The Raiders know the competition is stiff, and that they're likely the underdogs when it comes to advancing athletes to the state meet, but they're excited for the opportunity to surprise some teams at the Section 1AA meet.
The first day is scheduled for Thursday afternoon at Lakeville South, with the second day on Saturday at Lakeville South. That first day has finals for the two-mile run, the triple jump, the pole vault and the shot put, in addition to preliminary races for all other track events except for the mile.
The mile will be run Saturday, along with all other track event finals, as well as the finals and prelims for the high jump, long jump and discus.
“These seniors, they’ve worked hard for this," Northfield coach Tyler Balow said. "We’re really going to be looking to them for leadership that day because they’ve been here. Nobody else has been here, so we’re lucky that we had some of these guys as sophomores go through the whole section meet.
“That first day, we’re looking to make some big strides and Saturday should also be a really exciting day for us. We’re hoping to get some relays possibly through to state, so it should be a really fun day.”
Those relays with state aspirations are the 1,600 and 3,200 teams. Both already surprised once this season to finish in second place at the Big 9 Conference championships, but nabbing a top-two spot to secure state qualification at the section meet is a tougher task once a handful of typically dominant programs from the South Suburban Conference are added to the mix.
The 1,600 relay team consists of Caleb Meeker, Martin Brice, Collin Graff and Will Tidona, while the 3,200 group is made up of Brice, Tidona, Sam Folland and Nathan Amundson.
Tidona is a late addition to the 3,200 relay after he ran an open 800 in 2 minutes, 3.75 seconds during a meet at Rochester Mayo last week.
"We kind of threw him in there thinking why not to see if we can get another good 800 time and take a crack at making it to state," Balow said. "He threw down a 2:03.75, which would improve our relay team by about three seconds. We had a solid four-by-eight at conference which got second place, and with Tidona in there we think we can really have a chance."
In addition to the relays, Tidona aims to advance to the finals in the 400-meter dash, while Brice has a chance to qualify in the two-mile run, which Balow said could be unpredictable considering the hot conditions projected for Thursday afternoon.
"With the weather the way it’s going to be Thursday and Saturday, it’s anybody’s race in anything over the 400," Balow said.
Meeker and Graff also have the possibility of qualifying for state in the 300 hurdles based on their seed times, while Graff is also seeded second in a deep field for the long jump.
"The section is absolutely loaded with long jumpers this year," Balow said. "I think two years ago 21 feet got you into the state meet, and this year there’s going to be six or seven jumpers going over 21 feet.”
Devin Jax has a shot to qualify for state in the high jump, even if he doesn't finish in one of the top two positions. He set a personal-best clearance of 6 feet, 3 inches at the conference meet. The mark an athlete needs to clear to guarantee automatic state qualification regardless of finishing position is 6 feet, 4 inches.