Lancer Track and Field fans that attended the Section 1A Championships last week in Elgin must have thought their admission fee included the price of an “E”-ticket ride at Disneyland.
Thrills, chills, and spills, twists and turns, agonizing plunges to the depths, and, ultimately, ascents to the highest of heights were the norm rather than the exception for La Crescent-Hokah over the two days of the State-qualifying meet. When the final race had been run, the Lancers had five events qualify for State as the boys team placed fourth of the thirty teams in the section, while the girls team was twelfth.
Field events were a mixed bag for the Lancers on Tuesday. Payton Dryden was unable to clear her opening height in the high jump, as that event concluded for her very quickly. Thankfully, she was able to rally in the finals of the discus competition, sailing a throw on 118-0 on her final toss to move into second and become the first Lancer to qualify for 2018 State Meet. Russell Drye cleared 10-11 in the pole vault, but failed to negotiate the next height that would have earned him a place in the competition, while in the boys shot put, Josh Petersen threw his second personal best in two weeks of 45-6.5, earning a fourth place medal and just two spots shy of a State-advancing berth.
Tuesday’s prelim session on the track did not start well for the Lancers. Emmarie Byom, in second in her prelim heat of the 100 hurdles, clipped the ninth hurdle, spiked her own leg, then went down to the track on the tenth and final hurdle, only to get up and walk across the finish line in last place.
After Ella Baudek ran a solid prelim to become the lone Lancer to qualify for Thursday’s final, the boys 110 hurdle prelims took place, where the Lancers had three competitors, including seniors Ben Nelson and Jake Schmitz, who had placed third and fourth in this event at sectionals as juniors.. Sub-section champion Schmitz came off his first hurdle badly, then suffered the same fate as Byom when he ran into the second hurdle and went crashing to the track. Although he got up and finished, his time was well behind what was required to advance to the finals. In the next heat, neither Nelson nor Mitchell Dryden were able to find their rhythms and neither of them were able to get to the finals, either.
After Amanda Iverson and Sam Breuer were able to advance to the finals of their respective 100 meter dashes, the next Lancer casualty occurred in the boys 4x200m relay, After strong legs by the seniors Connor Ernst and Aidan Alioto, they were not able to make the second pass within the exchange zone prior to dropping the baton and were disqualified, leaving senior anchor runner Tanner Corcoran unable to run in his final meet.
Junior Jacob Hogan ran a solid race in the boys 400 prelims, but just missed on advancing to the finals. The Lancer ship righted momentarily when both 4x100 teams advanced to finals, along with Lola Baudek and Drew Wieser in their respective 300 hurdle races and Iverson in the 200.
That brought the only Tuesday final of the night, the 3200 meter races, to the track. Just two laps into the race, senior Matt Steiger started to distance himself from the field and stretched his lead to over 35 seconds by the end, qualifying for State by winning and setting a new La Crescent-Hokah school record with his time of 9:23.30, bettering the mark of 9:28 set in 1983 by Dean Junk. Back in the pack, fellow senior Cole Fechner was having uncharacteristic struggles and had to rally to finish eighth in 10:21.
The final prelim race, the 4x400 relay, didn’t start well when the Lancer girls failed to qualify for their final. Hogan got the boys out well in their first prelim heat and handed off to Steiger, just 20 minutes after his 3200 win, in fourth place. Stieger held that position on the backstretch, but made a strong move on the homestretch and inched the Lancer quartet into first just meters from the exchange zone. Third runner Josh Weigel failed to get out quickly enough and found himself sprawled on the track after being run over by Steiger, but, as precious seconds were ticking away, quickly regained his feet and the baton and, with some assistance from Steiger, headed out for his leg in fourth place and managed to solidify the Lancers home on that spot, which alternate Thomas Lechnir held to the finish. After some anxious moments watching the final heat, the Lancers learned that their time held on for the eighth and final spot in the finals.
