The same depth that delivered a fourth-place finish for the Northfield girls track and field team at the Big 9 Conference championships might also help send a bounty of Raiders through to the Class AA state meet.

After deliberating over the lineup for the Section 1AA meet Thursday and Saturday at Lakeville South, Northfield coach Karl Viesselman believes he's sending out three relays all capable of finishing in one of those top two positions to secure a trip to state.

"I don’t think we’ve ever had three relays have a chance at qualifying for the state meet," Viesselman said. "Possibly the most remarkable remarkable piece to this puzzle is Clara Lippert. She is such a versatile runner and fierce competitor that she will be one of our fastest legs in all three relays. I don’t recall ever hearing of an athlete being on three separate relays that all had a chance at qualifying for the state meet."

Lippert is set to run in the 800-meter, 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter relays at the section meet, with the individual distances ranging from 200 to 800 meters.

In the 800 relay, Lippert is joined by Janya Jannsen, Grace Dickerson and Emma Hodapp, a senior set to run at Minnesota State University, Mankato next season. Hodapp is a two-time state qualifier in the 100, and placed third in 2019, but missed the entirety of the 2021 season to this point with a hamstring injury.

At the Big 9 Conference meet, the 800 relay — without Hodapp — finished first with a time of 1 minute, 48.25 seconds.

“She gives us the boost we need in that four-by-200 to possibly get us to that state meet,” Viesselman said.

In the 1,600 relay, Lippert teams up with Jannsen, Dickerson and Nicole Theberath, while the 3,200 relay is made up of Lippert, Theberath, Josie Hauck and Erica Loe. The 1,600 relay also won a Big 9 title in 4:07.43, while the 3,200 relay finished fifth in 10:18.31, but that was without Lippert or Theberath as part of the quartet.

Individually, Hodapp is aiming to walk into the 100 cold and secure her third trip to state. Jannsen is vying for a spot in the 400.

Shelby Svien enters as one of the favorites in both the shot put and the discus after she won the Big 9 title in the discus and placed fifth in the shot put, while Zibby Hanifl and Sidney Petersen both have chances in the pole vault. Petersen finished third at the Big 9 meet, while Hanifl was sixth.

"Both of them are ready to have a break out meet and put in new personal best performances," Viesselman said. "If they do have a great day, they could get the chance to vault again next week at the state meet."

The first day of the Section 1AA meet Thursday includes the final for the two-mile run, plus prelims and finals for the high jump, long jump and discus, in addition to prelims for every race besides the mile.

The mile will be contested Saturday, as will the finals for all other track events, and the prelims and finals for the triple jump, shot put and pole vault.

The main objective for both of those days is for the Raiders to individually challenge or possibly break their personal bests from this season. If that leads to a state qualification, then Viesselman said that's a solid bonus.

"My first goal in leading this program is to ensure that all participants have a chance to have a valuable experience while becoming a better athlete and human being," Viesselman said. "I want to give everyone a chance to become a better athlete and come to believe that they are a part of this team. We celebrate every accomplishment, every goal reached by all of our team members.

"One of our secondary goals is to qualify as many of our team members for the state meet as possible. This is a valuable experience that we want to give to as many of our athletes as we can. It is an honor to qualify for the state meet."

Reach Regional Sports Editor Michael Hughes at 645-1106 or follow him on Twitter @APGSoMnHughes. © Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved. 

Sports Editor for the Northfield News. Also a California native looking for tips on surviving the winter and an Indiana University grad on the quest for a good breaded pork tenderloin.

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