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Sports: Nelson heads to state on high note

Mariah Nelson didn't know what to think after her preliminary throws in the discus at the Region 5B track meet last Thursday in Freeman. The Mitchell Christian eighth-grader was only topping out at 86 feet during her throws and just barely made t...

Mariah Nelson didn't know what to think after her preliminary throws in the discus at the Region 5B track meet last Thursday in Freeman.

The Mitchell Christian eighth-grader was only topping out at 86 feet during her throws and just barely made the finals by four inches.

"I was disappointed after prelims -- that's for sure," said Nelson. "But I saw that everybody wasn't throwing their best and that I had a shot at making finals. I knew if I was actually going to qualify for state that I had to calm down. When the finals started, my nerves went away."

They sure did.

Nelson had throws of 103, 105 and 104 feet in the finals. All were personal-bests for her after having a previous best throw of 99-9. All three of Nelson's throws would have won the meet for her. Ethan's Shelly Neugebauer took second with a 101-5.

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Now, she's headed to the Class B state track meet this week in Sioux Falls. Once Nelson passed the 100-feet mark, she had a feeling she was doing something special.

"When I went over 100, I was just overjoyed," Nelson said. "When I found out I got first, that was just awesome. I improved by more than five feet in just one week. Who knows what I can do next week?"

Nelson took up the discus last year as a seventh-grader. One of the reasons for her taking the discus up was that her mom, Shannon, threw in high school for Mobridge and Geddes. Her mom has been Mariah's own personal coach for the event.

"My mom went to state four times for discus," Nelson said. "That's where I'm learning everything. She really encourages me. I think I've improved a lot this year. I can't wait to see what I'll do next year. I plan on practicing all summer and I'm excited for next year already."

Nelson also credited her dad, Mark, for helping to encourage her.

"He hasn't missed one track meet. He keeps track of numbers for me, too. He has the top throws in the state on him all the time," she said.

The best throw in the state this year for Class B girls in the discus has come from Rosholt-Fairmount's Brittany Pearson, who has a 126-11. The eighth-best throw is a 110-9 from Kadoka's Lacey Mayfield. Stickney's Shelby Assmus has a throw of 116-9 this year and Andes Central's Bethany Florey has a 114-11.

While it may not be realistic for Nelson to take first place at state, it's still a giant feat to make it as an eighth-grader. You can probably count how many eighth-graders will be at state this week on one hand.

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Nelson will be Christian's lone representative at state.

"I know I'm going to be really nervous at state," Nelson admitted. "I always get nervous. But my mom always tells me to calm down and usually I do. I just have to keep my head up and not look down because that's what you're supposed to do in the discus."

Nelson can hold her head up high as long as she wants.

arennecke@daily.mitchellrepublic.com

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