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|Paynesville Press - June 8, 2005|
Relay, hurdler advance to state
The Dogs' 1,600-meter relay - senior Kendra Johnson, ninth grader Kaitlyn Frenchick, and eighth graders Kally Felling and Bri Jaeger - won the Section 5A title at St. John's University on Wednesday, June 1, and advanced to state this weekend individually. Johnson also was the section runner-up in the 300-meter hurdles and will compete in that event as well at the National Sports Center in Blaine.|
The state tournament will be held on Friday, June 10, and Saturday, June 11, in Blaine. Johnson is scheduled to run in the prelims of the 300-meter hurdles on Friday at 4:50 p.m., and the 1,600-meter relay prelims are scheduled for 6:25 p.m. on Friday. The 300-meter hurdle final (for the top nine) is scheduled for 1:55 p.m. on Saturday, and the 1,600-meter relay final (for the top nine teams) is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. on Saturday.
Last week, the 1,600-meter relay team smashed the school record in winning the section title. Jaeger, Felling, Frenchick, and Johnson had run the event together only once before, at subsections.
Eighth graders Bri Jaeger and Kally Felling completed their first blind handoff during the 1,600-meter relay last week, helping Felling to take the lead over St. Cloud Cathedral, who they beat by a fraction of a second.
Assistant coach Kyle Nehowig suggested the lineup, figuring they would have a chance at a state berth, said head coach Dave Randgaard, who was named the Section 5A Girls Track Coach of the Year at the meet.
"I thought you had a chance (at state)," said Nehowig after the race, "but I didn't think you'd run 4:08."
Their time, officially 4:08.04, broke the old school record by nearly nine seconds. That record - 4:15.77 - was set by Amanda Mayer, Tara Schmidt, Brooke Schmitz, and Johnson in 2003.
Since the Dogs had two top 400-meter runners (Jaeger was third individually in that event at sections and Felling was eighth), the thinking was to put them first and second and get the lead. Jaeger, running against the top runners from Becker and St. Cloud Cathedral on the first lap, came into the first exchange in third, a fraction of a second behind Becker and Cathedral.
But Jaeger and Felling used a blind handoff, their first in a meet, and Felling exploded into the lead and got the inside lane for the second lap. She opened a slight lead with her leg in the relay.
"The big thing was to put Bri first and Kally second, so we got the lead for the third leg," said Randgaard. Being in the lead not only meant having the inside lane, but it meant the trailing teams had to deal with the traffic in the exchange zone, while the Dogs, in first, were clear.
Frenchick, running third, got passed on the backstretch by the Becker runner but sped up to prevent that girl from getting the inside lane and increased the Dogs' lead on the final turn before handing the baton to Johnson for the anchor leg. "I had some energy left," said Frenchick about the final turn and straightaway. "I had to use everything because I wanted to win and go to state."
Johnson led the final lap until the Cathedral anchor runner pulled even at the start of the homestretch. "I had to beat her," said Johnson of the final sprint to the finish. "Cathedral has beat me in everything. I had to beat her."
She did. Johnson won the race to the finish line, and the Dogs beat Cathedral, which had sent its other three relay teams to state, by 16 hundreths of a second.
"That's the best race I've seen in 26 years of coaching track," said Randgaard.
Ninth grader Kaitlyn Frenchick ran a leg on the Dogs' winning 1,600-meter relay last week and also placed eighth at sections in the triple jump.
The winning 1,600-meter relay took some of the sting out of the Dogs' 800-meter relay (Johnson, Jaeger, Felling, and junior Tara Schmidt), which finished second, 66 hundreths of a second behind Cathedral. Even after finishing second, the Dogs hoped to have qualified for state by reaching the state-standard time of 1:47.69, but they were 24 hundreths of a second short of that time.
They did, however set a new school record in the event, lowering their time to 1:47.93. This quartet set that record three times this spring.
Johnson was the only individual qualifier for the Dogs, taking second in the 300-meter hurdles to advance to state. Johnson had been third for the last two years at sections, just missing a state berth. Two years ago, she stuttered on the last hurdle and was edged at the finish line. Last year, she was running second until she hit the last hurdle and finished third by 18 hundreths of second, getting edged at the tape by Kaitlyn Jansen of Pierz.
This year, Johnson beat Jansen at the true-team state meet and was leading her down the homestretch. Johnson said she prayed to late coach Scott George to help her clear the final hurdles safely.
Going to state was definitely a goal for Johnson this year, she said, and she was happy, and relieved, to qualify in the hurdles. Also winning the relay and having teammates go, too, was awesome, she added.
Felling, Frenchick, and Jaeger all said that they were excited to qualify for state.
Other near misses for the Dogs at sections were junior Tara Schmidt (third in the 200-meter dash) and Jaeger (third in the 400-meter dash). Schmidt will be the alternate for the 1,600-meter relay at state.
The only other section medalists for the Dogs was their 3,200-meter relay team (sophomore Kacy Nehowig and ninth graders Leah Felling, Frenchick, and Melanie Koerner). They placed sixth in a strong field that sent four teams to state by meeting the state-standard time.
Near misses for section medals were: Nehowig (seventh in the 3,200-meter run); Kally Felling (eighth in the 400-meter dash); Frenchick (eighth in the triple jump); and sophomore Tanis Beireis (ninth in the pole vault).
In all, nine Bulldogs competed in 13 events at sections. The Dogs finished fifth as a team. Cathedral won the Section 5A team title.
1. St. Cloud Cathedral 87
300-meter hurdles: Kendra Johnson, second, 47.42 (state qualifier);
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