Three times a championNelson made history for Northwestern High School on Saturday with a victory in the 300 hurdles and a fifth-place finish in the 100 hurdles at the state meet. Her win in the 300 hurdles gave her three state championships in three years.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
When Eric and Wendy Nelson travelled to the WIAA Track and Field Championships in 2011, it was a new experience for them.
The noise at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse track was astounding, and the atmosphere sizzled with tension as they waited for their daughter’s race to begin.
On the track, Tess Nelson shrugged off the pressure and ran a personal best time to claim her first state title in the 300-meter hurdles.
Her parents cheered from the bleachers, but they missed the moment of victory — their seats didn’t provide a clear view of the finish line.
This year, with Nelson going for her third consecutive state title, Wendy and Eric made sure they had the best seats in the house.
“I think they got there pretty early,” Nelson said. “So I’m sure they finally got good seats this year.”
Nelson made history for Northwestern High School on Saturday with a victory in the 300 hurdles and a fifth-place finish in the 100 hurdles at the state meet. Her win in the 300 hurdles gave her three state championships in three years.
Dennis Scherz, NHS athletic director, said he believes Nelson is the first track and field athlete from Northwestern to win three consecutive state titles in the same event.
“It’s a pretty unusual accomplishment,” Scherz said.
This weekend, Nelson will run for Team Wisconsin in the Midwest Senior Spotlight Track & Field Championships in Joliet, Ill. The meet pits the best senior track and field athletes from Wisconsin against those from neighboring states.
Team Wisconsin is scheduled to arrive in Joliet today and competition will run all day Saturday.
Among the events Nelson will compete in are the 4x100 shuttle relay and the 400-meter low hurdles. It will be her first opportunity to test her skills in the 400 hurdles, an event she expects to run at the collegiate level when she competes for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“This will be brand new,” Nelson said. “I thought I was going to go to college and have some coaching before I had to do that, so this will be interesting.”
Nelson said it will be a nice way to get her feet wet before facing off against NCAA Division I college athletes next year.
“I’m so excited,” Nelson said. “I just want to see how much better I can get with new training. … In college I’ll be pushed at all my meets. I’m never going to be that one person who’s way ahead, so it will really make me work and it will make me so much better. I’m really excited for that.”
As a competitor, Nelson is stubborn. Her father described her in 2011 as someone who “doesn’t like to lose.”
“That’s very accurate actually,” said Nelson, laughing. “I guess that really helps. It helps me push myself because I really don’t like losing.”
At the state meet this year, Nelson won the 300 hurdles by four-tenths of a second — the largest margin of victory for any of her three state titles.
Noah Jurek, head coach of the Tiger track and field team, said he could see Nelson was headed for victory after the first 200 meters. During the final 100 meters, he watched excitedly with hurdles coach Phil McGrath.
“I don’t know if Coach McGrath has whiplash because I was shaking him as we were both watching her,” Jurek said. “We knew she could do it; you just never know how the race is going to play out, how it’s going to finish up.”
With Nelson, there was little doubt how she would finish. Jurek said the senior has been victorious three years in a row because she doesn’t get rattled. Other athletes may have a bad start or clip a hurdle, but Nelson is solid when it matters.
“She knows how to race,” Jurek said. “She knows how to win just by running clean races. I think that’s what’s got her this far.”
“A lot of people get really jittery. They get a lot of head cases at state and just can’t handle the pressure,” Nelson said. “Being experienced helps so much.
“I think this year, coming back to the meet again, we really knew exactly how I wanted to run.”
And in the stands, Nelson’s parents knew exactly what to expect too, but it didn’t help their nerves.
“They get way more nervous than I do,” Nelson said.
Another bit of history
Logan Holly also made history for the Tigers this season as the first female from NHS to advance to the state meet three times in the pole vault.
The only other athlete in school history to compete in the event three times at state is the team’s current pole vault coach, Bruce Nelson.
“I also talked her into coming out the end of her freshmen year,” he said. “She almost didn’t even pole vault.”
Bruce Nelson won a state title for Northwestern in the boys pole vault in 1982. Holly finished third for the Tigers this year, clearing a height of 10 feet, 9 inches.
On your marks
Michael Jahn, a longtime teacher and coach who taught in the Maple school district for 34 years, served again this year as an official starter at the WIAA State Track and Field Championships.
He served in the same capacity last year and has also been selected as an official for the WIAA State Cross Country Meet.
Jahn led the Tigers to their first Heart O’ North championship in 1977 as head coach of the track and field team.
The wrong time for today’s awards ceremony at Northwestern High School was given in Tuesday’s paper. The event is scheduled to begin at 9:15 a.m.
The Telegram apologizes for the error.