Thursday’s finals found only one field event with a La Crescent-Hokah participant, but Emmarie Byom took full advantage of the opportunity and leaped to a new school record in the triple jump of 33-8.5, good for sixth place and bettering the mark of 33-3.5 that was shared by Jamie Bjerke and Shannon Stever.
The Lancer girls 4x800 of Breigh Bierman, Ashley Muenzenberger, Katy Steffes and Molly Franzose improved on their sub-section time, but settled for twelfth place 11:16 in their final. Andrew Jaquette and Bryce Duffy had the Lancer boys 4x800 in third place after the first two legs of their race, but were still quite a distance out of the second place finish that would propel them to State. Junior Alex Boudreau picked a perfect day to run his personal best and his 2:04 leg got Lancer anchor Cole Fechner back within shouting distance of second. With Stewartville going on for the win, the only drama concerned who would get second and Fechner staged a furious kick over the final 200 meter and nipped the anchor runner from Rochester Home School at the finish by a scant .04 of a second, sending the Lancers to the State Meet with a time of 8:17, the fourth best in school history.
Ella Baudek ran a personal best of :16.85 to place sixth in the 100 hurdles, but Iverson got bit by the false-start bug for the second time this season, flinching in the blocks and ending her bid for a State berth in the 100 dash before it started. Senior Sam Breuer ran a solid :11.77 in finishing seventh in the boys 100, missing out on a medal by just .03.
The boys 1600 meter run featured what could be argued was the most impressive performance of the meet when Steiger clicked off four laps under 65 second in posting a new Lancer school record of 4:14.39, breaking the meet record of 4:15.85 set by former Rochester Lourdes and University of Minnesota stand-out Mike Torchia in 2006. Lancer soph Thomas Lechnir got caught up in the brisk early pace and settled for 13th place in 4:57.
The hopes of the girls 4x100 for a high finish were dashed when senior lead-off runner Kayley Bibber suffered a pulled hamstring about 70 meters into her leg. Although she hopped and crawled the baton to second runner Iverson, who finished off the relay to Riley Fuchsel and Byom, the loss of time relegated the Lancers to an eighth place finish. Weigel, Breuer, Mitchell Roberts, and Romy Whitford ran a :45.48, the eighth best time in Lancer track history, but could do no better than seventh place in a strong field.
Lola Baudek, still nursing a quad strain, placed fifth in the girls 300 hurdles in :48.65 and Drew Wieser was eighth in the boys 300 hurdle field in :43.04. Molly Franzose, not feeling the best, was 13th in the girls 800 at 2:54, but Andrew Jaquette earned his way to the medal stand with a sixth place effort of 2:07.10 in the boys 800. Wrapping up a rough sectional meet, Iverson ran :27.43 to take seventh in the girls 200 final.
The meet’s final event saw the Lancers get their final State qualifier. With their strongest foursome on the track, junior Jacob Hogan got them out strongly in 53.5 and Cole Fechner, running in his usual second position, moved the Lancers to third with a 52.3 leg. With no exchange mishaps in the finals, Weigel dropped back as far as seventh with 200 meters to go, but mounted a strong finish to his 52.5 leg that got them back to fourth heading into Steiger’s anchor leg.
Running against the best 400 runners in the section, Steiger maintained his fourth place position until the homestretch and took advantage when Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s anchor runner drifted to the edge of lane one and burst by on the inside, crossing the finish line in second place toward a State berth, posting a split of 49.8 and the third-fastest time in school history of 3:28.28.
The MSHSL State Class A State Meet will be held at Hamline University on Friday, June 8 and Saturday, June 9, starting at 3:30 p.m. each afternoon. Dryden will throw the discus at 4:45 p.m. and Steiger will run the 3200 final at 6:44 p.m. on Friday, followed by the 4x400 prelims at 7:15 p.m. Saturday, the 4x800 team will run in their section final at 3:56 p.m., Steiger will run the 1600 final at 5:23 p.m., and, provided they qualify for the finals, the 4x400 team will run again at 7:07 p.m.