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Alexandria 8th grader Wensia Johnson sprinted to the finish line in the 100-meter dash on Tuesday. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

Alex girls' track: Johnson makes most of her debut

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Alex girls' track: Johnson makes most of her debut
Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549
56308

Jamie Piepenburg knows a thing or two about setting records.

The senior all-state distance runner for the Cardinals almost set another one on Tuesday at Alexandria's home Tri against Willmar and Sartell. Piepenburg ran a personal-best time of 2:17.39 in the 800-meter run, coming just short of the school-record time of 2:16 that would have given her all three distance records at Alexandria.

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"It's kind of disappointing," Piepenburg said after the meet. "Having all three school records would have been awesome, but it's not quite my race. I gave it a good shot. I ran a PR today, which is awesome. I'm still really happy with that, that I'm getting faster."

So for at least one night, Piepenburg watched as one of her teammates set a new fastest time and a couple others joined her by blowing away the field. Alexandria finished third as a team behind the Sabres and visiting Cardinals in a meet that was highlighted by some great individual performances.

Wensia Johnson was on top of that list. The 8th grader hadn't run a race all season after nursing a knee injury that she had coming into the spring.

Johnson showed absolutely no signs of rust when she finally got onto the track. She shattered a 100-meter school record with a time of 11.79 before running the first leg of the winning 4x100 relay team.

The previous 100-meter record at Alexandria was 12.20, set by Teri Nelson in 1980. Johnson's time not only beat that but also was a season best in the state of Minnesota.

"Her training has been off and on," head coach Mike Empting said. "Finally with physical therapy, she got that injury under control and got to a point where she got a couple weeks of training under her belt where we felt good about her being able to run without injuring it again...the 100 meters, that's a school record. She blew that one right out of the water, so that says something for sure."

Johnson is part of a group of 8th graders who are showing early signs of becoming stars for Alexandria in the future. Bethany and Megan Hasz are the other part of that trio.

Where Piepenburg takes the distance headlines across the state, the Hasz sisters are on track to follow in her footsteps. Bethany ran away from the field on Tuesday with a winning time of 5:18.39 in the 1,600. Megan then did the same in the 3,200 in a time of 11:22.78.

"They're doing really well," Piepenburg said. "It's so much fun having them on the team, having other girls that are always striving to do their best and always pushing hard every day in practice. Really, they're just exciting to watch."

Piepenburg admitted that both of them serve as motivation for her, too. She sees them in the review mirror and knows how the records she set are numbers that both those girls will strive to reach in the future.

"I know they're coming and I gotta get some of those old records down so that they have something to shoot for," Piepenburg said with a smile. "It's very fun to see them and encourage them just knowing that was me a few years ago. It's definitely a possibility (that they could chase those records.) Only time will tell, but they definitely have the talent and work hard. It will be fun to watch them down the road."

The sweep in the distance events was a part of nine first-place finishes overall for Alexandria on Tuesday. Madi Urman took the 200 (26.55) and Julia Sieling won the 400-meter dash in 1:02.77. Brittany Ludwig also controlled the throwing events after winning both the shot put (34-3) and the discus (122-9).

The dominating performances from a few weren't enough to overcome the depth of Sartell and Willmar. The Sabres controlled the team competition with a score of 417.5. Willmar finished with 368.5 points and both teams will be competing in the state true team meet in Stillwater on Saturday.

The Cardinals will now turn their attention to the Central Lakes Conference championship meet at Rocori next Thursday. The section meet will follow, starting on May 30 at Sauk Rapids-Rice and finishing up with the finals on June 2 in Detroit Lakes.

That is where Piepenburg will try to set herself up to make a little more history before leaving for the University of Minnesota next year. After shooting for the 800-meter record one last time, her focus has shifted squarely toward winning the 1,600 and 3,200 state titles in the same year.

"That's my ultimate goal," she said.

ALEXANDRIA TRIANGULAR

TEAM RESULTS - 1. Sartell - 417.5; 2. Willmar - 368.5; 3. Alexandria - 354

ALEXANDIA TOP-FOUR FINISHERS - FIRST PLACE - 100-meter dash - Johnson, 11.79; 200-meter dash - Urman, 26.55; 400-meter dash - Sieling, 1:02.77; 800-meter run - Piepenburg, 2:17.39; 1,600-meter run - Bethany Hasz, 5:18.39; 3,200-meter run - Megan Hasz, 11:22.78; 4x100-meter relay - Johnson, Gabby Koel, Briquelle Bowden, Urman, 49.7; Shot put - Ludwig, 34-3; Discus - Ludwig, 122-9

SECOND PLACE - 4x200-meter relay - Britni DelCastillo, Karla Thoennes, Tara LaBrasseur, Shanee Herd, 1:56.25; Shot put - Brianna Johnson, 32-3

THIRD PLACE - 300-meter hurdles - Karly Betterman, 48.60; 4x400-meter relay - Piepenburg, Sieling, B. Hasz, Koel, 4:17.02; Pole vault - Bowden, 8-0

FOURTH PLACE - 800-meter run - Melissa Drown, 2:36.20; 100-meter hurdles - Bowden, 16.48; Discus - Johnson, 97-8

Follow #AlexMN @EchoPress Sports Reporter Eric Morken on Twitter at @echo_sports.

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Eric Morken
Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.
(320) 763-1229
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