Ben Love hasn't been afraid to think about what it might feel like to win a state title. The Minot High School junior isn't cocky, but he holds the top Class A qualifying mark in the pole vault heading into the state track and field meet at the Bismarck Community Bowl.
The meet begins at 9:30 a.m. today with the parade of athletes and Love is one of three Magicians in serious contention to become individual champions.
"It'd be pretty awesome," Love said. "I don't know, I can't imagine that, I guess. I've been thinking about it, but I've just been picturing how awesome it'd be if I win it and what it's gonna feel like."
(Left to right) Minot High School sprinters senior Caleb Albertson, senior Dylan Jechort and junior Alex Yanosko warm up during practice Wednesday at Magic City Campus.
Love cleared 13 feet, three inches for a personal best and first place at the West Region meet last week. Only three other Class A athletes have cleared 13 feet and Love feels his best vault is still ahead of him. MHS coach Aaron Klingbeil is hoping for a top-five team score after his squad finished tied for 10th last year with just 10 points. Love, who is a top-five seed in the 110-meter hurdles, has emerged this season and will likely surpass last year's team points on his own.
"To be honest, it's not a huge surprise," Klingbeil said, "but it wasn't expected by any means, but now (Love's) sitting atop the performance list. But like we told him, the bar doesn't get any easier, the pole doesn't get any harder, you just go and do what you do. He's loving it. We've got him on a pole this year that he really likes."
MHS junior Alex Yanosko and sophomore Karter Gorney also figure to be top point-earners and individual title contenders. Gorney has the top qualifying time in the 100 (10.83 seconds), a top-five mark in the 200 and will run in the 400 and 800 relays.
"I think my chances are very good, but I'm not gonna go in there thinking I'm gonna win," Gorney said of the 100. "I'm gonna go in there and do my best, see what happens."
Yanosko, who also will compete in the long jump, won the West Region title in the triple jump with a leap of 43 feet, 8.5 inches, but had a personal best of 44 feet even earlier in the season. West Fargo's Jaime Heinen is the only competitor to jump more than 45 feet and the senior had a top jump of 47-02 at the East Region meet.
"Yanosko is jumping very well in the triple," Klingbeil said. "He's got a couple of guys that are really strong in it, but they're also up and down, so on the right day, Yanosko's a state champion."
Said Yanosko: "I've been tapering for the last two weeks, so I've been getting fresher and fresher, so my jumps are getting farther and farther. Even in practice, I'm feeling better so I think we're setting up well for that."
Yanosko is one of four Magicians set to compete in four events. The team will have competitors in all events except the 400, discus and high jump. Klingbeil believes the 400 relay is his team's strongest combination and the only one of three sprint relays not impacted by the dismissal of senior R.J. Barker and junior Kimani Benjamin. Klingbeil and MHS athletic director Pat McNally declined to specify why the sprinters were removed from the roster this week.
Benjamin was a member of qualifiers in the 800 and 1600 relays and the only Magician to qualify in the open 400. Barker was a member of the 400 relay, which set a school record of 43.13 last week. He also was a member of the team's top times in the 800 and 1600 relays this season and qualified in the open 200.
"The (1600) is probably the most impacted of them all," Klingbeil said, "but it's also one that we had the most alternates for, so we'll just have to see how much they can rise up to the challenge."
The 400 relay, which qualified one-hundredth of a second behind Bismarck Century's top qualifier (43.12) in the same race, will likely include Gorney, Yanosko, senior Dylan Jechort and junior Josh Pizzo. Pizzo and senior Caleb Albertson return to bolster the relays after missing the West Region meet last week for an unrelated suspension.
Albertson, also a long jumper, is a key component to the 1600 relay.
Yanosko is confident the late changes to the relays will have little effect on the team's title hopes.
"We're a fast team. We're gonna take state," he said. "I have a lot of confidence. In our (800) we've still got three guys in it and in our (400) we've still got three guys in it. I know our lead legs will step up to the challenge. (The alternates are) not just some Joe Blows, they're varsity runners and they'll do well."
Today's Class A boys finals include the open 1600, 3200 relay, discus, high jump and triple jump.