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Otter Tail Central's Ukkelberg wins state triple jump title

Otter Tail Central's Tony Ukkelberg soars during Friday's triple jump finals at the Minnesota Class 1A state track and field meet in St. Paul. Photo by Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Chief

ST. PAUL – Ottertail Central’s Tony Ukkelberg was down to his last attempt in the triple jump at the Minnesota Class 1A state track and field meet on Friday at Hamline University. Between him and a state championship was Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman and his jump of 44 feet, 9.25 inches.

It was last season that Ukkelberg had a stress fracture in his back days before the track postseason began, keeping him from competing. It was last season he sat and watched after a season of work went to waste. It was Friday that made all that pain worth it, as the sophomore stuck a jump of 44-11 and Chiaokhiao-Bowman could only answer with a 43-2.75 on the final jump of the event.

“I think it’s much more fulfilling because last year I didn’t get a chance,” Ukkelberg said. “It made me work harder and it adds to the reward of getting it.”

Petric VanErp, Ukkelberg’s cousin and teammate, felt a similar reward a few jumps before Ukkelberg. At the state track meet last season, VanErp finished fifth in the triple jump, but felt something a little off in his left knee. During a quad stretch the next day before the long jump, VanErp said it felt like something moved to the other side of his knee.

He knew. It was a torn meniscus and he couldn’t compete in the high jump or the finals of the 800-meter relay.

“I knew. I couldn’t straighten it,” VanErp said. “I was really upset because I couldn’t help the team.”

On VanErp’s final jump in the triple jump on Friday, he went from sixth to third, landing a jump of 44-7.25, which was more than a foot longer than his career best.

“My sister triple jumps in college and she kept telling me to stay low, so I did,” VanErp said. “My adrenaline was high. I knew it was my best one, but I didn’t think it was 44-7. I couldn’t really believe it.”

Fittingly for the cousins, the road at state was nearly as tough as the road it took to get to state. While competing to finish in the top three in the triple jump the two had to jump back on the track and run the preliminaries in the 800-meter relay and the 400-meter relay before returning for jumps in the triple jump.

OTC didn’t qualify for the finals in the 400 relay, but the Bulldogs broke a team record, qualifying for the finals in the 800 with the fourth-fastest prelim time at 1 minute, 31.81 seconds.

“My legs were pretty tired after both the relays, so I wasn’t sure I would be able to get farther and farther, but I just got jacked and went,” Ukkelberg said.

The only thing Ukkelberg didn’t do on Friday was keep a promise to his mother. On the ride to Hamline University, Ukkelberg said he would hit 45 feet. He didn’t and she jokingly yelled, “No supper for you,” after he won.

A state championship can cure anything. Even a hungry teenager.

“I aimed for 45 all year, so I was an inch away, so that’s not bad,” Ukkelberg said. “There’s so much emotion. It was amazing.”

Lee second in high jump

Norman County high jumper Miki Lee gets ready for a jump by telling herself the bar is lower than it actually is. It worked Friday, as the junior hit 5 feet, 4 inches and took second in the Class 1A high jump.

“Right away I had two scratches at 5 feet and I was getting pretty nervous,” Lee said. “I finally got it on my third jump and, from there, I felt like I could do it.”

Chris Murphy

Chris Murphy is a sports reporter for the Forum. He's covered high school and college sports in Chicago, North Dakota and Minnesota since 2009 and, for some reason, has been given awards for doing so.

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