NDHSAA T&F STATE: Fischer wins pole vault crown, Badding state runner-up, and more

Jack Williams
Devils Lake Journal
Athletes from Benson County, Devils Lake, Langdon/Edmore/Munich, Nelson County, New Rockford/Sheyenne and North Star competed in the first day of the NDHSAA State track and field meet on May 28 at the Bismarck Community Bowl.

The first day of the 2021 NDHSAA State Track and Field Meet kicked off in the most North Dakota way possible. The air temperature was sitting around the mid-to-low 50's and the sky was nearly clear. However, while to the naked eye it would look like a perfect day for track, the wind was gusting into the Bismarck Community Bowl at almost 20 mph. 

The wind guested with consistent intensity, but that did not stop athletes from all corners of the state from giving it their all at the pinnacle of the North Dakota high school track and field world. Meshed in with all different Class A and Class B teams, athletes from the lake region flexed their specialized skills on the track and in field all throughout the day. 

Athletes from Devils Lake, Benson County, Langdon/Edmore/Munich, New Rockford-Sheyenne, North Star, and Nelson County had some of the final runs, jumps, vaults, and throws for the last time in 2021. With a busy first day in the books, here's who highlighted the Lake Region's efforts in Bismarck. 

Benson County's John Fischer wins state pole vault title 

At the start of the 2021 season, Benson County senior pole vaulter John Fischer set a list of goals he wanted to meet: break the Leeds vaulting record, vault a height of 14' 6", and win state. At the CNDC outdoor meet on May 11, he would break his own PR, the Leeds record and the CNDC meet record with a vault of 14' 3.5". 

Mentioning that his vaulting career was going to come to a close, the state meet was the senior's last chance to meet his remaining goals. On Friday, while he fell just short of the 14' 6" height, it didn't matter too much in the end as Fischer would clear a 14' 0" vault, outlasting Beulah's Eli Barbot for the 2021 NDHSAA Class B boys pole vault state title. 

"It was an awesome ride," Fischer said. "I enjoyed it the whole way and breaking all those records. Being a little short on 14' 6" is alright, but I ended on a high note, so I feel pretty good about it." 

It wasn't the dramatic finish to the event as most would expect. As the vaulting continued throughout the morning, those still in the running dwindled down to Fischer and Barbot. With the bar up at 14 feet, it would be a personal record if Barbot had cleared, but three inches off of Fischer's PR. After three attempts, Barbot's day would end at 13' 6", already handing Fischer the title. However, Fischer wanted to keep going.

Two attempts at 14' 6" fell short, but the third attempt had something a little special to it. Those who were competing against him were cheering for him. Even after Fischer didn't clear the third attempt, he was met by cheers and applause from his fellow competitors. Barbot, who Fischer said is friends with off the vault, came up to him and congratulated him on the win. 

"The monkey was off my back when I went up to the 14 foot vault, so it was just about going up and having fun," Fischer said. "I barely cleared 14 on an interesting jump, but I was excited to do it nonetheless." 

This is not the first time Fischer has taken the podium on the state level as he took second place at the 2019 meet and fourth place at the 2018 meet. With a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, doing a lot of individual work, Fischer said he received some extra motivation through exposure at the Howard Wood Dakota Rally. The track event, hosted in Sioux Falls, brings in hundreds of athletes from North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota. 

More:Benson County's John Fischer is setting the bar high in his final season as a Wildcat

"We went to a meet in South Dakota this year, and seeing guys down there clear 16 just blew me away and pushed me a little bit harder to work more," Fischer said. "It's awesome to see that and it motivates you so much. Even watching from the stands, you can see that hard work pays off, and as you can see today it does."

While Fischer's time as a Wildcat is not over just yet as he will be playing in the Shrine Bowl in June, he will be leaving the vaulting lane as the most successful vaulter in Leeds history and a state champion. It's meant a lot to him and he said that the support has been amazing. 

"It's just a great feeling. I don't know how to describe it right now," Fischer said with a smile. 

L/E/M's Cora Badding propels to second place finish in the long jump 

Langdon/Edmore/Munich freshman long jumper Cora Badding has been a stand out in the Northeast Region this season in the pits. In only her second season at the varsity level, Badding has set personal bests and has remained a heavy hitter in both jumping events for the Cardinals.

However, on Friday, she surprised herself on the podium. Jumping at a distance of 16' 10.5, which was still five inches off of her personal record of 17' 3", she would cruise to a second-place finish at the state meet. 

"I was actually really surprised," Badding said. "I feel like I'm better at triple jump, which is tomorrow, but I feel really good, and everybody did so good today."

