Hatton-Northwood's Pinke, North Star's Hagler go from watching 2022 state track to 2023 state champs

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May 25—BISMARCK — North Star's Dane Hagler and Hatton-Northwood's Elizabeth Pinke didn't compete in the 2022 North Dakota state track and field meet.

Hagler, now a junior, had never come out for track and field before. Pinke, now a freshman, was an eighth-grader and hadn't qualified.

On the first day of the 2023 state track and field meet, both are state champions.

Hagler won the Class B boys high jump with a 6-inch personal-best and a winning height of 6-foot-6, while Pinke threw a personal-best 127 feet, 4 inches to win the Class B girls discus on Thursday at the Bismarck Community Bowl.

Hagler said he entered the weekend seeded 13th.

"It was a lot of adrenaline with the atmosphere," said Hagler, who helped North Star to a region baseball championship on Wednesday night. "This is my first year of track. You never feel the atmosphere until you're down there."

In his only season of track and field, Hagler has competed in just two regular-season meets, one regional and now state. Because he suffered an ankle injury during the basketball season, he did the high jump bouncing off his right foot for the first two meets before switching to his dominant foot for the last two meets.

"I went to a couple of practices and learned how to bend my back a little," Hagler said.

Hagler cleared 6-6 on his first attempt and Cooper Johnson of Central Cass missed 6-6 on his first attempt. Johnson then needed to attempt 6-7 to beat Hagler but couldn't clear the height to finish second.

Hagler's younger brother, Hunter, a freshman, finished fifth in the high jump with a jump of 6-2.

Pinke, who had a personal-best of just 95 feet a year ago, bested that mark by 32 feet to finish off her freshman season in the discus.

Pinke, who entered the meet seeded second, started slow, barely sneaking into the finals. Among her first three throws, Pinke's best was 103-11 to sit in eighth of nine places in the finals.

"Before I went into finals, I was a little nervous," Pinke said. "I didn't get a mark my first two throws. The third throw I just needed to get something for finals. My mom told me to be long and loose, and that's what I was thinking. By time I got to finals, I was super relaxed. After the very last girl had thrown, it was fun to realize."

"She made it to the finals and that was the goal," Hatton-Northwood throwing coach Molly Griep-Popowski said. "I told her to go compete and the fourth throw she chucked it 127-4. I told, 'I think you're going to win it.' But she was the second thrower, and we had to wait for the better girls to go. When the top two girls went and didn't beat her, I said 'You're a state champ.'"

Pinke was the only freshman in the top 10.

"Her possibilities are endless," Griep-Popowski said. "The sky is the limit. After she won, she said she can't wait to throw this summer and get better. I had to tell her to slow down and let this one sink in."

Pinke's brother, Hunter, a former UND football captain, texted his sister to let her know she'd already done better than he did at a state track meet.

"He said he didn't hit a single mark," Pinke said with a laugh. "As soon as I did that, I did better than him. I grew up going to the state track meet, so it's fun to be able to compete in it."