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DL looks to get back on top

senior Jess Stelter will be key for the Laker girls' track and field team this season.1 / 2
Kiki Schumacher returns as a main contributor for the Laker girls' team.2 / 2

For the first time in a long time, the Detroit Lakes girls' track and field team doesn't have an athlete who knows what it feels like competing in the State True Team.

This year, the Lakers hope to change that.

It's been six years since the Lakers last qualified for the State True Team meet, which was a regular occurrence during the earlier part of the 2000's.

But DL head girls' coach Mike Labine believes this year's team has the ammo to snap that six-year spell.

"This season has the making of being one of those teams which are special," Labine said. "From day one of practice through May 8, our focus will be on the Section True Team meet.

"We need to make sure we seize this opportunity."

There are several factors which are lining up favorably for the Lakers, as well.

One is the fact DL will be hosting the Section True Team meet May 8, at their newly refurbished track and field complex at Mollberg Field.

Second, track powerhouse Sartell has been moved out of the section, thus leaving teams like DL, Little Falls, Fergus Falls and a host of other teams to vie for the state berth.

Third, but not least, the Lakers return a bevy of talent, along with some youthful depth.

"We have the kids to compete this year," Labine stated. "We have kids who will be at the front of the pack in every meet no matter who we are going against, too."

Senior Jess Stelter returns after winning the Class 1A state championship on the vault in gymnastics this past winter season and will anchor the hurdles this spring.

The hurdles will be DL's strength, as Stelter will be joined by athletic freshman Kyley Foster.

"We are not deep in hurdles, but we are talented," the DL coach said. "We should consistently have the two in the top three or four in every meet."

Stelter also will be doing pole vault, an event she won Saturday in the Indoor Concordia meet with a height of 9-0.

The Lakers will be point-getters in the sprints, as well, as freshman Lindsey Heinecke returns off a stellar 2011 track season. She will also be a top long jumper, as well.

"Lindsey is one of the best sprinters around," Labine said. "She is already running mid-May type of times."

Senior Natalie Hoffert is coming off a missed junior year after a broken ankle sustained during the 2010-11 gymnastics season derailed her track season.

But Hoffert is almost back to 100 percent and will be counted on for sprinting points.

"Natalie is a state qualifier her sophomore season and she missed her junior year," Labine said. "So we are going to train normally, but not pushing her too much."

Other girls who will contribute in sprints include Foster and freshman AddieKay Johnson, among a host of other young runners.

Johnson will also be running in the 400-meter event, as will junior Emily Payne, who will provide "phenomenal" leadership.

The long distance will also be key, as junior Veronica Haverkamp and freshman Abby Ullyott will lead the way.

"We also have a pile of runners within two seconds of each other in the 1,600, which will be a big boost," Labine said.

Junior Katie Larson will also be at the front of the pack in the mile, along with senior Heidi Nelson.

"Because of our depth, we can also mix and match our relay teams and not lose anything," Labine said.

In the throwing events, freshman Shay Nielsen and senior Courtney Gray will make the Lakers quite formidable.

Nielsen qualified for state in shot put, while Gray will excel in discus.

"Shay isn't worried about state, but instead about getting better," Labine said. "Courtney can be a phenomenal discus thrower and also can be as good in shot put."

DL did lose last year's state qualifier in the long jump, Allison Berg, who broke her foot during the gymnastics season.

The Lakers will also defend their back-to-back Mid-State Conference titles, an accomplishment they have reached 18 out of the last 20 years.

DL will host its first-ever Section 8-2A finals as well, Saturday, June 2, thanks to their upgraded complex.

The home season starts Tuesday with a relays type of format triangular with Fergus Falls and Pelican Rapids.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.