Alexander, Nelson still looking to improve after qualifying for multiple events for state track

Sam Herder
Erin Nelson has qualified for state in the shot put, javelin and discus.

By Sam Herder

Journal Sports Editor

Beth Alexander and Erin Nelson had high expectations entering the 2016 Devils Lake track and field season. Those high expectations have led to big-time results, as both have qualified for multiple events at the state track meet starting May 27 in Bismarck.

Alexander has qualified in the 200-meter dash, 300-meter hurdles, high jump and triple jump.

Nelson is going to state in three throwing events: the shot put, discus and javelin.

“I definitely expected myself to do it,” Nelson said. “I knew with how good the coaching staff is here and how well Gib (Kjelden) teaches us, I knew that I could do it.”

Nelson, a senior, missed the cut to qualify for state last year, but credited getting stronger in the weight room as a big difference.

Firebirds head coach Jake Wateland said he isn’t surprised to see Nelson’s success this season.

In fact, he expected it, too.

“Coach Kjelden and I, we talked at the end of last year and it was something we expected her to do and we thought it was a very realistic goal for Erin to qualify for all three events,” Wateland said. “With her athleticism and the newness of the sport, she had a lot of potential. Her dedication in the weight room really set her apart this year.”

Nelson’s best throw in the shot put so far is 39'06.00" which ranks her fourth in the state.

Her javelin throw of 121'04.00" ranks her seventh.

Nelson has a discus throw of 115'06.00" and will be joined at state by her fellow Firebird senior Amber Gathman.

Gathman’s top mark of 119'07.00" is the sixth best in the state.

Even though it’s a relief to already by qualified, Nelson is still looking to top her personal records.

“It’s a nice feeling to know that I don’t have to worry about it at EDC, but I’m still trying to improve,” Nelson said.

After qualifying in the 200-meter dash and the high jump last year as a sophomore, Alexander has added two state-qualifying events to her resume. And it’s the last event she qualified for that may be the best story.

Alexander ran the 300-meter hurdles for the first time in her career on May 2 at the Devils Lake Ray McDaniel Invitational. She went out and qualified for state right there with a time of 48.24 seconds.

“By looking at her body type and what kind of athlete she is, we always knew she should probably be a hurdler, too,” Wateland said. “That’s something we tried this year and for her to qualify the first time ever doing it is pretty impressive. She was going against the Class B defending state champion, so she had someone to pace her with it, too.”

Wateland and the coaching staff needed a little pushing from Alexander as well to put her in the event.

“Back in junior high I did the 100-meter hurdles and they weren’t going to let me do them this year,” Alexander said. “I told them I did pretty good back then. They put me in it and I happened to qualify. It was pretty unexpected.”

Alexander has a time of 26.84 seconds in the 200-meter dash, has cleared 05'01.00" in the high jump and has a triple jump mark of 34'05.00.”

She is just 1.5 inches from the school record in the triple jump.

“I think in triple jump I can really improve,” Alexander said. “I really want to beat the school record. I would like to improve all my times and distances.”

Along with Bradley Davidson qualifying in the 100 and 200, the Firebirds have four athletes qualified for state so far. Wateland said DL could have a few more athletes qualify at the EDC meet on May 21.

But so far, the Firebirds will be represented well at the state meet.

“It’s kids that we expected to be there,” Wateland said. “It’s what we expected them to do and even exceeded expectations for some of them. That EDC meet is a nerve-wracking day when your top athletes are trying to qualify in the top six. So many different things can happen. So it’s a great feeling for them and for us.”