Schroeder honored as Relays’ ref

FAIRMONT – Take a deep breath – exhale. Accelerate toward the board. Hit your mark. Right foot, right foot, left foot. The sand sprays upon landing.

“Mark it! Schroeder, Fairmont … 43 feet, 8 1/4 inches,” shouts the triple jump official as he pencils in the distance on his clipboard.

Kelly Schroeder had literally gone where no other athlete in the rich history of Class AA of the Sentinel Relays had gone before during the elite track and field meet’s previous 48 years.

“Everything clicked that day,” Schroeder said recently when reminiscing about his record-setting triple jump during the 1993 Sentinel Relays at Cardinal Track in Fairmont. “The weather was nice – warm and not a lot of wind that day. Every jump I made was consistently in the 41-, 42-foot range. It was just a great day.”

So great, that Schroeder’s legendary leap has weathered the test of time, remaining the No. 1 mark in the event in both the Fairmont High School and Sentinel Relays record books for two decades.

On Friday, Schroeder will return to his hometown track, where he co-holds the Sentinel Relays’ triple jump mark with Cambridge-Isanti’s Cole Hickman (2004), and serve as the 59th edition’s honorary referee.

While Schroeder currently lives in Shakopee with his wife Alisha and sons Eli and Luke, his work as a mortgage sales manager at U.S. Bank in Bloomington occasionally puts the 1993 Fairmont graduate within a short distance of his old stomping grounds.

“I drove by the school a while back and took a look at the new fieldhouse and track. I had talked with my wife about coming down to Fairmont some time to watch a track meet,” said Schroeder. “Now it’s actually happening. I’m looking forward to seeing Mr. Bonk again.”

While Schroeder will get a chance to reminisce with Fairmont head track and field coach Bob Bonk about his record-setting performance during his last Sentinel Relays, the 1997 University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse graduate still vividly remembers the first time he competed in the then two-day event.

“My first memory of the Relays was running the (open) 400 (meters) as a freshman. I ran a 54 (-second race) and finished last,” Schroeder recalled. “I was giving it all I had, but those guys were men compared to the skinny kid I was back then.”

Schroeder, however, evolved into a lean but sculpted state qualifier in both track and field as well as cross country during his final three prep seasons.

Fairmont’s most valuable cross country runner in 1991 and 1992 qualified for the state meet during each of his final three seasons, including earning all-state honors in 1990 and 1992. The three-time all-South Central Conference harrier also captured the league individual cross country championship in 1991 and 1992, while also garnering the sectional individual crown during his junior campaign.

Ironically, Schroeder captured the 800-meter run’s gold medal in the 1992 SCC Meet before making the transition from the track to the field events.

“I had kind of given up on distance running my senior year of track since I knew that I wasn’t going to run in college, so I made the move to the jumps,” said Schroeder.

The change of scenery proved a productive one for Schroeder and the Cardinals’ program as he qualified for the 1993 Class AA state track and field meet by winning both the sectional triple jump and long jump gold medals. Schroeder also claimed the SCC long jump title that spring.

While Schroeder made his collegiate choice based solely on academics, he was later persuaded to compete for the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse track team after attending a coaches’ meeting.

“I found out that LaCrosse’s men’s track team had won nationals four years in a row, and thought I like to be a part of that tradition,” said Schroeder.

After completing a successful college track career and earning a bachelor’s of science degree in sports management and business administration, Schroeder ironically fulfilled his former high school coach’s prophecy.

“Thinking back, it’s pretty funny. I went on a run in high school with Mr. Bonk and we played the “What are you going to be?” game. He predicted that I’d be a banker,” Schroeder said with a laugh. “Jerry Maguire didn’t come knocking on my door after I graduated from college, so I went into banking.”

While the vast territorial demands of his job keep him on the run, Schroeder does not lace up a pair of jogging shoes to keep in shape in his late 30s.

“My wife is the runner in the family – she does 10-mile races and half marathons,” said Schroeder. “I do, however, work out with her at the gym at Lifetime Fitness in Savage on a regular basis.”

Kelly and Alisha Schroeder also keep in shape by transporting their sons – Eli, age 7, and Luke, 5 – to their athletic endeavors.

“Eli’s playing basketball in the second-grade program, but he also is involved in football, baseball and soccer,” said Kelly Schroeder. “Luke’s more into basketball and karate. He’s built long and lean, so maybe he’ll be a jumper some day.”

Maybe some day, both Eli and Luke will make their own marks in high school athletics, but on Friday they will get the chance to see their father honored one more time at the Sentinel Relays track and field meet in Fairmont.