FAIRMONT - A pair of fresh-faced seventh-graders from Martin County West debuted their long-distance running skills, two Fairmont eighth-graders took their first leaps toward becoming state qualifiers, while a Madelia/ Truman freshman literally made long strides in anchoring a pair of gold-medal relay performances.
The year: 2011. The event: the last Sentinel Relays track and field meet at Cardinal Track in Fairmont.
"It seems like a long time ago when you think about it from that perspective," Martin County West head coach Curtis Smith said in reference to now Maverick sophomores Morgan Larson and Whitney Smith's accomplishments three years ago.
REACHING THE NEXT LEVEL — Fairmont junior Sierra Schultz elevates and arches over the high jump bar during regular-season track and field action in Jackson. Schultz and the Cardinals will play host to the 59th Sentinel Relays at 4:15 p.m. Friday at Cardinal Track in Fairmont. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
Larson captured the Relays' Class A 1,600-meter crown, while Whitney Smith struck gold in the 3,200-meter race to help guide the Mavericks to runner-up team honors behind champion Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin.
While Smith will run the 2-mile race during Friday's 59th edition of the Relays, Larson will contribute to MCW's scoring efforts by running the 800-meter portion of the medley relay. The two Maverick sophomores also will combine forces in both the 4x800 and 4x400 relays.
Larson, who captured a bronze medal during the 2013 Class A state meet's 800-meter run, is coming off a ninth-place performance in the half-mile race at last Friday's Hamline Elite Meet.
Junior sprinter Haley Jensen, who netted state runner-up honors in the 100-meter dash last spring, also is fresh off of an invite to Hamline and a 13th-place showing in her specialty. The fleet-footed Jensen will look to add scoring depth to the Mavericks' efforts in Friday's Sentinel Relays' Class A girls competition.
Since the 2011 Relays, Butterfield-Odin and Mountain Lake no longer share athletics, with the Paul Metcalf-led Wolverines now being known as Mountain Lake Area.
Southwestern United replaces Murray County Central - who exited the Relays in 2013 - in the Class A competition, while North Union fills the spot in the smaller-schools division created when Madelia/Truman and Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Martin Luther united for track and field and moved to Class AA.
On Friday, Truman senior Emily Zaharia will return to Cardinal Track for her final Relays appearance on the heels of running the anchor leg on both the Jayhawks' first-place 4x800 and medley relay teams back in 2011.
While Zaharia and the MT/GHEC/ML Jayhawks will join Relays' newcomer Algona High School in the Class AA competition Friday, Fairmont juniors Sierra Schultz and MaKenzie Bliesmer will look to add hardware to their impressive prep track and field resumes.
Schultz captured a bronze medal in the Relays' triple jump competition and claimed fifth place in the long jump as an eighth-grader, while Bliesmer just missed a medal by netting fourth place in the Class AA Relays' high jump back in 2011.
Since her Relays' debut, Schultz has qualified for the Class A state meet in two events during each of the past two springs. Schultz claimed fifth place in the 100-meter high hurdles at the 2013 state meet, while clearing the sand in the triple jump for eighth place.
Meanwhile, Bliesmer has emerged into a stellar high jumper during the last two campaigns, capturing ninth place in her specialty during the 2013 Class A state competition.
Schultz and Bliesmer, along with senior teammate Brooklyn Leichtnam - who placed fourth in the pole vault during the 2011 Relays, will look to guide Fairmont past South Central Conference rival Blue Earth Area in Friday's Class AA girls meet at Cardinal Track.
Sophomore Taylor Grandgenett, the 2013 Class A 300-meter hurdles state champion, will look to help the Bucs fend off the host Cardinals again like they did - 140-131 1/2 - during the 2011 running of the Relays.
Grandgenett is coming off a third-place showing in the 300 hurdles at last Friday's Hamline Elite Meet. She also exchanged handoffs with Anne Franta, Shayna Stevermer and Karli Olsen to capture fourth place in the 4x400 relay at Hamline.
Add Elite Meet competitors Grace Bordson of Hutchinson and Redwood Valley's Kayla Huhnerkoch with Fairmont and Blue Earth Area, and the Class AA girls field on Friday will have the feel of a state meet.
Bordson cleared 5-2 to capture seventh place in the high jump at Hamline, while Huhnerkoch posted a fifth-place time of 2:16.37 in the half-mile run last Friday. Huhnerkoch captured the gold medal in the 1,600-meter run in the 2011 Relays' Class AA meet as an eighth-grader.
In the Class AA boys meet at Cardinal Track on Friday, Fairmont's Josh Eversman and Blue Earth Area's Nick Shure are coming off strong showings at the Elite Meet and will battle Hutchinson's stellar trio of Robbie Grimsley, Isaiah Barlow and Chandler Klawitter, along with Redwood Valley's Ryan Phillips and Algona miler Bo Hjelle.
Eversman, who returned to the track after a lengthy hiatus, edged Shure - 21-4 to 21-1 3/4 - during last Friday's long jump competition at Klas Stadium in St. Paul. Eversman will look to help the hometown Cardinals defend their Relays' Class AA team title from 2011.
Fairmont senior Zac Ehlert, who captured the silver medal in the 2-mile run in 2011, and his teammates outdistanced Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial/ Nicollet for the Relays' crown three years ago. The KnightRaiders, however, will compete in the Class A portion of Friday's meet.
Grimsley, who captured ninth place in the open 100 during the 2013 Class AA state meet, is coming off a sixth-place showing in his specialty at Hamline, while Barlow took ninth in the 3,200 and Klawitter netted 14th in the 1,600.
Klawitter and Barlow will likely receive a challenge from Hjelle, who captured sixth place via an incredible time of 4:19.72 in the mile at last Saturday's Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa.
Since there's no 800-meter run in the Relays, Phillips will look to contribute to Redwood Valley's efforts on Friday in the relay races. Phillips captured fourth place in the 800 at last spring's Class A state meet.
But the list of state qualifiers competing in Friday's Relays does not stop there as MT/GHEC/ML senior Josh Johanson will look to literally elevate the Jayhawks to the Class AA boys team championship.
Johanson, who placed fourth in the high jump at the Relays in 2011, captured Class A state runner-up accolades in the high jump in 2013.
Ironically, 2011 Relays' Class A boys champion Jackson County Central opted out of this spring's competition in Fairmont, so the team hardware is up for grabs.
Ryan Kruse and Erik Peters will look to guide the St. Clair Cyclones to the vacated Relays throne on Friday on the heels of invites to Hamline. Kruse, who netted fifth in the discus during the 2013 Class A state meet, propelled the disc to a fifth-place distance of 154-0 at the Elite Meet, while Peters cleared 12-6 in the pole vault to place 12th.
While Kruse and Peters will look to fuel the Cyclone boys team's effort, senior thrower Katelyn Weber will look to power the St. Clair girls lineup to top team honors in Class A.
Weber, the 2013 Class A state shot put champion and state runner-up in the discus, captured third in the shot and 11th in the discus at Hamline last Friday.
Sophomore thrower Alayna Theissen, who pocketed seventh in the discus at the Elite Meet last week, will look to generate points for Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial/Nicollet in the Class A girls team meet.