Though it will not be competing against Wayzata in the vast majority of events, the Stillwater boys’ track and field team is expected to battle the Trojans for the team title at the Class AA state meet on Friday and Saturday at Hamline University.
The Ponies have 11 state entries compared to 10 for Wayzata, but the pole vault, 1,600 and 3,200 are the only events each team is represented. The 4×100, 4×200 and 4×400 are three of the strongest events for Wayzata, but the only relay Stillwater has qualified for is the 4×800.
“We are not racing Wayzata,” Ponies coach Scott Christensen said. “This is a ridiculous form of trying to win a state championship because we’re not even racing or competing against Wayzata.”
And yet each are considered the leading contenders for the title. The Trojans scored 81 points to win the championship a year ago — leading three teams that scored 55 or more — and the Ponies won their first title since 1998 with 47 points in 2011, when just six points separated the top five teams.
“I think it’s a two-horse race,” Christensen said. “It’s sports and anything can happen, but I think especially this year with the weather and the lack of meets some teams never got off the ground. I think with all the adversity that we’ve seen this spring, I think it’s the state champions from two years ago vs. the state champions from last year.”
Wayzata finished 23 points in front of the runner-up Ponies while winning the True Team state meet last month.
The Ponies have a solid mix of experienced athletes on the state roster, including distance runners Eric Colvin, Wayde Hall and Sean Bjork — with a boost from Eli Krahn, who is making his first state appearance in track following an eye-opening freshman campaign to this point.
Colvin has the fastest qualifying times in the 1,600 and 3,200 while Hall and Krahn join him among a strong list of contenders from a deep field in those races. Bjork is seeded second in the 800 and will also anchor Stillwater’s 4×800 relay team that also includes Bailey Hesse-Withbroe, Tayler Aarness and Luke Richie.
Seniors Nate Bird (discus) and Connor O’Neill (pole vault) are each making their third trips to state while hoping to land on the medal stand for the first time. Kevin Meads is seeded 20th in the 110 high hurdles.
“Our expectation is to win and our hope is to win it,” Christensen said. “We’re going over there to win it and I think it’s important for the program that we do win it. I think we’re capable of scoring enough points to do it. That’s our hope and that’s our plan.”
The senior trio of Colvin, Hall and Bjork have left their mark on Stillwater’s tradition-rich distance running program and they are hoping to build on those more recent achievements.
“Including cross country, it’s been a good last three or four years,” Christensen said. “The last six championship races in track or cross country we’ve had the feeling we can win it and we’ve won three of them. It’s always a lot of fun when you win.”
Stillwater girls well represented
The Stillwater girls are bringing 11 athletes to the state meet making up a total of nine entries, including three relays.
Making the finals would be a nice accomplishment in some events, but the Ponies are also ranked third among qualifiers based on section times in the 4×800 relay and are seeded fifth in the 4×400 relay.
Stillwater finished second in the 4×200 and 4×400 events at state a year ago and Phippen returns in both. Newcomers Brooke Hunter, Shelby Litchy and Fiona Montie have moved into the 4×200 lineup while Maria Morley, Montie and Phippen return with new member Cecelia Peterson in the 4×400 — a race Stillwater finished second by just .01 a year ago.
The 4×800 features Montie, Larissa Colvin, eighth-grader Hannah Anderson and Morley.
The Ponies have made the relays a priority and those appear to be the most likely events to find points in at state.
“I just think we’re really looking forward to it,” Ponies coach Dawn Podolske said. “I think obviously they can go faster.”
Litchy and Peterson are seeded ninth and 13th in the 300 hurdles and Hunter is seeded 14th in the 100 hurdles.
Stillwater also has two entries in the triple jump with Skyler Adkins and Rachel Amos, who are seeded 12th and 13th, and senior Dayshia Coleman enters the state meet ranked 13th in the shot put.
“Dayshia has had an outstanding year,” Podolske said. “This is her first time going to state and if she could get a PR that would be great. We have quite a few seniors. Natalie has been there a few times and Maria Morley is another one. Shelby and Brooke are seniors and you just want those kids to go out on top and feeling good about their performances.
“You want to have a good experience. I want them to come away really enjoying the experience. I really wish everybody could make it to the finals, but I just want it to be a positive experience for them.”
Stillwater state meet entries
800 — 1. Cal Lawton (Eden Prairie) 1:53.76; 2. Sean Bjork (St) 1:54.64.
1,600 — 1. Eric Colvin (St) 4:15.69; 3. Eli Krahn (St) 4:16.96; 6. Wayde Hall (St) 4:18.32.
3,200 — 1. Eric Colvin (St) 9:03.86; 2. Wayde Hall (St) 9:06.71; 4. Eli Krahn (St) 9:11.50.
110 hurdles — 1. Ben Ojika (Irondale) 14.49; 20. Kevin Meads (St) 15.75.
4×800 relay — 1. Eden Prairie, 8:00.96; 12. Stillwater (Bailey Hesse-Withbroe, Tayler Aarness, Luke Richie and Sean Bjork) 8:10.09.
Discus — 1. Benjamin Krynski (Lakeville North) 171-11; 3. Nate Bird (St) 163-5.
Pole vault — 1. Mitchell Valli (Buffalo) 15-7; 5. Connor O’Neill (St) 13-11.
100 hurdles — 1. Michaela Preachuk (Lakeville North) 14.72; 14. Brooke Hunter (St) 15.80.
300 hurdles — 1. Meleah Biermaier (Thief River Falls) 43.71; 9. Shelby Litchy (St) 45.93; 13. Cecelia Peterson (St) 46.12.
4×200 relay — 1. Prior Lake, 1:43.42; 10. Stillwater (Brooke Hunter, Shelby Litchy, Fiona Montie and Natalie Phippen) 1:45.80.
4×400 relay — 1. Minnetonka, 3:57.08; 5. Stillwater (Cecelia Peterson, Natalie Phippen, Maria Morley and Fiona Montie) 4:01.37.
4×800 relay — 1. Minnetonka, 9:22.39; 3. Stillwater (Fiona Montie, Larissa Colvin, Hannah Anderson and Maria Morley) 9:29.22.
Triple jump — 1. Mia Barron (Minnetonka) 38-9 1/4; 12. Skyler Adkins (St) 35-7 1/2; 13. Rachel Amos (St) 35-5 1/4.
Shot put — 1. Maggie Ewen (St. Francis) 47-2; 13. Dayshia Coleman (St) 38- 1/2.