Jordyn Thornton could sum up the Lakeville South 2012 girls’ track and field season in one word: magical.
“Quite honestly, last year was the most magical season I have ever experienced in any of my sports,” said Thornton, a senior thrower. “I think that because in track and field you never really know how well everyone is doing until the end, and in the end we were undefeated and state champions.”
The Cougars put together essentially the perfect season, capturing the South Suburban Conference, a section title and ultimately a Class 2A championship to close out the year.
“But better than that, we were True Team state champs, which proved the total strength of the team,” said Thornton, who is committed to North Dakota State.
Thornton was a big part of last year’s perfect season. She placed second at state in the discus at 144 feet, 9 inches, behind a record-setting performance from St. Francis’ Maggie Ewen (171-9), who is also now in her senior year. Thornton also placed third in the shot put at 42-2, providing a total of 18 points to the team total of 56.5.
Thornton’s goal is to improve in both distance and overall technique. A senior captain, she wants to make it back to the state meet and to be a strong competitor, and few doubt she will be able to do that. Thornton was also named the school’s Athena Award winner this year, given to each school’s most outstanding senior female athlete.
“The first thing I felt was shocked and then I was overjoyed, because I never thought about everything I have done and how much it means,” said Thornton, who is a three-time letterwinner in soccer and Olympic weightlifting, and a five-time letterwinner in track and field. “I always just tried to take it one day or meet at a time. I truly feel honored.”
Lakeville South coach Andrew Hilliard is proud of Thornton and the entire team’s performance last year. The excitement level is high for this season, but he wants his athletes to not be burdened by expectations.
“I think the biggest challenge is making them realize it’s OK if you don’t win every meet or don’t set a school record every performance,” Hilliard said. “Everything worked out really well last year. We just need to manage all that and make sure we’re having fun.”
Unlike many state championship teams, the Cougars are returning a boatload of talent, but will be looking to replace key athletes who graduated.
“I have to remind the girls that we’re a very different team,” Hilliard said. “We didn’t graduate a lot of people, but we did graduate a lot of points. I think we can still be very successful and I think the girls think they’ll be successful, but it’s going to have to be in a different manner. We have to see who’s going to step up and help us out.”
There is firepower in the lineup.
Junior Emma Mickelson and sophomores Andrea Brekken and Kaytlyn Larson return as members of the fourth-place 4x800-meter relay team at state. Junior Shaina Burns finished fourth in the 300-meter hurdles and seventh in the 100-meter hurdles a season ago. Burns, senior Rose Cozad, junior Rachel Mickelson and sophomore Caraline Slattery took fourth in the 4x400-meter relay. Morgan Pieri took fourth and Slattery placed sixth in the high jump.
With a championship in hand and a fresh season ahead, Hilliard is not worried about his team getting complacent at all. It’s just not in their character.
“I would say it’s the opposite,” Hilliard said. “They don’t want to be the ones that don’t win it. They’re going to get after it.”