Nielsen Wins Long-Awaited State Title, Crooks Adds More Hardware at Day Two

by Tyler Lance
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After a grueling competition in the girls high jump, North Union senior Sam Nielsen was crowned as the girls class 1A champion, clearing a height of 5-03 and winning a jump off over Lenox junior Cadence Douglas.

Nielsen and Douglas were tied after both clearing 4-08, 4-11, and 5-01 on their first attempt, as well as taking two attempts to clear 5-03, and failing to clear 5-04. Nielsen and Douglas battled over the course of eight leaps in the jump off, trading makes with makes and misses with misses. Ultimately, Nielsen cleared a bar of 5-01 on her eighth jump off attempt, while an exhausted Douglas couldn’t clear the bar, cementing Nielsen as a state champion. The state title provided a storybook ending for the North Union senior, who came close last season, but finished as the state runner up in 2021.

Elsewhere in the field, it was a different event, but the same result for Bishop Garrigan junior Audi Crooks, as Crooks claimed the first discus state title of her career one day after winning the shot put. Crooks’ throw of 131-05 upset a strong girls class 1A field, and set a new season best throw by over nine feet. Unlike Thursday’s shot put competition, Crooks did not enter as a favorite to win the title. Crooks’ state qualifying throw last week at districts of 109-03 came in as just the 11th best mark in 1A from district week.

Crooks got on the board with her first throw, with a distance of 118-06, then put herself comfortably in the finals in third place with a toss of 126-07 on her second throw. It was Crooks’ first throw of the finals where she nailed her championship throw, the only one in Friday’s class 1A competition to reach a distance of over 130. The first place finished marked a 180 degree turnaround from last year’s state discus competition for Crooks, who fouled on all three of her attempts and did not advance to finals.

Also in the field, Bishop Garrigan senior Collin Casey made his state debut in the high jump. Casey cleared 5-10 easily on his first try and also was successful on his first attempt at 6-00, slightly grazing the bar but not knocking it down, but was unable to overcome the 6-02 height. Casey would finish in a three-way tie for eighth place in the class 1A boys field, capping off a season in which he began by focusing on the long jump, but ultimately completed the successful transition to the high jump.

Casey was not the only member of the Bishop Garrigan boys team to compete on Friday, as the distance medley relay team of Cal Birkey, Caden Roethler, Justin Bauer, and Quinn Swift finished 11th in the timed finals in a new season best time of 3:43.58. Birkey and Roethler ran the 200 meter legs, exchanging the baton cleanly and keeping the Golden Bears positioned well within their heat, Bauer produced a smooth 400 meter leg, giving Swift the baton for the final 800 meters, as the senior closed the race in a split of 2:02.9.

Also in Friday’s timed finals, North Union’s girls 4×200 meter relay placed 14th. The relay team of Ella Ulrich, Lily Henderson, Naomi Jones, and Shelby Fraker posted a time of 1:51.38, beating their previous season best by nearly a second.

The girls 400 meter hurdles were also a Friday timed final, as Bishop Garrigan sophomore Reagan Murphy finished 20th in 1:12.00. Murphy came into the meet earning the 24th and final spot, but was able to exceed her seed place by running a time that was within four-hundredths of a second from her season best.

Bishop Garrigan’s girls experienced a couple near misses in the relay events, as neither the 4×100 or 4×400 meter relays advanced to Saturday’s finals. The 4×100 of Reagan Murphy, Emma Grandgenett, Zoe Montag, and Abbie Capesius finished 12th in the prelims in 51.95, as South O’Brien took the eighth and final qualifying spot in a time of 51.60. North Union’s relay of Ella Ulrich, Naomi Jones, Lily Henderson, and Shelby Fraker finished one spot behind Bishop Garrigan in 52.00.

The 4×400 meter relay of Emma Grandgenett, Zoe Montag, Molly Joyce, and Abbie Capesius set a new season best of 4:13.96 but would find out that it wasn’t enough, as they finished in ninth place in the preliminary round. Eighth place Audubon finished five-hundredths of a second faster than the Golden Bears to take the final spot from the third and final heat, as Bishop Garrigan, who competed in the second heat, stood by and watched. Bishop Garrigan’s time would have placed fourth in the preliminary round last year, but the class 1A 4×400 meter relay saw overall better marks this year.

Although Joyce won’t be competing in the 4×400 meter finals tomorrow, she will be competing the 100 meter hurdle finals in class 1A, as the Bishop Garrigan junior finished up the preliminary round in seventh place in 15.82, a time that established a new season best. Joyce placed 10th in the event last season after not making finals in 2021.

In the afternoon session, Algona’s A’Lailah Perry started the day for the Bulldogs with a strong bounce back after fouling on her three discus throws on Thursday, as Perry finished ninth in the girls class 3A shot put with a throw of 38-00, recording the mark on her first attempt of the day. Although Perry did not advance to the finals, the junior wrapped up her season with her second best mark of the year.

Also competing in the shot put was Algona senior Jaxon Woodyard, as he took seventh place in the boys class 3A field in the final meet of his career, with a throw of 51-06. Woodyard’s fifth throw was his furthest of the night, moving him up from eighth to seventh place after he had earned the final qualifying spot for finals. The senior earned a state medal after he narrowly missed qualifying for the state meet in 2021.

In Algona’s lone running event of the afternoon, freshman Andi Jensen wrapped up a strong campaign with a 20th place finish in the class 3A girls 400 meter hurdles in 1:12.72.

Interviews from day 2 of the competition can be heard below:

Audi Crooks – Bishop Garrigan – Discus

Sam Nielsen – North Union – High jump

Collin Casey – Bishop Garrigan – High jump

Molly Joyce – Bishop Garrigan – 100m hurdles

Reagan Murphy – Bishop Garrigan – 400m hurdles

Bishop Garrigan Boys Distance Medley (Cal Birkey, Caden Roethler, Justin Bauer, Quinn Swift)

Bishop Garrigan Girls 4×100 meter relay (Reagan Murphy, Emma Grandgenett, Zoe Montag, Abbie Capesius)

A’Lailah Perry – Algona – Shot put

Jaxon Woodyard – Algona – Shot put

Andi Jensen – Algona – 400m hurdles

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