BEA keeps its eyes on state prize

Nine-time True Team Section 2A champions.

The Blue Earth Area Bucs girls track and field team is headed back to the True Team Class A state meet at 10 a.m. today at Stillwater High School.

With six of last year’s nine teams also making return trips, it will be a somewhat familiar field, but without one major team.

Three-time defending Class A state champion Esko has been bumped up into the Class AA field, leaving room for a new champion.

“I think going into the meet, Luverne has to be a favorite to win,” Blue Earth Area head coach Tom Plocker said in reference to the Section 3A champion. “Six of the nine teams that were in the state meet last year are back. So there will be some familiarity there.”

For a team that has qualified nine times for the meet, there is familiarity for both the opponents and the track.

“Even though we have a pretty young team, our sophomores have been around for a while,” said Plocker. “Our eighth graders were at the meet last year, so I think that they can be comfortable and confident.”

The Bucs should feel confident going into today’s meet, having finished third in 2010, second in both 2011 and 2012 and fifth last year.

Only five years ago, the Bucs won the Class A state championship.

“I think it’s exciting that every year we have made it to true team. It’s something that we talk about and one of our goals,” said Plocker. “And now I think each year the team doesn’t want to be the ones to break the streak.”

Sophomore Taylor Grandgenett came away with one individual victory and a first-place relay finish, along with a pair of third-place finishes in last year’s meet.

Karli Olsen finished fourth in the 400, while Anne Franta was fifth in the 100-meter dash and fourth in the open 200.

Shayna Stevermer and Paige Darrington, along with Olsen and Grandennett, raced to the winning time in the 4×400 relay.

“Last year’s team had Krista Hassing, maybe one of the most talented track and field athletes in Blue Earth Area history,” said Plocker. “You can’t replace someone like that, but this year’s sophomore girls are very strong. So collectively they’ve kind of picked up the slack.”

The young Bucs have rallied behind their veteran coach and cruised to a 91-point victory at the True Team Section 2A Meet.

Along with their stellar sophomores, upperclassmen, like senior Jennifer Quintero and junior Mariah Twedt, also have proved to be major contributors.

“Our throwers haven’t really been spectacular this season, but they are getting better each meet,” said Plocker. “And at the section meet, they really did a good job. I think they really have given us some strength we didn’t have before.”

Plocker knows that the girls team has some weaker areas, but with focus and solid performances at the big meet, the team could be in contention for a state title.

“I think that nerves can be a part of any meet, but with this group they’ve been here before, which should help that,” said Plocker. “One of the best things about the athletes we have on this team is that they are tenacious competitors. And they will do whatever it takes to win.”

The Bucs will have to beat the teams that are returning from last year’s field, including Lake City, Luverne, Maple Lake, Osakis and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton.

Mesabi East, International Falls and Pine Island will round out today’s Class A True Team girls state competition.

“I think that as far as looking at past results, I think we are better served to look at the section results from this year for our competition,” said Plocker. “But our main concern just has to be on our own performances, doing the best that they can and seeing what happens.”

The Bucs will look to find their way to the top of the podium starting at 10 a.m. today at Stillwater High School.