Grounding leads Torkelson to 1,600 title

DODGE CENTER — It took Peter Torkelson being grounded for an entire summer for him to realize just how good he could be as a distance runner.

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Plainview-Elgin-Millville's Tysen Schmidt, left, and Pine Island's Kyle Groven compete in the 100-meter dash during the Section 1A Track and Field Championships on Thursday in Dodge Center.

DODGE CENTER — It took Peter Torkelson being grounded for an entire summer for him to realize just how good he could be as a distance runner.

The Southland junior had never even bothered to run long races until he was 13. That came after facing the consequences of breaking into a house that summer that he and a friend believed was abandoned.

His mother didn't take kindly to his shenanigans. It bothered her enough that she didn't allow Peter out of her sight that entire summer. That was his punishment.

But one day, she told him he could leave her side. She said he could do it long enough to join his sister in a 5K road race. Peter was ready to do whatever it took for some momentary freedom, so he said yes.

Not only was it good to get away, but the race went darned well. Torkelson, who with his big upper body looks nothing like a distance runner, finished eighth that day. It went well enough that he took his mom up on the offer to run another road race the very next day. That time, he took third.


It was a revelation all the way around. He was a long distance runner then for good.

"People were even cheering for me, and this time it wasn't because I'd just done something stupid," Torkelson said.

Folks were cheering for him again on Thursday. It was as Torkelson — who runs for Grand Meadow/LeRoy-Ostrander/Kingsland/Southland — competed in the 1,600 meters at the Section One, Class A meet at Triton High School.

Torkelson didn't just compete in the race, he won it. In fact he's failed to finish first in the 1,600 just once this year. Thursday he was timed in 4:27.28. That was just ahead of La Crescent's Matt Steiger (4:28.32). The top two finishers in each event advance to next week's state meet at Hamline University, as well as those who qualify by standard.

Torkelson figured to advance to state in two events. He was the favorite in the 300 hurdlers, but settled for third.

Groven dashing as ever

It's been quite a spring for Pine Island sprinter deluxe Kyle Groven.

There has been him breaking 11 seconds in the 100 (10.99), winning virtually every sprint he's participated in, and on Thursday winning two section titles. He was first in the 100 (11.20) and 400 (49.61). There has been drama, too. That took place Tuesday in the section preliminaries, when he was disqualified from the 200 after a false start. That one hurt.


"It's hard to quickly get over something like that," Groven said of his 200 twitch. "You want to get off to a fast start. But the start can turn into such a mental thing."

Groven did get over it, though. He did it behind a confidence that has been building since last year, when he finished second at state in the 400 and third in the 100. He added to that confidence with strenuous off-season workouts, and plenty of work on his starts. That included more fine tuning of them Wednesday and Thursday, before the section finals.

Once Thursday's guns went off, he was good to go all over again.

"I got through it fine," he said.

Groven isn't nearly the only speedy guy in Section 1A. A total of five sprinters qualified for next week's state meet in the 100: Groven, Plainview-Elgin-Millville's Tysen Schmidt (11.32), Stewartville's Isaiah Jacobsen (11.36), Dover-Eyota's Payton Schott (11.37), and P-E-M's Derrick Cannon (11.39).

But Groven is the guy to beat, always.

"I like having Groven around," said Schmidt, a junior. "He pushes me."

Schmidt was first in the 200, in 22.34. Rushford-Peterson/Houston all-around star Noah Carlson was second (22.37), and Schott also qualified for state (22.86).


Carlson sets record

R-P/H's Carlson has been nursing a sore hamstring much of the second half of the season. Renowned especially for his work in the triple and long jumps, where he was a double state champion last year, the junior says he is 100 percent now.

He showed it in Thursday's long jump where he sailed a winning 22-feet-11 3/4. That was good for a section meet record.

"I was getting kind of nervous that (the hamstring) wouldn't be better by the time of the section and state meets," Carlson said. "I didn't want to miss them."

Kunkel still perfect

Lourdes' Javon Kunkel made a goal to begin the season. It was to finish the season unbeaten in the 110 hurdles. So far, the Eagles senior has lived up to that.

Kunkel was a winner again in the section finals, clocked in 15.50. That was easily better than runner-up Jens Knutson of Byron (16.08). The 15.50 was Kunkel's best time this season.

Kunkel never even got out of the section preliminaries last season, after hitting a hurdler. This time he made sure to up his concentration.


"Last year I was looking at the (stadium timing) clock," he said. "This time I just looked straight ahead."


The biggest, burliest guy in the section meet — 6-foot-9, 300-pound Matt Culhane — also came up with the biggest throws in the section meet. The Rushford-Peterson/Houston senior won the shot put Tuesday, then Thursday powered his way to the discus crown with a 168-10 throw. Garrett Nosbisch of Stewartville was second (160-7).

Culhane might have even more in him at the state meet, as he tossed the discus 178-1 once last year and landed second at state with a 169-2 distance.

"I am more consistent this season," he said. "I've consistently been in the 160s all season."

• Pine Island's Mitchel Acker won the section 800 meter title for the third straight year. He turned in his best section time yet Thursday, clocked in 1:56.39. Teammates Jack Williams was just behind him in 1:57.72.

• A total of four teams qualified for state in the 400 relay: La Crescent (43.65), Stewartville (44.01), P-E-M (44.06) and Lourdes (44.43).

• Stewartville was the section team winner, with 98. La Crescent was second with 88.


Lake City's Mitch Acker, left, and Pine Island's Carl Kozlowski run the final leg of the 3,200-meter relay during the Section 1A Track and Field Championships on Thursday in Dodge Center.

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