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Liljenquist making his mark on track

FAIRMONT – Over the years, Julie Liljenquist has kept various items throughout her son Josh’s time in school. Some of those items include ribbons he received during field days in elementary school.

He even participated in track & field some in junior high, but chose to focus on basketball in high school.

“I didn’t work with him (in junior high), but I do remember he was a little guy, and he’s hardly that any more,” Fairmont head track & field coach Bob Bonk said with a laugh.

Now, in his senior year, Josh decided to go out for the track team, with some persuasion from his mother and his Cardinal teammates.

“It’s also a good way to stay in shape. I figured I’d go out (of high school) with a bang since there’s no more basketball,” he added.

Bonk had seen Liljenquist play basketball and figured he could serve as a jumper on the team. But Liljenquist had shin splints, which made it difficult. As a result, Bonk put Liljenquist on the track and good things happened.

“My initial thought was that he would be able to do well in the jumping events, but I didn’t have any idea he was as fast as he was,” Bonk said. “It definitely did (surprise me) because he’s one of probably the two or three fastest guys on our team now. I didn’t expect that out of him.

“Every meet, it seemed, he surprised us more and more with his speed. We have some other solid jumpers and because he’s so fast, we’ve decided to keep him just basically on the track.”

Liljenquist even surprised himself, noting that he didn’t think he’d do well in track because he wasn’t good at long-distance running. But he remembered something his mother had told him years prior.

“She always said I had something special for track,” Josh recalled.

Mom was right.

Bonk started Liljenquist out in a relay, and it slowly but surely developed into him becoming a more permanent member of the Cardinals’ sprinters and relay teams.

“Josh is a fairly quiet young man, but I think everybody is wowed by what he’s doing,” Bonk said.

“It’s been fun being there for my teammates and, not just running for myself, but running hard for them,” Liljenquist said.

Liljenquist is among many former Cardinals to join track their senior year and do well.

“We’ve been fortunate the last couple of years to have some first-time seniors come out and do fabulously. Guys like Josh Eversman and Derek Hunwardsen come to mind as well as Josh this year,” Bonk said. “It’s always a real nice bonus when that happens.”

With the season nearing the end, Liljenquist will get his first (and last) experience at a track postseason.

He was able to get a glimpse of it at the Section 2AA True Team Meet on Tuesday in Mankato, and he had success there as well.

Liljenquist was part of the 4×200 relay team that placed second among the 10 sectional schools. He then finished third in the open 100 and fifth in the 200.

“It’s a lot of fun and great competition, which helps me get better,” Liljenquist said about the True Team meet.

One of the best moments so far for him has been coming close to breaking the school record in the 4×100 relay race. There’s still a few races left, though, including today’s Big South Conference Meet in Redwood Falls.

Liljenquist is hoping that, before he leaves, his team can finish the job and break the record.

Now that he sees how good he can be, Liljenquist also is ready for the postseason and is going into it with a confident, positive outlook.

“If I can run as good as I have, I have a shot at state,” he said. “There are no guarantees, though. I just have to run as fast as I can.”

Before the season started, if you asked Liljenquist what his favorite sport was, he would say basketball. But now, he’s modified his answer a little bit.

“I really enjoy basketball, but I think basketball and track are tied now,” he said.

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