GGF track and field preview: Central's Ethan Thomas pushing for a hat trick of school throwing records

Apr. 19—GRAND FORKS — Senior Ethan Thomas needed some prodding from Grand Forks Central track and field coach Sean Allan to join the sport as a freshman.

"Coach Allan would stop me outside math class and he could see a 6-foot-4 skinny kid, and he wanted me on the track team," Thomas said. "My older sister (Jasmine) was on the track team, and I needed a ride home, so I thought I might as well join."

Allan's coaxing is paying off in big ways already this season.

Thomas has North Dakota's second-best throw in the shot put, discus and javelin.

It's a huge jump for Thomas, who didn't compete in shot put or discus at the state meet a year ago and finished eighth in the javelin.

"He put in an astronomical amount of work over the winter," Allan said. "He's really dedicated himself to improving and being a factor this year. He's having fun doing it. He put the work in. It's all on him and his throwing coaches. It's great to see that success."

When Thomas, who grew up in England before his military family moved to Grand Forks in 2017, came out for track and field as a freshman, things didn't come easy.

"In the shot put, I was terrible," he said. "I threw 29 feet, which is kind of bad. Javelin was the one thing I knew I had the most potential. Coach (Tim) Tandeski was really good in teaching me javelin."

Thomas took advantage of the mild winter in Grand Forks this offseason.

"I was able to be outside up until December," Thomas said. "I basically threw all the way from the end of the track season to December. It was just throwing, throwing, throwing. It was the weight room, too. I gained about 30 pounds on my max lifts."

The ascent wasn't always smooth.

"It was hard," Thomas said. "It was up and down the entire summer, changing form. It was a really rocky road. Some days were tough, not going to lie. It was the good days that kept me going."

Thomas threw the shot put 55 feet, 1 inch at Central's first outdoor meet of the season on April 13.

The throw, which would've taken second at the state meet last year, is just behind top thrower in Bismarck's 6-foot-6, 315-pound Jack Shaffer by only 2 inches.

Shaffer, who has college football offers from schools such as Wisconsin and Kansas State, also has the No. 1 throw in the discus at 180 feet, 8 inches. Thomas is No. 2 at 180 feet.

Thomas' best throw in the javelin is 181-9, which is less than 3 feet behind top thrower Zach Lilly of Fargo Davies.

Thomas said Tandeski has been a major force in his development.

"It's no surprise Coach Tandeski is the one who put the passion in the sport for me," Thomas said. "You can teach a movement but it's really hard to teach the passion. He's one of the best track coaches in North Dakota or even the U.S. He really made me think you can be something good in this sport."

Thomas, who plans to throw at UND in college, has already accomplished one of his senior goals.

Thomas has qualified for state in all three throwing disciplines, something he said hasn't been done at Central since Peter Gibbs in the early 2000s.

Thomas is also eyeing school records.

"Right now I'm second all-time in the javelin, second all-time in discus and third all-time in shot," Thomas said. "We'll see if I can get over the humps and get those first-place spots.

"Ultimately, I'm shooting for the big triple — a triple win at state. Based on the state results I've seen, that hasn't been done since 1913."

Coach: Lindi Chadwick.

2023 finish: Didn't score at state meet.

Key returners: Sr. Emily Arnold; sr. Emma Haskamp; sr. Tennasyn Henry; sr. Aria Kindseth; sr. Brynn Moen; sr. Katelyn Stern; jr. Gretta Gebhard; jr. Kendra Haag; soph. Jacie Reardon.

Top newcomers: Soph. Halle Kohlmeier; fr. Claire Fiala; fr. Emma Brown; fr. Kendra Kuznia.

Coach Chadwick says: "Even though our numbers are small, we do have girls who can compete. It's new people stepping up, and there's a lot of diversity of girls willing to be put in any event. They're coming together and willing to put in the work for any event."

Coach: Adam Eckert.

2023 finish: Second place at state.

Key returners: Jr. Sophie Brakke (fifth long jump, 10th triple jump, sixth 300 hurdles, sixth 100 hurdles); jr. Bryn Larson (18th triple jump); sr. Morgan Hartze (state champion 4x800 relay, state champion 4x400 relay, fifth 800); sr. Jocelyn Schiller (state champion 4x800 relay, state champion 4x400 relay, state champion 400); sr. Ella Weippert (state champion javelin); fr. Jocelynne Hoefs (eighth high jump).

Top newcomers: Soph. Ava Parks; jr. Abigail Baker.

Coach Eckert says: "We're a young group after graduating quite a few good athletes. We're trying to fill those positions and have some strong up-and-comers. Our mid-distance is probably our strongest qualifiers right now. We have a solid core of athletes who could really do more than four events but it's limited."

Coach: Liesa Hanson.

2023 finish: 11th in Section 8AA meet.