The state runner-up jump from Badding didn't come easy. It took her a few times before she said she felt good about it after scratching her first few jumps. However, after some mental recollection help from her coach, she was able to put together a strong jump. Even though she felt good about her final jump, she didn't imagine that it would land her second place, not even third place. 

"Everyone was asking what I got and I told them that I was pretty sure that I got fifth," Badding said. "Then they announced that I got second and I was like 'oh, I must've done better than I thought I did.'" 

In her second season, Badding has set PR's in both the long and triple jumps, commending the coaching staff on her improvements in the pit. Now with a second place finish under her belt in the event, Badding said that her goal is now first place in the event rolling into next season. 

Badding's weekend is not over just yet as she has the triple jump, which she considers her stronger event, Saturday. She is currently ranked fourth in the state with a distance of 35' 9.5" and is chasing another high finish. She faces off against another regional athlete in NR-S' Kelsie Belquist.

"I'm just hoping I can do the best I can and get a new PR," Badding said. "Hopefully that will put me as high as it can get me." 

Olson, Belquist continue state long haul into finals in 100, 200, 400, 300 meter hurdles 

Friday was a long day for Langdon/Edmore/Munich senior Lexis Olson and New Rockford-Sheyenne freshman Kelsie Belquist. The two have gone head to head throughout the entire season and are now both the aces for their respective squads.

Both running four of the same events, the two managed to break into finals in the 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, 300 meter hurdles, and 400 meter dash. The two seem like they're robotic in being able to get back up and not just run, but qualify for finals. However, after a long day, the two were very happy that day one had come to a close. 

"I'm going to take a nap when I get home," Olson said. "Rest is super important and so is eating healthy. Four events is a lot to handle and snacking between events is important too. Also, drinking a lot of water and staying hydrated."

"I'm happy to be done with today," Belquist laughed. "I'm really tired." 

In a similar way, both athletes have had to handle a lot competing in four different event, however, Olson and Blequist are have very different experiences at state. Olson said she's still excited, but nervous at the same time knowing that she's getting faster, but it didn't reflect too much in her times. 

Olson picked up qualifications in all four of her events, but she is really pushing for a strong finish in the 300 meter hurdles, which has been the seniors main event for all her time in the program. In the second heat of prelims, Olson win with a time of 47.01, which was good enough for third place overall, behind Oakes Emma Muggli and Belquist. 

"I'm really hoping for a strong finish in the 300 hurdles because it's been my race for a long time, and this year it hasn't been clicking too much," Olson said. "I've been three seconds over my target time and I know I'm getting faster in my other race. I'm hoping to do well in all my other events, but especially that one because it comes first."

Some of the nerves heading into Saturday comes off of Olson's want to have a strong end to her career. The balancing of four different events in one days has had Olson reevaluate her pace off the sidelines, saying she needs to take more time to reset after races, but the goal still remains to end on a high note leaving Bismarck.

"I'm so sad that it's my senior year," Olson said. "I really wish it wasn't coming to an end but it is and I can't change reality. I really hope I can finish strong. I really want to end on a good note. Two years ago I really did well on hurdles, got some PB's and I'm really hoping to end on some good notes tomorrow."

More:New Rockford-Sheyenne's Kelsie Belquist is taking North Dakota by storm as a freshman

For Belquist, the state meet has been very different, in a good way, from the last time she was there as a seventh grader. She has mentioned that she enjoys going up against bigger schools and larger teams, seeing that NR-S has less than 10 members, and is thrilled to be competing against the best competition in Class B.

"It's really fun to be here and meeting new people," Blequist said. "I'm really happy where I'm seeded now in all my races and I'm ready for finals."

The biggest change for Belquist has been the attention she's received in almost all her events. In almost all of her races, the PA announcer would announce that she was a the state leader heading into the meet. Belquist has caught the attention of the ND track world early on this year and it didn't change in Bismarck.

Belquist would pick up a first place finish in the 300 meter hurdles with a time of 45.24 along with a first place finish in the 400 meter dash of 57.50. She would also take third in the 100 meter dash and the 200 meter dash. 

"I just remember being on those outside lanes two years ago, and it feels way better to be on the inside," Belquist said. "It feels good to race against the same people you might've raced against two years ago."

Getting deeper into her performance, Belquist said she's looking to continue her success in the 300 meter hurdles and wants to get off to a better start in the 100 meter dash. Heading into Saturday, Belquist still remains a heavy favorite in the trio of her events to take home gold.

"You just need to focus on if you're behind someone to get ahead of them," Belquist said. "If not, you just want to push to get a better PR."

Jack Williams covers lake region sports and general news for the Devils Lake Journal. Contact him via email at JGWilliams1@gannett.com, or on Twitter @jackgwilliams, or phone at 701-662-2127.