The State track meet was held at Hamline University on Friday and Saturday, June 7-8.
In order to automatically qualify for the final, athletes needed to place in the top two of their heat. If not, they would need to have one of the remaining top nine times to advance.
Junior Alaina Steele returned to the State meet for the third time in the 800m run in the past four years. As an 8th grader, she placed 9th. Last year, as a sophomore, she placed 5th. She missed out on State as a freshman due to an iron deficiency. She was one of only three girls in the 800m race this year that had qualified for State in the 800m in three or more years.
Senior Logan Vinaja qualified for the State meet for the first time after becoming the third person in school history to break 2:00 minutes in the 800m when he ran a 1:59.88 at the Section 5A meet.
The 4x400m relay surprised a lot of people as they weren’t even ranked to make it out of the Sub-Section meet. They came in ranked 3rd with a time of 3:40.00. They then won that race with a time of 3:37.26. They then came into the Section meet ranked 3rd, but came out flying and led from start to finish to win in a time of 3:30.79. They were ranked 8th going into the State prelim.
The first day of the State competition was held on Friday evening. Most of the running races have prelims that are run to see who will run in the finals on Saturday. Alaina Steele ran in the second of two preliminary heats. Steele came in ranked tied for fifth and was confident in herself to make the final.
“She has trained hard all season long and had some great workouts in the past few weeks,” said coach Jared Clementson.
The first heat was very fast which put pressure on to place in the top two of her heat. Alaina went out quick and put herself in the second place position behind the two-time defending champion, Ava Hill. Alaina crossed the 400m mark in a split of 67.0 seconds. She then maintained her place to the finish where she placed second in her heat qualifying her to the final. Steele ended up with the eighth fastest time with a season’s best time of 2:19.25.
Logan Vinaja also ran in the 800m run. Logan’s heat went out very fast as he came across the 400m mark with a 57.0 split and was in the back of the pack. With about 250m to go the wheels fell off and he fell back from the rest of the pack. Logan ended up placing 16th overall out of 18 with a time of 2:07.07.
The last prelim of the day was the 4x400m relay.
“Our boys were very excited going into this race, ready to prove they could compete with the best,” said coach Clementson.
Logan only had a short recovery from his 800m race, but he was able to get himself ready to anchor the team. Tryston West led off with a split of 51.9 and was one of the first to hand off. Caleb Fromm got the baton and handed off to Tommy Ryan in fourth place after running a split of 52.1. Tommy Ryan kept the Dragons in fourth and ran a split of 50.9. Logan Vinaja had a great finish, running a split of 50.7 which put them in third only 0.01 seconds behind second place. Their time of 3:25.96 shattered the previous school record of 3:28.39 from 1999 held by John Hansen, Andy Wirth, Michael Johnson and Paul Johnson. All four of their splits were personal best times.
Alaina Steele went out fast and put herself in the second position in the first 100m and stayed behind the favorite, Ava Hill. She came across the 400m mark in a split of 65.4 seconds and continued to look strong. With 200m remaining, a few girls started to kick and passed her. As she came across the last corner a group of girls that had packed up came around and passed her as well. Alaina finished strong, but ultimately finished 9th with a time of 2:19.69. The competition was very good as her time was by far the fastest 9th place State finish on record back to 1999.
“I know Alaina didn’t place where she wanted to, but I am very proud of Alaina and the way she raced,” said coach Clementson.
The Dragons 4x400m Relay team was pumped going into the final after they broke the school record the night before and ran the third fastest time in the prelim. Tryston West got the team out to another great start as he led off with a split of 51.7. Caleb Fromm then put the team in great position, handing off in a big group in 6th place after running a split of 52.0. Tommy Ryan took off and moved the Dragons up to fourth (nearly third) after splitting 51.1. After Logan Vinaja got the baton, he ran into the back of a guy who had just handed off to his teammate, this threw him off balance and dropped them back from the lead pack. Logan finished with a split of 53.6 to place 8th with a time of 3:29.25.
“I am very proud of these boys and where they have come over the past few weeks. I know they had hopes of placing higher, but they were still very excited about how they performed,” said coach Clementson.
Steele earned her 3rd medal in the State 800m. This is more than all previous girl State medal winners in Track combined.
The 4x400m prelim time ended up being the fourth fastest time in the state this year. Not bad seeing they weren’t supposed to get past the Sub-Section.
Both the boys and girls teams earned the gold status for the Academic All-State Team Award. The girls team earned a 3.88 average GPA while the boys team earned a 3.85 average GPA. To earn gold status, the student athletes need to have a 3.75 or better average GPA. The team also had seven girls and three boys earn the Individual Academic All-State Award.
“I want to thank this year’s athletes, families, coaches and team supporters for another great year! I want to wish the seniors the best in all that they do in their future. They are all wonderful people and will do great things,” said coach Clementson.