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State track and field: Rebels' Lilya captures wheelchair shot put title

Moose Lake/Willow River's Danny Lilya throws the shot put during Friday's Minnesota Class A State Track and Field Meet in St. Paul. Lilya won the event with a Category 1 Class A record throw of 19 feet, 4.25 inches. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal1 / 3
South Ridge's Nick Carlson competes in the triple jump at the Minnesota Class A State Track and Field Meet in St. Paul on Friday. Carlson finished fifth overall with a jump of 44-06. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal2 / 3
Cromwell's Nic Johnson runs in a 100-meter dash heat race at the Minnesota Class A State Track and Field Meet on Friday afternoon in St. Paul. Johnson won his heat and qualified second overall for Saturday's Class A 100-meter final with a time of 11.20. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal3 / 3

ST. PAUL — Moose Lake-Willow River junior Danny Lilya talked over the winter with his good buddy, Aidan Szcyzrbak, about their plans for the spring.

Lilya, who was born a paraplegic from a congenital spinal defect, raced in the wheelchair sprints for the Rebels' track team last spring, but it wasn't really his thing. He was debating whether or not to even go out for track, but upon a little urging from Szcyzrbak, a MLWR thrower, he decided to give the shot and discus a try.

"It sounded pretty fun," Lilya said.

Winning is fun, as Lilya found out Friday at the Minnesota State Class A Track and Field Championships at Hamline University. Lilya won the boys shot put wheelchair event with a Category 1 record toss of 19 feet, 4.25 inches. Category 1 is for those with disabilities that only affect the lower body.

"I can't complain," Lilya said. "There's more competition in the shot and disc, and I think it's a more level playing field than the races. There's a lot more adrenaline running through the body."

Lilya also enjoys football and sled hockey and is strong, bench pressing as much as 230 pounds, so the shot and discus, which he'll compete in today, only made sense. Family friend Craig Lenci built his throwing chair for him a couple weeks before the season, and ratchet locks and stakes keep it in place when he launches the shot and discus.

"Last year I competed in track more for hockey, just working on getting those quick bursts, working on my explosiveness," Lilya said. "That can also apply to the shot and discus. It would mean a lot to win both events, representing my team and my school. It'd be really cool."

Carlson jumps to fifth place

South Ridge senior Nick Carlson was seeded fourth in the triple jump with a personal best 44-11.5 and Section 7A record, bettering the 2008 mark of another Cotton athlete, Kenny Schofield. But Carlson knew it would be a struggle after tweaking his right ankle in warmups on Friday.

"I just couldn't get a good jump in after that," he said. "I must have landed awkwardly or something like that."

Still, his mark of 44-6 on Friday was good for fifth. On Thursday night, Carlson, a utility player, was part of the Panthers' Section 7A winning baseball team, earning their first berth in the state tournament. The 6-foot-3 Carlson, a quarterback in football and a 1,000-point scorer in basketball, is an athlete, with a 30-inch vertical. He will play basketball at St. Scholastica and probably track. He has the long jump today.

"I'm jumping off my left foot, so my ankle shouldn't bother me," he said. "This is a pretty good way to go out."

Best of the rest

Cromwell-Wright senior Nic Johnson had the second-best qualifying time in the boys 100 in 11.20 seconds, while Cardinals sophomore Shaily Hakamaki finished sixth in the girls long jump and is one of the top competitors in today's triple jump.

Esko senior Tate Olson finished fifth in the boys pole vault.

Barnum sophomore Alexis Bonneville was seventh in the girls discus.

Cloquet's Alex Leuzzo was eighth in the triple jump, Eli Benson was seventh in the pole vault and Kendra Kelley was eighth in the girls long jump.