joined her in the 300 (13th, 52.43). Sophomore Ellie Mae White finished 11th in the high jump (4-8) and 15th in the triple jump (30-5).

For the Tiger boys, junior Ashton Langworthy placed 11th in the 300 hurdles (45.58) and 13th in the 110 hurdles (17.80). Junior Matt Papke finished 13th in the 3200 (10:55.56), sophomore Zeth Hahn was 14th in the long jump (18-6.75) and eighth-grader Nolan Anderson was 12th in the 110 hurdles (17.56).

Braham sophomore Jacob Kern finished sixth in the boys 200 (23.72) and seventh in the 100 (11.60). Senior Devin Shellito was 12th in the shot put (40-6.75) and 13th in the discus (103-8).

On the girls side of the meet, Braham eighth-grader Ella Doble placed 10th in the 100 (13.70). Junior Leah Wickeham finished 13th in the 800 (2:33.70). In the pole vault, junior Meegan Wickeham (14th) and sophomore Sara Piatz (16th), both clearing 7-6.

State veterans

All three local qualifiers have been to the state meet before.

Cornelius will make her third straight trip this weekend, while Guptill and Herberg can look back on the 2015 meet, where they ran together on the Tiger 4x800 team. Guptill also qualified in the shot put in 2017.

The Class A championships will be held at Hamline University Friday, June 7, and Saturday, June 8. Guptill will be the first area athlete to step up, with the discus scheduled for 4:45 p.m. Friday. Cornelius will run the 400 heats at 5:07 p.m.

On Saturday, Guptill will start the shot put at 3:30 p.m. and Herberg will run the 1600 at 5:18 p.m.

If Cornelius makes the 400 final — as she’ll be favored to do — she would race for a podium spot at 5:57 p.m.

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