The person wearing one of the biggest smiles, as well as shedding a few happy tears, at Saturday’s state track and field championships was not one of the athletes. She is a coach, but the happiness came on behalf of an athlete from another school who broke a record from another era.
The smile on the face of Liesa (Brateng) Hanson came after Thief River Falls junior Meleah Biermaier won the Class 2A 300-meter hurdles. Hanson was the previous holder of the record, which she set on a hot spring day in 1987 during the state meet at Osseo High School. And now, 28 years later, Hanson was one of the first people to hug Meleah after she exited the awards stand wearing a gold medal and a fresh state record.
Hanson, the girls track coach at East Grand Forks, went to high school in Roseau. She was a track athlete at the University of North Dakota along with Meleah’s dad, Mike (the athletic director at Thief River Falls).
Hanson’s record was 42.62 seconds; Meleah Biermaier’s brand-new mark is 42.13
“I’ve been watching her since she was little,” Hansen remarked, still smiling broadly. “I said if anybody was going to break it, she was the one I wanted to do it.”
Beirmaier was stunned when she saw her time. Her goal was simply to win – she won the same state title two years ago as a ninth-grader and was the runner-up last year – and that would have been good enough. But …
“Oh yeah, I had no idea,” she said. “I finished the race in first and I was so happy, I didn’t even care about the time. Then everyone was saying, ‘You got a 42.1’ and I didn’t believe it. I’m just so happy.
“I knew for sure that getting the record would probably get first place, but I didn’t know that I could beat it by that much. I didn’t know it would happen. Before the race my legs were tired and I didn’t know how it would go, but it turned out to be amazing.”
The best part of the whole amazing deal was seeing the two record-holders, from 1987 and 2015, pose together for photos after the race, wearing matching championship smiles.
FOUR OTHER ALL-TIME STATE records were broken during the two-day meet, all by Class 2A competitors…
--Eagan boys relay teams set new marks in the 4x100 (41.52) and 4x200 (1:26.91).
--Lakeville South set a record of 3:50.12 in the girls 4x400.
--Wayzata’s Ruby Stauber won the 800 meters in 2:06.50 and broke a record that had stood for 31 years. Blooming Prairie’s Jeanne Kruckenberg set the previous record of 2:08.24 in 1984, making it the oldest girls record in the books until Saturday. Ruby is the daughter of Robb Stauber, former hockey goaltender at the University of Minnesota and a former NHL player.
One of the most surprised state champions was Eagan senior Sam Zenner (pictured), who gave up playing baseball this spring and joined the track team for the first time. All he did was anchor the Wildcats’ two record-setting relays and win an individual gold medal in the 100. Zenner’s running mates in the 4x100 were Josh Brown, Dallas Krech and Troy Brown; in the 4x200 he was joined by the Browns and Joe Williams.
“It took him three years of playing baseball to finally realize it was boring,” said Joe Brown. “There was constant nagging.” Josh Brown added, “I don’t think he knew his full ability, how fast he was.”
Zenner said, “These guys have been out here for three years, and all I really wanted to do was just help them out, help them achieve success and be happy. Honestly I came in with an open mind and had no goals. I just came out and wanted to have fun.”
The Lakeville South girls had broken the 4x400 state record in Friday’s preliminaries, then they broke it once more on Saturday. The foursome of Jocie Johnson, Haley Lubow, Kaytlyn Larson and Caraline Slattery helped the Cougars capture the 2A girls team title.
TWO SENIOR BOYS WERE among the stars of the Class 1A championships, one a hurdler and one an endurance runner.
St. Croix Lutheran’s Jon Tollefson swept the 110 and 300 hurdles for the third year in a row. He had already set the all-time state record in the 110 hurdles, running a 13.82 in the Section 4A meet. That broke what had been the oldest record in boys track, 13.85 by Rick Schroeder of Owatonna in 1981.
Waseca’s Shane Streich won the 800 and 1,600 Saturday, giving him three career titles in the 1,600 and two in the 800. And for good measure, he anchored the Bluejays’ 4x400 relay team to a first-place finish, coming from back in the pack on the anchor leg. Waseca won the 1A boys team title.
On the girls side in 1A, Redwood Valley senior Kayla Huhnerkock won the 800 and 1,600 (she also won the 1,600 a year ago) and Jonathan Webb of Minnehaha Academy swept the boys titles in the 200 and 400.
ALEXANDRIA JUNIOR BETHANY HASZ (pictured) was a double winner in 2A, taking the 3,200 meters Friday and the 1,600 Saturday. She put on a strong kick to power past defending state champion Tess Misgen of Shakopee on the home stretch of the 1,600. Her twin sister Megan missed the state meet with an injury; Megan and Bethany have traded first- and second-place finishes in the last two state cross-country meets.
“I knew that some of the girls would go out too fast, so I just went out and took it at my own pace,” Bethany said after the 1,600. “I knew Tess had an awesome kick, that’s how she beat Megan and I last year (in the 1,600, when Megan was second and Bethany third). I pretty much emptied the tank on that one.”
Elsewhere in Class 2A, Hopkins’ Joe Klecker swept the boys 1,600 and 3,200, North St. Paul senior Akeem Sirleaf won the boys 100 for the third year in a row, Rochester Century junior Andrianna Jacobs won the girls pole vault for the third time, Chanhassen junior Jedah Caldwell swept the girls 100 and 200, and Minnetonka was a repeat winner in the girls 4x800 relay.
OTHER REPEAT WINNERS IN Class 1A were Jia Lewis of Minneapolis Edison in the girls 100, Osakis in the girls 4x200 relay, Jenna Gatz of Belle Plaine in the girls 400, Webb in the boys 400 and Jaustin Culbert of Chisholm in the boys high jump. The Pine Island boys won the 4x200 and 4x800 relays and Rushford-Peterson’s Noah Carlson won the long jump and triple jump.
--Class 2A girls team results: 1. Lakeville South 49.5, 2. St. Michael-Albertville 46, 3. Chanhassen 44, 4. Eden Prairie 43, 5. Mounds View 34.5.
--Class 2A boys team results: 1. Wayzata 71.5, 2. Eden Prairie 68, 3. Hopkins 44, 4. North St. Paul 44, 5. Stillwater 43.5.
--Class 2A girls team results: 1. Belle Plaine 56, 2. Mpls Edison 49, 3. Pequot Lakes 44, 4. Redwood Valley 28, 5. Plainview-Elgin-Millville 26.
--Class 2A boys team results: 1. Waseca 70, 2. Minnehaha Academy 63, 3. Pine Island 58, 4. St. Croix Lutheran 44, 5. Rushford-Peterson/Houston 39.
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