Tony Nelson, a senior at Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, knows there are no shortcuts on the way to success, though steps can be skipped.
Nelson won the shot put event at the Hamline Elite Meet, held for the first time since 2019 because of the pandemic. His mark of 64 feet, 51⁄2 inches set a new meet record and confirmed his place among the state's best throwers regardless of class.
The same can be said of Nelson's football prowess. A three-star prospect as an offensive lineman, Nelson verbally committed to the Gophers in March 2021. His football success translated well to achieving his track and field goals.
"When you're losing a game, you keep getting back up and keep playing," Nelson said. "Even though you don't hit the mark you want [in the shot put], you've got to keep throwing and good things will come."
Before this week, Nelson never broke 60 feet in competition. In practice, yes. In meet warmups, yes. But not when it counted. Then on Tuesday, he went 61-5, followed by 62-5 on Thursday. He blew right past his next goal of 63 feet with his second throw Friday.
Now Nelson is shooting for the record of 65-8 set in 2012 by Thomas Anderson of Andover.
"That was my goal at the beginning of the season," Nelson said.
Fitzgerald sails to victory
Wind and persistent light rain didn't stop Roseville senior Ava Fitzgerald from breaking a meet record in the girls' 100-meter hurdles. The strength of the field concerned her more than the less-than-favorable conditions.
Fitzgerald outjumped and outran Ava Cinnamo of Rosemount and Shaina Zinter of Concordia Academy, winners of the event in the Class 2A and 1A state meets, respectively, last June.
All three hurdlers went under the previous meet record, with Fitzgerald's time of 14.26 seconds pacing the pack.
"I can't say I was expecting it," said Fitzgerald, a four-time Class 2A state meet veteran in the hurdles. "I was just trying to run and shoot for a personal best."
She and Zinter competed in both hurdles events on Tuesday at Fitzgerald's home track. She won the 100 hurdles, but Zinter took the 300 hurdles. Roseville invited nearby Concordia Academy in Roseville just to get Fitzgerald and Zinter head-to-head.
"It's so nice to run against great athletes because they gave me that extra push," Fitzgerald said. "Iron sharpens iron."
Zinter, who won the 300 hurdles at Roseville, did so again at Hamline. The victory capped a bittersweet evening where she showcased her myriad strengths but was in danger of not winning an event.
Second in the 100 hurdles by .02 hundredths of a second, Zinter also placed second in the long jump and fourth in the 100-meter dash.
"This gets me into the mind-set of running really fast the rest of the season," Zinter said.
- Jordan Hecht of Rosemount won the girls' discus with a throw of 143-10, almost 9 feet better than her throw to win the Class 2A state meet title last June.
- Jordyn Borsch of Maple Grove won the girls' 200 and 400.
- Max Reis of Spectrum, located in Elk River, won the 100 and 200.
- Blake Nyenati of Andover won the 110 hurdles and placed second in 300 hurdles.
- Nia Holloway of Eden Prairie, who has signed to play basketball with the Gophers, won the high jump with a height of 5-5.