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Eight Wildcats will compete at State meet

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HARTINGTON — The Hartington-Newcastle boys and girls track teams did plenty well in defending their home turf last week during the District D-3 meet.

The boys finished as District runners-up to Osmond, while the Lady Wildcats finished in sixth place.

Automatic qualifiers for the boys at the Class D state meet in Omaha beginning Wednesday included the champion 400 relay team of Kobe Heitman, Jake Peitz, Lane Heimes and Mayson McIntosh, pole vault champion Lane Heimes and shotput titlist Peitz and the second-place finishers in the 1,600-relay team of Bennett Sievers, Peitz, Coby Heitman and Mason McIntosh. Peitz also qualified in the 200 meters and Aidan Gratzfeld qualified in the pole vault.

“I was really pleased with our performances,” HNPS boys coach Blair Kalin said. “To get a District runner-up is a good accomplishment. Our two relays really ran great. Osmond has a really good team. We were hoping to push them a little more, but they have really good depth. They are really strong in the distance groups and jumpers. I think we have kids that can earn medals at state.”

Advancing to the state meet as wildcards were McIntosh in the 300 hurdles and Heitman in the 100 meters.

Girls coach Laura Noecker was pleased with her Lady Wildcats’ performance calling the overall product one of overachievement.

Jessica Opfer qualified as a wildcard in both the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs with dual fourth-place finishes.

“Jessica is a great example of a runner who won’t give up,” Noecker said. “To run for time is something we’ve always told our kids, but this runner proved that it works. Mani is one of those athletes who can compete and find success in a lot of different avenues. She is simply one of those kids who is fun to coach.”

“Special thanks to senior Keanna Korth. Keanna has been a three-sport athlete and a four-year letter winner in track. She is a quiet leader, and we will miss her solidity on our track team. Keanna has medaled consistently in both hurdle events all year long. This team and coaching staff have worked hard and gotten better each and every track meet. I am proud of this group of girls and am already looking forward to next season.”

Freshman Mani Lange saw her personal best shattered by six inches (8-00) as she also heads to Omaha in pole vault.

Lange’s huge leap in improvement may be misleading as a shock result all of a sudden, when in reality, the Lady Wildcats’ late start in the sport this year – due to battling some wrist issues - meant that by definition she is in midseason form and still getting better.

That could mean some exciting things for her in Omaha.

“I had to work really hard to be where I am and I have some really good coaches,” Lange said. “I would come in during the weekend to do some extra work and the coaches kept encouraging me to do better. It helped.”

Lange believes that her marks would have potentially been higher with an earlier start, noting an 8-06 could have come with more practice.

“If I had started earlier in the year, it would have had a really big impact of how high I could get,” Lange said.

“I had a good feeling about it, and I knew I had a good chance of going to state. The meet before districts, I was really struggling, so it made me really nervous going into districts.”

She refused to let the nerves get to her, though.

“I just blocked it out and just went and pole vaulted. I had my whole family there to support me and my sister came home from college to watch me,” she said. “It felt really good to PR at District and know that I made it and get the opportunity to go down to State.”

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