Tracksters take aim at state gold

FAIRMONT – Not only is Blue Earth Area sophomore Taylor Grandgenett looking to defend her Class A title in the 300-meter hurdles at the state track and field meet at 3:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Klas Stadium on the Hamline University campus, but numerous area athletes will be making their returns to the state competition in St. Paul.

Fairmont’s Evan Ward, Sierra Schultz and Sasha Riley will be looking to improve upon last year’s state showings, while some new Cardinal teammates will join them.

In addition to Grandgenett, Bailey Olson, Karli Olsen, Anne Franta, Skylee Bell and Miranda Johnson also have return engagements for the Bucs.

The Martin County West Mavericks will be bringing back their 4×100 relay for the second year in a row, and while half of the relay team is the same, there will be two new additions.

The Maverick boys also bring back their 4×800 relay team with Nick Holm, Jonah Mayo, Matt Viesselman, Dylan Brockman, Ramon Bowie and Josh Bjerken all making their state track debuts.

Grandgenett raced to a winning time of 45.03 seconds to win last year’s intermediate hurdle race, and this year enters the state meet with the second-best qualifying time of 45.79.

Grandgenett also will race the opening leg of the Bucs’ 4×400 relay, which will be trying to improve upon its second-place time of 3:59.65 from last year.

Three of the four runners in the relay return off the team, including Grandgenett, Olsen and Franta. Shayna Stevermer, who is competing in her first state meet, will run the third leg of the team that comes into the preliminaries with a qualifying time of 4:02.89.

The Bucs will have to contend with defending state champion Osakis, who will race in the first heat of the preliminaries, but comes in with a time of 4:08.82.

Franta will team with Stevermer again, along with Johnson and Bell, for the 4×200 relay.

In their preliminary heat, the Bucs, who have a qualifying time of 1:46.66, will be up against the defending champion Chatfield, which comes in with a time of 1:46.35.

Olsen will race in her first individual event at the state level on Friday in the preliminaries, racing the open 400. The Buc sophomore comes in with a time of 59.84 seconds and will be in the second heat, while last year’s runner-up Lydia Rutten of New York Mills will race in the first heat and comes in with a seed time of 1:00.72.

For the Buc boys, Bailey Olson, who raced a leg of the Class A championship 4×200 relay for Blue Earth Area last year, will compete as an individual this year.

Olson, who ran the third leg of the speedy relay that came in with a winning time of 1:30.67, will try to add to his medal collection in the open 200. The Blue Earth Area sophomore enters the meet with a time of 22.92, but will have to beat the likes of defending champion Foley’s Tyler Beehler, who ran a time of 21.88 to qualify.

Ward, Schultz and Riley all return to the state meet after years of previous experience.

Ward will reprise his role in the 4×400 relay for Fairmont as it tries to improve upon last year’s fifth-place time of 3:27.04.

This year, Ward teams with Nate Subbert, Zach Brown and Thomas Willett and come in with a qualifying time of 3:29.36.

“This is the 10th time in 11 years that we have brought a 4×400 relay team to the state meet,” said Fairmont head coach Bob Bonk. “I think we have the guys all in the right spots now, and they cut three seconds off their time at sections. I really think it’ll be fun to see what they can do.”

Ward also will compete individually this year, racing in the 300 hurdles with his qualifying time of 40.01.

Of course, to reach the podium, Ward will have to beat out the competition, like defending champion Jon Tollefson of St. Croix Lutheran.

Joining the Cardinal boys at the meet will be Josh Eversman, who will compete in the maximum four events.

“I think that is has happened before, but not very often where a person gets to compete in four events at the state meet,” said Bonk. “And Josh has competed on the big stage in other sports and proven that he can handle it, I think for him having so many events will be more helpful than not.”

Individually, Eversman will compete in both of the horizontal jumps, coming in with a long jump distance of 21 feet, 4.5 inches, while going 42-8.75 in the triple jump.

Eversman also will race in two Fairmont relays – the 4×100 and 4×200.

Peter Erickson, Brian Wilde, Brown and Eversman, who will all be making their state debuts, will trade the baton in the 4×100 race.

The Cardinal foursome comes in with a time of 44.44 seconds.

Erickson, Brown, Willett and Eversman will then try for a second medal in the 4×200 relay with their qualifying time of 1:31.63.

“In the state meet, everything is so close, the field events are separated by inches and the races by 100ths of a second, so it is tough to predict how it will go,” said Bonk. “But I think we are solid in each of the events that we have a competitor, so we will see.”

Schultz will join the triple-jump field for the third year, while also trying to best her fifth-place finish of 16.02 in the 100 hurdles last year.

Schultz comes into the meet with a time of 15.14 seconds, but the defending champion Jaelin Beachy from Staples-Motley also returns with a time of 15.99.

In the triple jump, Schultz finished eighth by going 34-9.5 last year, but is looking to improve this time around.

“Sierra always seems to rise to the occasion. Last week, setting the section record in the hurdles, she looked fabulous and she is right at the top of her game now, so it’ll be great to see how she does,” said Bonk.

Riley will lead the young Cardinals’ first-time track state qualifiers – Sarah Ostlie, Molly Hawkins and Jenna Pavich – in the 4×800 relay.

“A month ago our 4×800 relay was not very good. Then we had Sasha run the opening leg, and that kind of helped everyone to pick it up,” said Bonk. “Jenna has also run incredible anchor legs for us the last two times, so I think those really have been the key to their success lately.”

The Mavericks’ Haley Jensen makes her third state appearance in the open 100, in addition to racing with her teammates in the 4×100 relay.

Jensen comes into the meet with a qualifying time of 12.65, the same time she raced in for fifth place at last year’s meet.

The defending champion – Pequot Lake’s Vanessa Lane, who raced in 12.53 seconds, also returns with a qualifying time of 13.19.

Jensen will then team with Taryn Tumbleson, Cora Olson and Hailey Leiding in the 4×100 to try to beat their second-place finish from last season.

Jensen and Tumbleson are the two remaining pieces from the second-place time of 49.86, but the Mavericks come in with a time of 50.54.

Leiding, who is competing in her first state track and field meet, will then challenge the competition in the long jump.

The Martin County West boys will have one relay running in the meet. Nick Holm, Jonah Mayo, Matt Viesselman and Dylan Brockman will challenge defending state champion Perham in the 4×800.

The Mavericks come into the meet with state cross country experience, but are first-time competitors at the state track and field meet. The four raced to a time of 8:16.32 to qualify for the meet.

Whether it is their first time or last of many times competing at the Class A state track and field meet, all of the competitors will be set to go for the preliminary heats at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Klas Stadium on the Hamline University campus.