Returning to the Decorah girls’ track team with a letter are (front, l-r) Shayla Betts, Katie Bjergum, Grace Syverson, Rose Gullekson, Olivia Battle, Cassie Wyatt; (middle row) Meg Sessions, Amanda Kuehner, Annette Leschensky, Fiona Buresh, Cassidy Carolan, Leila Johnson (back row) Jordyn Hussain, Brooke Berns, Olivia Mettille, Ambria Pipho, Avery Shelton, Bella Knutson, Brooke Courtney. (Photo by Becky Walz)
Returning to the Decorah girls’ track team with a letter are (front, l-r) Shayla Betts, Katie Bjergum, Grace Syverson, Rose Gullekson, Olivia Battle, Cassie Wyatt; (middle row) Meg Sessions, Amanda Kuehner, Annette Leschensky, Fiona Buresh, Cassidy Carolan, Leila Johnson (back row) Jordyn Hussain, Brooke Berns, Olivia Mettille, Ambria Pipho, Avery Shelton, Bella Knutson, Brooke Courtney. (Photo by Becky Walz)

The Decorah girls’ track team is hoping to claim its 15th consecutive Northeast Iowa Conference crown; but in order to do so, it will need to fill in some gaps after graduating 16 athletes, many with state experience.

Coaching the squad along the journey for their third season are Co-Coaches Cristy Nimrod and Brad Johansen, along with assistant Mike Tangen.

“By the time we reach the championship portion of our schedule we will have numerous girls vying for relay and individual events,” said the co-head coaches. 


Remembering 2018

With 65 athletes donning spikes for the 2018 season, the Vikings were poised to make some noise. However, the weather was uncooperative with seven scheduled outdoor competitions cancelled due to inclement conditions.

Hitting the track intermittently, Decorah managed to pick up wins in just about every varsity competition.

At the NEIC meet, the domination continued for the Vikings as they picked up the crown for the 14th year in a row, that included eight gold medals.

The Vikings only continued to improve as they competed at the state qualifying meet, taking the team title with 197 and qualifying 20 events for state.

On the Blue Oval at Drake Stadium, Decorah claimed two gold and two silver medals.

Senior Katie Nimrod collected her second straight 400-meter hurdle title in record-setting fashion. Breaking the tape in 63.13 gave Nimrod not only the Class 3A crown but the school record. The 4x400 relay team ended the three-day state event with its third consecutive title in 3:57.66. Members of the winning quartet were Sarah Mikkelson, Brooke Berns, Jenna Galligan and Nimrod.

The sprint and distance medley relay teams returned to Decorah with silver medals. Taking the track in the sprint medley were Allie Hafner, Brynne Valkosky, Rylea Ranum and Nimrod, setting another new school record in 1:47.69. Racing in the distance medley to stop the clock in 4:07.65 were Hafner, Mikkelson, Fiona Buresh and Nimrod.

A third school record fell in the 4x100 relay prelim race as well. Sprinting to the finish line in 49.87 seconds were Hafner, Ranum, Valkosky and Rose Gullekson. In the finals, the Viking quartet finished seventh overall.

Others competing in Des Moines at the state meet a year ago included Hailey Nierling (shotput, 14th, 35-7); Emily Franzen (high jump, 20th,  4’11), Ambria Pipho (high jump, 21st, 4’9”), Valkosky (100m, 10th, 13.01); Berns (200m, 14th, 26.70), Buresh (200m, 17th, 26.80), Olivia Battle (400m, 15th, 1:02.30), Galligan (800m, 12th, 2:20.24), Shayla Betts (1500m, 21st, 5:07.50), Bella Knutson (100m hurdles, 13th, 16.16), Grace Syverson (100m hurdles, 16th, 16.23), shuttle hurdle relay (Syverson, Pipho, Katie Bjergum, Knutson), 5th, 1:07.27), 4x200 (Buresh, Hafner, Ranum, Gullekson, 6th, 1:46.62) and 4x800 relay (Galligan, Mikkelson, Leila Johnson, Betts, 4th, 9:34.68).

Overall, Decorah placed fifth in team standings with 50 points.

Graduating at the end of the season were Madilyn Fahey, Emily Franzen, Jenna Galligan, Alli Hafner, Anna Hanson, Rachel Hines, Janaye Lundvedt, Sarah Mikkelson, Tori Miller, Hailey Nierling, Katie Nimrod, Rylea Ranum, Kaitlyn Rooney, Madison Sexton, Klara Thompson and Brynne Valkosky.


Talent back

While there is a lot of talent gone, the Lady Vikes will see wide variety of abilities return to the oval.

At the top of the list are returning state qualifiers: Olivia Battle, Brooke Berns, Shayla Betts, Katie Bjergum, Fiona Buresh, Rose Gullekson, Leila Johnson, Bella Knutson, Ambria Pipho, and Grace Syverson. 

Other returning letter winners include Cassidy Carolan, Jordyn Hussain, Brooke Courtney, Ava Holland, Rebecca Klotzbach, Amanda Kuehner, Annette Leschensky, Benedetta Rafenelli, Olivia Mettille, Avery Shelton and Cassie Wyatt.

In order to find the success that is possible for the Decorah squad, the coaches hope to see the girls’ confidence build, showcase positivity daily while celebrating all the good they accomplish as they commit to being their best.

“If they do these four simple things, they will have a great track season and will be better athletes and people when it is complete,” said Nimrod and Johansen.


A look around

With a storied history, Decorah looks to have the recipe to compete for the NEIC title again.

“Every team in the conference will have strong individual performers,” noted Nimrod and Johansen. “Only time will tell how the depth of each team presents itself.”

As always, the Vikings’ ultimate success will hinge on remaining healthy, practicing daily and competing in all of their meets.

“When all three of those align, we have the potential to be good,” concluded Nimrod and Johansen. “We have an exciting group of athletes to watch who continue to represent the strong tradition of Decorah girls’ track and field.”