Fairmont’s 4×400 relay team strikes gold at state

STATELY PERFORMANCE — Fairmont’s 4x400-meter relay team of Jordan Wolter (far left), Hudson Artz (second from left), Andrew Moeller (second from right) and Dylan Kennedy pose with their gold medals after winning Saturday’s Class A state championship in the event on the Hamline University campus in St. Paul. (Photo by Greg Abel)

ST. PAUL — If it had been a movie, Queen’s “We Are the Champions” would have played as the Fairmont 4×400-meter relay team stood atop the awards podium at Hamline University in St. Paul on Saturday.

Jordan Wolter started the final race of the Class A state track & field meet for the Cardinals in lane four and stayed in a pack of five near the front before handing off to Hudson Artz.

“I was pretty scared because that guy was right up there with him (Dylan Kennedy),” Wolter said of the moment Kennedy crossed the finish line. “I knew Dylan was gonna give it everything he’s got and he pulled away. This is unbelievable, I couldn’t ask for anything better with my teammates. They pushed me every day in practice and got me way better.”

Artz came out of his second turn solidly in fourth place and stayed in the third lane for most of his lap. He succesfully passed into third place around the final turn before handing off the baton Andrew Moeller.

“The whole way I saw Dylan and I knew he had it,” Artz said. “He and Andrew have been leading our workouts and pushing us so hard. Seeing him cross the finish line, all I could think was ‘We did it.'”

Moeller advanced into second on the back straightaway and moved into first around the final turn, finishing with a personal-best split time of 50.22. When Moeller handed off to Kennedy, the Cardinals had a 5-meter lead on Wadena-Deer Creek, last year’s champions.

“It was absolutely crazy,” Moeller said. “I don’t know where I got it from, but somehow I had something left after five races in the past two days. Just pure emotion coming through. I was scared when I saw he (Dylan) was right with the guy, but when he pulled ahead I couldn’t believe it, my heart was pounding like crazy. It was one of the happier moments I’ve ever had for sure.”

Kennedy held the lead through the first 300 meters, but Wadena-Deer Creek’s anchor, Bereket Loer, the same anchor who held off Fairmont anchor Wyatt Quiring’s late comeback in last year’s race, closed the gap.

Kennedy and Loer ran stride-for-stride during the final stretch, with Kennedy holding off the comeback to win by a .13-second margin.

“I heard him coming around the curve, I heard his spikes ‘tsk, tsk, tsk’ coming up behind me,” Kennedy said. “I just thought, ‘I can’t let the same thing happen from last year.’ Wyatt got so close, I had to keep it. It was a great moment.”

Fairmont came into the race with the fastest preliminary time of 3:24.15, a 4-second improvement on the team’s season-best, but improved again to 3:23.96 for the championship race.

Fairmont head coach Bob Bonk said the 4×400 team followed his advice.

“That was so exciting,” Bonk said. “When that anchor came around that corner I thought he might eat up Dylan, but Dylan held him off. The other guys did their parts, Hudson ended up running the whole race in lane three and still ran a fabulous time, and Andrew killed his fastest time. Jordan ran a tie of his best time. I told them to make it memorable and they sure did.”

After the race, Wolter, Artz, Moeller and Kennedy hugged and waited to hear their names announced as the 4×400 state champions. Atop the podium, the group let out a cheer into the stands to celebrate the victory.

Fairmont collected four more medals throughout the day, while Blue Earth Area and Martin County West grabbed one apiece.

In Fairmont’s first event on the track Saturday, the Cardinals’ 4×200 team of Artz, Kennedy, Moeller and Caden Baarts took fifth in 1:31.74. After an hour break, Kennedy came out for his fifth of six races over the two-day period to run the open 400. Kennedy placed ninth in 51.52.

A half hour later, Moeller ran the 800-meter run in 1:59.72 for sixth in a 10-person final after Avery Pater of Southwest Minnesota Christian/Edgerton High School appealed his preliminary time because of a collision.

In the jumping pits, the Cardinals’ Ellie Hernes finished seventh. The freshman triple-jumper leaped 35-4 1/2 in her first state appearance, while BEA’s Ben Babcock cleared 20-0 3/4 in the long jump for ninth.

MCW’s Makena Larson grabbed the eighth-place medal in the shot put with a heave of 37-6 1/2.

Fairmont senior Hayden Berhow finished 15th in the high jump when he cleared 5-10.

Bonk said all five of Fairmont’s Day 2 medals came from great performances and he is proud of the effort the whole team put forth.

“For Dylan and Andrew that was their sixth race in 27 hours and Hudson’s fourth, they really had to dig deep for that one.” Bonk said. “It was nice to get medals from Ellie and the 4×200 ran almost equally well (to the 4×400). It’s rewarding to see people click at the end of the season and just get better every week. We basically got better every week. It’s been really fun and I’m really proud of the seniors especially.”