By STUART GROSKREUTZ – Stillwater Gazette
The Stillwater girls’ and boys’ track and field teams will contribute to a very spectator-friendly event for fans of the Ponies with a large group of athletes set to compete in the Class AA state meet on Friday and Saturday at Hamline University.
On the girls’ side, Stillwater features entries in all four relays and is represented in both hurdles races and two field events for a total of eight entries by 14 athletes.
"I don’t think we’ve ever gotten all four relays in," Ponies coach Dawn Podolske said. "When you look at the schedule it’s nice because every couple events we’ll have something going on so it should be exciting."
The Stillwater boys won’t have as many entries as a year ago when they captured the state title in memorable fashion – an all-time state record in the final event (4×400 relay) to clinch the championship. The departure of all-state performer Neal Goff, who left to play junior hockey, and an injury to versatile junior Nate Ricci leaves Stillwater with a slightly thinner state meet roster than anticipated at the start of the season, but coach Scott Christensen is hoping for a strong showing from the nine athletes who make up this year’s eight entries.
"I’d like to get something out of all eight qualifiers we have," the coach said. "We don’t quite have enough to win it – it’s statistically possible – but realistically, we just don’t have enough to win it."
The Stillwater girls are seeded second in the 4×200 and 4×400 relays while also seeded eighth in the 4×100 relay and ninth in the 4×800 relay. Kelcie Kempenich and Natalie Phippen are members of both relays while Bethany Adkins and Alex Crain fill out the 4×200 and Fiona Montie and Maria Morley complete the 4×400 relay.
"We’re right in there for the 4×400 and we have one of the fastest times in the 4×200," Podolske said. "I know the 4×800 will be a tight race and there’s not one team that stands out so it should be exciting races."
Brooke Hunter is seeded eighth for the Ponies in the 100 hurdles while Shelby Litchy ranks 14th among qualifiers in the 300 hurdles. Stillwater will also be represented by Alicia Doerr (16th) in the long jump and Posbergh (17th) in the pole vault.
"Our goal for Friday is trying to get everybody into the finals on Saturday," Podolske said. "That would be our first goal and then see how it plays out on Saturday.
"I think we have a chance to be in the top three," the coach added. "I don’t know about a lot of other teams who got a lot of stuff in, but I know what we got in and we should do very well."
The coach considers this season a tremendous success, regardless of what occurs this week. Stillwater won the Suburban East Conference and captured True Team and Section 4AA championships, including a fourth-place finish at True Team state.
"Our goal was to do well at True Team state and try to get as much through here," Podolske said. "It would look nice and be the cherry on top of the sundae, but I’m just excited that this group of kids got in. They’re very hard workers and really close and I’m just happy for the kids that got in.
"It’s been a very exceptional year and a lot of it is because of the winning, but also because the kids are just top-notch kids."
The leading contenders for the Stillwater boys are found in the distance events, led by Wayde Hall and Tom Linner who are seeded second and third in the 1,600 meters. Eric Colvin is seeded fifth and Hall sixth in the 3,200 meters while Linner placed fourth in the 800 meters a year ago and ranks 10th among this year’s entries in that event based on section times.
"I think we have a kid that can win the state mile," said Christensen, whose athletes have won five state titles in the mile over the past two decades. "Usually I can name the kid, but this year I can’t because it could be either of the two that could win it. Tom has been on a four-year plan for this very race and I’ve had him on a course to be ready for this race because I believe he has all the skills necessary to win the state mile, but he’ll have to beat his teammate and it’s a very deep field. I’m not predicting a win, but I’m saying one of our two guys can win it."
Wayzata’s Josh Thorson is the favorite in the mile and two-mile, where Colvin and Hall are seeded fifth and sixth.
The Ponies will also be represented in the 4×800 relay by Sean Bjork, Josh Choe, Evan Johnson and Colvin. Bjork is expected to replace Eric Corcoran from the section lineup after he narrowly missed qualifying for state in the 800 and 1,600.
Stillwater’s other state entries are Connor O’Neill in the pole vault, where he is seeded 11th, and Nate Bird, who ranks 14th among qualifiers in the discus.
"Connor is going to have to go 14 feet in order to score in the pole vault," Christensen said. "He’s capable of it. He’s gone from 12 feet to 13-6 just in one year so his next step is where the money is – which is all at 14 feet. He was two feet away and now he’s six inches, but it’s easier to repeat something you’ve done, especially at an event like this – whereas if Bird were to repeat something he’s done, which is 161 feet, he would be about fourth."
Stillwater state entries
(Relay lineups subject to change)
100 hurdles – 1. Jessica January (Richfield) 14.29; 8. Brooke Hunter (St) 15.32.
300 hurdles – 1. Meleah Biermaier (Thief River Falls) 44.00; 14. Shelby Litchy (St) 45.97.
4×100 relay – 1. Minneapolis Washburn, 48.70; 8. Stillwater (Lauren Olsen, Alex Crain, Bethany Adkins and Anna Posbergh) 49.52.
4×200 relay – 1. Osseo, 1:40.95; 2. Stillwater (Bethany Adkins, Kelcie Kempenich, Alex Crain and Natalie Phippen) 1:42.67.
4×400 relay – 1. Prior Lake, 3:57.06; 2. Stillwater (Fiona Montie, Natalie Phippen, Maria Morley and Kelcie Kempenich) 3:57.37.
4×800 relay – 1. Wayzata, 9:25.00; 9. Stillwater (Cassie Pratt, Larissa Colvin, Abby Lange and Maria Morley) 9:28.98.
Long jump – 1. Nadia Lorencz (Farmington) 17-11 1/4; 16. Alicia Doerr (St) 16-10 1/2.
Pole vault – 1. Anna Benke (Minnetonka) 11-10; 17. Anna Posbergh (St) 10-1.
800 – 1. Eric Gebeke (White Bear Lake) 1:52.23; 10. Tom Linner (St) 1:58.02.
1,600 – 1. Josh Thorson (Wayzata) 4:16.88; 2. Wayde Hall (St) 4:16.92; 3. Tom Linner (St) 4:17.86.
3,200 – 1. Obsa Ali (Richfield) 9:18.87; 5. Eric Colvin (St) 9:23.49; 6. Wayde Hall (St) 9:23.87.
4×800 relay – 1. Chanhassen, 7:55.74; 15. Stillwater (Josh Choe, Evan Johnson, Eric Corcoran and Eric Colvin) 8:10.64.
Discus – 1. Thomas Anderson (Andover) 177-10; 14. Nate Bird (St) 149-9.
Pole vault – 1. Lee Bares (Lakeville South) 15-6; 11. Connor O’Neill (St) 13-5.