Northwestern High School will be sending three athletes to the 124th annual WIAA State Track and Field Championships Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1, at the Veterans Memorial Stadium Complex at UW-La Crosse.
Abby Nelson will be competing in her fourth state championships in the pole vault. Journey Amundson (triple jump) and Michael Knaack (200-meter dash) will be making their first appearances at state. All three are seniors and team captains.
“This has been a phenomenal year,” NHS coach Jenny Forsythe said. “All three of these kids have worked so hard. They’ve put their time in the weight room; they’ve put in the extra time training; and they’re great leaders on a very young team.”
Nelson enters the WIAA Division 2 state meet as the No 1 seed after winning the Mosinee Sectional with a school-record vault of 11 feet, 3 inches The second-best sectional vaults were 11 feet by four athletes, including Paige Hickson of Northland Pines.
“I don’t feel any pressure - I know I still have to work for it,” Abby Nelson said. “My goal is to PR (personal record) at 11-6 and at least finish in the top five.”
This will be the 14th time a Nelson family member has advanced to the state meet. Abby will be attempting to bring home the family’s fourth state championship.
Abby’s uncles, Darrell and Doug Nelson, won B Division state titles in 1978 and 1979, while her father and coach, Bruce, won a state title in 1982.
Darrell Nelson, currently a Tiger sprint coach, won his state title with a vault of 13 feet, 9 inches; Doug Nelson won with a state record vault of 14 feet, 3 inches, which was broken by Bruce Nelson’s vault of 14 feet, 6 inches, which beat out the A Division winner by 6 inches and the C winner by a foot.
Bruce Nelson went on to be a four-time all-American at UW-La Crosse, holding the school record for six years with a vault of 16 feet, 1 inch. Doug Nelson was an all-American and record holder at Minnesota Duluth, and Darrell Nelson completed at UW-La Crosse.
Despite all of Northwestern’s vaulting success, which includes sending more than 40 vaulters to state, Abby Nelson is the first vaulter in school history to qualify for state four years in a row.
She has also scored a school-record 632 points in her high school track career. And just this season alone, Nelson (163.5) and Amundson (149) have combined for 312.5 team points.
Nelson has been nearly unbeatable in the pole vault this season, finishing in first in all but two meets.
Her storied career at NHS includes setting a new school, conference and sectional records.
Nelson, who finished in sixth place at state last year, will be attending UW-Stevens Point next year, where she will continue her track career and be a member on the inaugural women’s wrestling program.
Nelson’s current records include:
- Four-time outdoor state qualifier and place winner;
- Two-time state indoor place winner;
- Two-time sectional champion and sectional record holder;
- Four-time regional champion and regional record holder;
- Four-time outdoor conference champion and conference record holder; and
- Four-time indoor conference champion and indoor conference record holder.
Amundson won the triple jump at sectionals with a school record leap of 35-8.
The senior ran the table in triple jump events this year with wins at every meet she was entered in. Her last loss in the triple jump was during this year’s indoor state meet.
Amundson’s sectional jump is good for the No. 6 seed at state. Jaiah Hopf of Wisconsin Luther is the top seed at 38-10.75.
“My goal is to PR for sure,” Amundson said. “My 35-8 at sectionals broke the school record of 35-1 by 7 inches, and I’m looking to get toward 36-0.
“Right now, I’m seeded sixth and that’s on the podium, so that would be great,” she said. “My goal is to get on the podium.”
Amundson, also a member of the Tigers’ cross-country and dance teams, will be attending Macalester College next year where she will continue her track career.
“I’ve been to state the last three years, but to just watch,” Amundson said. “I’m really looking forward to this weekend.”
Knaack advanced to state with a third-place finish in the 200-meter dash with a time of 22.74 seconds, the second fastest time in school history.
Knaack was actually faster than in the prelims with a time of 22.63.
“I was seeded seventh at sectional and finished third so that was pretty awesome for me,” Knaack said. “My goal at state is to PR again. Other than that I just want to have fun and enjoy the experience and have fun down there.”
Josh Lee is the NHS record holder with a time of 22.1 set in 1998.
Northland Pines’ Lochlan Siegmeier won the 200 at sectionals in 22.02 and is the No. 1 seed among 16 state qualifiers. Evan Schuster of Racine St. Catherines is the No. 2 seed at 22.11. Knaack is the No. 11 seed.
Knaack, who also won the 100, 200 and 400 at the Heart O’ North Conference meet, will continue his track career at UW-Superior.