Tiger teams take 2nd in track opener

Track and field season got off to encouraging start for the Marshall Tigers on Thursday. In its first meet of the year, indoors at Minnesota State-Mankato, both the Tiger boys’ and girls’ teams took second out of four.

Host school Mankato East took top honors in the team event with 91 points on the boys’ side, 20 ahead of Marshall. The Tigers were nearly 30 points up on third-place finisher Maple River (41.5 points). Albert Lea took fourth with 20.5.

Despite the second place finish, the Tigers captured first place results in eight of the 15 individual events, including Promise Nkwocha’s impressive 40-feet-8.75 triple jump.

The Marshall girls’ track team also placed second to the Cougars, though Mankato East had a little more room to work with. Mankato East scored 95.5 points compared to Marshall’s 70.5. Albert Lea took third on the girls’ side with 42 points, while Maple River rounded out the field with 16 points.

Similar to the boys’ team, the Marshall girls’ took first place in seven of the 15 individual events.

“We took first in eight events, but still ended up taking second,” head boys’ coach Mike Jacobs said. “Apparently we need to work on our depth a little.”

Part of Marshall’s depth concerns will be solved in the immediate future, as the Tigers were missing several key members of the track and field team due to the boys’ basketball team’s run in the Class AAA state tournament. The Tigers will also add depth as the season continues, as injuries sustained during the winter sports season continue to mend.

In the meantime, one area where Jacobs said the Tigers had an excess of depth was sprinting. After losing Beau Bofferding, who qualified for multiple state meets, to graduation, the Tigers should have been left searching for a replacement. New faces, and a few old ones, have made that search a little easier.

“Rhett Struve came out this year and Promise Nkwocha is very fast,” Jacobs said. “Sam Marshall was on Bofferding’s heels all last season and he is back with us. So we have more depth in the sprints than we may have thought before the season started.”

Struve, who rushed for over 1,000 yards for the Marshall football team in the fall, picked up a fourth place finish in the 60 meter dash and was also a part of Marshall’s first-place 4×200 meter relay team.

Nkwocha, who is making his debut for the Tiger track team, took third in the 60 meter dash, while also adding blue ribbons in the 1600 meter sprint medley and 4×400 relay team.

Sam Marshall was apart of the 4×400 team as well, while earning an individual first place in the 400 meter dash.

Junior Andrew Bell, who was the sole Tiger to qualify for the state cross country meet in the fall, took first place in the 1600 meter run, as well as i the 4×800 meter relay.

The girls’ team was also missing members due to the boys’ basketball team’s state tournament run.

“We fared about the same as the guys did,” girls’ head coach Marie Sample said. “We were missing a few kids due to the basketball tournament, with their families playing. We encouraged them to go up and watch that.”

With low numbers and the weather working against them, Sample told her team to treat Thursday’s season-opening meet like more of a practice.

“I told them to consider like a practice and let’s go out and compete and see where we’re at,” Sample said. “And they did a great job with it. So much of it is just learning how to compete, learning how to push yourself out of your comfort zone and learning how to race.”

Senior Sarah Andersen, one of the leaders of this year’s team, put up two individual first-place finishes in both the triple jump and the long jump. Andersen was also a member of Marshall’s first-place 4×200 meter realy team, along with Sydney Griffin, Kendra Soupir and Samantha Giannelli.

Griffin took second place in both the long jump and triple jump to Andersen.

Claire Boersma, who qualified for the state cross country meet as an eighth-grader last fall, claimed first place in two events as well. Her time of two minutes, 44 seconds was fastest in the 800 meter run, as was her mark of 5:45.93 in the 1600.

Sprinter Rachel Miller took top honors in the 60m hurdles for the Tigers, clocking in at 10.52.

Marshall’s final first-place finish was in the 4×800 meter relay. The team of Jenna Christianson, Courtney Mauch, Sydney Blomme and Nichole Sample turned in a time of 10:53.46 for the Tigers.

Both Tiger track and field teams head back to Mankato on Monday for their next meet, this time with Mankato West as the host.