Key returners: Sr. Shali Anderson (sixth in 100 hurdles at 8AA, sixth in 4x100 at 8AA); jr. Camryn Adams (sixth in 4x100 at 8AA, ninth in 4x200 at 8AA, eighth in 4x400 at 8AA, 23rd in triple jump at 8AA); sr. Erin Bowman (26th in 200 at 8AA, ninth in 4x200 at 8AA); fr. Jerzey Perkerewicz (16th in 400 at 8AA, 17th in triple jump at 8AA, eighth in 4x400 at 8AA, seventh in 4x800 at 8AA); jr. Katherine Allard (16th in 800 at 8AA, eighth in 4x400 at 8AA, seventh in 4x800 at 8AA); eighth-grader Geena Jordheim (sixth in 4x100 at 8AA, ninth in 4x200 at 8AA, eighth in 4x400 at 8AA); eighth-grader Meredith Allard (seventh in 4x800 at 8AA).

Top newcomers: Soph. Ruby Leach.

Coach Hanson says: "My top returner from last year is Shali in the hurdles. I think in the short hurdles she has won all her races. She's looking strong. We have some good returning veteran athletes that provide good leadership. We have quite a few kids out. I have 28 at high school and 11 eighth-graders who think track is the greatest thing ever, so that's really exciting. There's a lot of emerging talent and potential for our program. The girls program has been down as far as numbers, so it's exciting to feel like we're on the upswing."

Coach: Sean Allan.

2023 finish: Ninth at state.

Key returners: Sr. Kyen Poole (13th discus); sr. Ethan Thomas (eighth javelin); sr. Curtis Sande (23rd 800, 12th 4x400 relay); jr. Danny Suedel (12th 4x400 relay).

Top newcomers: Sr. Jack Simmers; jr. Talib Berry; jr. Brayden Dirckx; jr. Talan Lunski; soph. Brody Melicher.

Coach Allan says: "We have a really nice mixture with some seniors with Ethan, Kyen, Jack and Curtis who are going to lead things, but I have a really great sophomore and freshmen group that is starting to mature. They'll add more as the season goes along. We have a nice balance."

Coach: Jeff Bakke.

2023 finish: Eighth at state.

Key returners: Jr. Isaiah Gaye (24th long jump, fifth triple jump); jr. Elijah Dafoe (ninth 3,200, 20th 1,600, seventh 4x800 relay, 17th 800); jr. Joe Quinn (20th 3,200); sr. Michal Larsen-Schmidt (15th 1,600, seventh 4x800 relay, 20th 800); sr. Grant Hoffarth (seventh 4x800 relay, fourth 4x400 relay); sr. Ben Strand (13th triple jump); jr. Brody Andrade (eighth 4x200 relay, fourth 4x400 relay).

Top newcomers: Sr. Zach Oehlke; jr. Daniel Severud; soph. Jack Matson; sr. Josh Neil; soph. Owen Martin; jr. Kyle Schafer; sr. David Radke; jr. Asa Berberich; jr. JB Walters; jr. Tyler Thoreson.

Coach Bakke says: "Our strength so far has been on the track. We've had some really strong performances in 400 meters and up. We have a really good cross country team in the fall so we have a strong group of distance runners and they have been really impressive. Moving down in distance, we have a really impressive group of longer sprinters like 400 runners that have been outstanding so far. We graduated a big group of seniors who were really talented. I think they understandably received attention in previous years and maybe overshadowed these kids in the past but now it's their turn to step up and a lot of them have. A lot of them worked really hard. They're getting rewarded this year."

Coach: Roger Hanson.

2023 finish: Ninth in Section 8AA meet.

Key returners: Soph. Jez Jones (22nd in 100 at 8AA, 10th in 4x100 at 8AA); sr. Hunter Jordheim (ninth in 3,200 at 8AA, 10th in mile at 8AA); jr. Jaxon Mahar (15th in mile at 8AA, 18th in 3,200 at 8AA); jr. Weston Mahar (seventh in 4x800 at 8AA, 16th in 3,200 at 8AA); jr. Messi Kalenda (10th in shot put at 8AA, 19th in discus at 8AA); soph. Nolan Kluck (18th in mile at 8AA, seventh in 4x800 at 8AA); sr. Brayden Carlson (5th in 400 at 8AA, third in 4x400 at 8AA); sr. Brady Loer (third in 4x100 at 8AA, seventh in 4x800 at 8AA, 19th in 400 at 8AA); sr. Cooper Boushee (seventh in 4x800 at 8AA, 27th in 400 at 8AA); sr. Charles Nelson (25th in 800 at 8AA); sr. Tate Moore (25th in 200 at 8AA); sr. Jace Fore (third in 4x400 at 8AA, 10th in 4x100 at 8AA); jr. Rylan Gravos (10th in 4x100 at 8AA); jr. Maverick Martine (sixth in discus at 8AA, 13th in shot put at 8AA); jr. Eliot Afshari (ninth in pole vault at 8AA); sr. Juvenal Chavez (25th in long jump at 8AA, 28th in triple jump at 8AA).

Top newcomers: Jr. Rylan Slack; jr. Austin Rusling; soph. Daj Hall; sr. Jonah Vandervort.

Coach Hanson says: "One of our strengths is our throwers. They compete. I like Jez Jones in the triple jump and maybe hurdles. Our star is Carlson. He's definitely the one college coaches are looking at. I'll have a good 4x400 and can compete in all the relays. I probably have almost 40 kids out."