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Minnesota State, Meet Running Down A Dream

By Chris Babcock, 07/22/17, 9:45PM CDT


The girls made it to the end of the season, now they have to make it to the end of the State Meet. Two days of qualifying and final races; 4 solid efforts in total for each of them.

The Raiders have had a long standing tradition of qualifying athletes for the State Track and Field Meet held at the end of every season which reaches back over two decades. This is not something that every team can say. This year was no exception.

The Raiders have had a long standing tradition of qualifying athletes for the State Track and Field Meet held at the end of every season which reaches back over two decades. This is not something that every team can say. This year was no exception.

Since the State Meet in 2016 Thea Gutzmann(12), Kate Lokowich-Kohler(12), and Lucia Frias-Wackman(11) had been planning to get back there this season. The three of them made it along with Briasha Hobbs(’16) in the 4 x 400m relay. What they needed was someone to join them in this journey. They had a few options, but it would be ninth grader Sydney Jackson who would fill the spot.

Throughout the season they along with their teammates worked hard to improve their abilities and compete with some of the best athletes in the state either in our conference or at invitationals like the Hamline Elite Meet.

An early season meet, the Hamline Elite takes only the top 9 teams or individuals in each event based on performances from early in the season. We were fortunate enough to have the girls’ 4 x 200m and 4 x 400m relay, and the boys’ 4 x 100m and 4 x 200m relays qualify; along with individual qualifiers in the girls’ 300m Hurdles and 400m. The teams’ performance at that meet put them right in the middle of the best of the best the state had to offer in each event but one, the girls’ 4 x 400m from which they emerged the meet champions. All of them were excited by this finish and continued to work hard toward their goal of getting back to the State Meet in June.

Almost a month later the boys’ team had some set backs with an injury to James Williams(11) which took him out for the rest of the season. But with a couple of shifts Dyan Pohl(11), and Denzel Fondungallah(12) joined the remaining members of the boys’ sprint relay teams: Charlie Dennis(11), and Rajiv Redd(10). Jaylen Newton(11) found new life in the 400m dash. A race he only ran a handful of times but continued to improve with each one; even breaking the 50 second mark in one of his efforts.

At conference the new boys’ team of Pohl, Dennis, Redd, and Fondungallah went on to win and run the second fastest time in school history for that event, 42.93. Their luck did not hold out for sections as they placed 4th overall.

The girls’ continued to race well at conference as well holding off tough competition from White Bear Lake and Roseville. Going into the section meet they would be the team to beat.

At the section meet each girl on the relay team had qualified for an additional individual event on finals day. Frias-Wackman in the 100m, Lokowich-Kohler and Jackson in the 400m, and Gutzmann in the 300m hurdles. They would have a busy day by the time they finished the 4 x 400m. From the section meet only members of that relay team would qualify for the State Meet. Both Lokowich-Kohler and Jackson qualified in the 400m, Gutzmann qualified by place and qualifying time standard in the 300m hurdles, and the 4 of them would place second amongst a trio of teams that ran faster than the time standard to qualify for the State Meet.

Once there they had two days to compete. The first was a preliminary day and all of their events had a preliminary race to qualify for the second day. Each of them in their turn made the cut and advanced to the finals and individuals and as a relay team.

The finals day is all about placement. You know as an athlete that you have made All-State by being one of the top 9 in your event; but where you are amongst that top 9 is yet to be determined. Lokowich-Kohler and Jackson would be the first to find out. The two of them had run very close times throughout the season, so between them it would be a good race. There were other returning State Meet runners in their race including a State Meet champion from the prior season. Jackson finished fourth and Lokowich-Kohler seventh. Out of a field of nine all but three were seniors. Then the very next event Gutzmann would find out where she fit in with the best of the best in the 300m hurdles. She would finish sixth.

While the individual honors were good, and the girls are proud of those achievements what they had been really anticipating was the chance to go out and work together in the 4 x 400m relay. When the gun went off for this race Jackson, our lead off runner brought the baton around the track and handed off to Frias-Wackman in a good position, not far off the lead. Frias-Wackman was third at the cut line on the back stretch with runners merging in front of her and behind. Coming down the home stretch she found herself boxed in against the rail, then saw an opening, pushed through it and handed the baton to Gutzmann in second place. Gutzmann came out of the traffic in the exchange zone and around the first turn in third. By the time she fought off runners from Anoka, and Rocorri she gave the baton to Lokowich-Kohler in fourth place. Running in lane two for the first turn Lokowich-Kohler made her way around the runner from Anoka and held off the advance of the Rocorri runner on the inside. The first and two teams from Bloomington-Jefferson and Northfield-Ars Tech had pulled away from the pack and would not be caught. Lokowich-Kohler would feel the pressure of the Rocorri runner around the second turn and down the home stretch but would not back down. She crossed the finish line in third place, five places better than a year ago. This would also be the best placement of the meet for these four athletes.