Area tracksters revved up for Class A state meet

SET FOR STATE — Members of the Fairmont Cardinal boys and girls track & field teams competing in the Class A state meet Friday and Saturday at Hamline University in St. Paul include, front row (l-r): Carissa Saxton, Corene Moeller, Bethany Linse, Grace Higgins, Joni Becker and Jenna Gustafson. Middle: Mackenzie Householder, Rayah Quiring, Laura Thompson, Ellie Hernes and Karalyn Closs. Back: Brandon Williams, Caden Baarts, Andrew Moeller, Hudson Artz, Dylan Kennedy, Hayden Berhow and Jordan Wolter. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — The Fairmont Cardinal track & field boys and girls are ready to take on the Class A state meet.

Fairmont competes in a combined 11 events Friday and Saturday at the meet at Hamline University in St. Paul, including four relay teams and seven individual competitions.

With mostly preliminary races on the track Friday, head coach Bob Bonk said Day 1 is more important this year than it has been for the Cardinals in the past.

“Friday is a big day, some years we’ve come in with the top three, four or five performances and we’re really not in that situation this year,” Bonk said. “But we’re kind of right on the bubble in all of the prelims. You have to be in the top nine to make it to the finals on Saturday and it seems like we’re consistently eight, nine, 10, 11, somewhere in there. Friday is gonna be a big day, even though we’ve had some great performances this year, nothing is really a given at this point and their going to have to perform really well.”

A few of the Cardinals’ veteran runners will get the meet started for the Cardinals. Fairmont’s girls’ 4×200-meter relay team of Karalyn Closs, Jenna Gustafson, Grace Higgins and Joni Becker enter the 4:20 p.m. race with the fifth best time in their heat and the ninth-best time overall.

Then a mix of youthful and experienced Cardinals will take to the track when the boys’ 4×200 team of Hudson Artz, Dylan Kennedy, Andrew Moeller and Caden Baarts look to qualify for Saturday’s race.

The boys run in the first heat, scheduled at 4:35 p.m., where they enter with the fourth-best time, translating into the seventh-best time overall.

After a half-hour break, two of the Cardinal runners who participated in the 4×200 will then take on the open 400. Becker will race at 5:07 p.m., entering with the ninth-best overall time, and Kennedy runs at 5:15 p.m., coming in with the 10th-best time.

The next Cardinal on the track will be Moeller in the open 800 at 5:53 p.m. Moeller runs in the first of three heats and has the third-best qualifying time in his heat and ninth-best time overall.

In the lone finals race on the track on Friday, Laura Thompson will take on the 3,200-meter run, scheduled to start at 6:26 p.m. Thompson enters with the 10th-best time.

In the final track events of the day, the boys’ and girls’ 4x400s will attempt to make it to Saturday’s finals.

The team of Closs, Becker, Corene Moeller and Thompson enter with the 15th-best time and run first with a scheduled start time of 6:55 p.m. The boys crew of Jordan Wolter, Artz, Moeller and Kennedy run in the final event of the day at 7:10 p.m. The Cardinals enter the second heat of the boys’ race with the second-best time of the heat and fourth-best time overall.

Bonk said this year’s group of veteran seniors have been great leaders throughout the year.

“They’ve been there, a couple boys there in Dylan (Kennedy) and Andrew (Moeller), have been there and are very experienced,” Bonk said. “As are Joni (Becker) and Grace (Higgins), this is Grace’s fourth state meet. Their leadership in practice has been very good. We’ve had very good quality practices, not just this week, but all season.”

The lone Cardinal in the field events Friday is Bethany Linse in the girls’ high jump. Linse cleared the 5-2 state standard to reach the state meet and is tied for the fourth-best leap with 13 competitors.

On Friday, area competitors will take on the field events as well.

Blue Earth Area’s Thomas Lindsey competes in the pole vault and enters tied for the fourth-highest leap of 13-9, while the Bucs’ Sophie Keister will compete in the high jump alongside Linse after clearing 5-2.

Martin County West’s Makena Larson competes in the discus on Friday, entering with a heave of 112-3, the 10th-best qualifying throw.

Any running competitor who finishes in the top nine of their preliminaries moves on to Saturday’s finals, but multiple Cardinal and area competitors are guaranteed a spot in Saturday’s field events.

Fairmont freshman Ellie Hernes will take on the triple jump after leaping 36-6 1/2 in the section meet for the fourth best distance entering Saturday’s competition.

Fairmont senior Hayden Berhow gives the state high jump competition a third try after medaling the past two years. He comes in with a jump of 6-1, tied for the 13th highest jump.

“For the two competing in field events Saturday, they both have a lot going for them,” Bonk said. “Ellie has had just a remarkable season, she’s been our most valuable athlete for points,” Bonk said. “The triple jump she did at sections was phenominal, hopefully she’ll compete close to that form at state. I think she’s gonna do well. Hayden is a real veteran at state, he’s squeaked out a medal both years right at that 6-1, 6-2 area and that eighth or ninth spot. He tends to be a very good big meet performer.”

MCW’s Larson will compete again, but in Saturday’s shot put. Larson enters with the fifth-best throw of 39-6 1/2, while BEA’s Ben Babcock will compete in the long jump after leaping 20-9 1/2 at the section meet for the 13th-longest qualifying jump.

Bonk said though there is experience among the team, the loss of many strong seniors from the class of 2018 meant expectations were lower than last year. He said with the girls’ team epecially he has been pleasantly surprised.

“Especially on the girls’ side, almost all the medalists and competitors last year were seniors” Bonk said. “All along this year I was hoping the girls would be better at the end of the season than at the beginning because of their youth and that’s definitely been the case. To have six girls’ events is a very nice surprise. … For the boys it was probably a little more expected because of Hayden (Berhow) and Dylan (Kennedy) and Andrew (Moeller), those guys have a lot of state experience and were considered some of the best in the section coming back. Jordan Wolter was a beautiful gift and Caden Baarts has really improved.”

Bonk said the team will leave for Hamline University around 10:20 a.m. or 10:30 a.m. Friday morning and there will be a sendoff outside of the high school for parents and friends unable to make the trip.