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Alexandria boys' track and field: Cards hope to surprise people

The 4x100-meter relay team of (left to right) James Holmquist, Nathan Huss, Mitch Peck and Donovan Chock posed for a photo after taking second at the section track meet, despite never having raced together in the event before. They will compete at the state meet today. (Contributed)

The Cardinal boys' track and field coach Mike Empting believes anything can happen on the big stage of a state meet.

That's why six Alexandria athletes head to Hamline University with high hopes today, a year after the Cardinals were not represented in St. Paul for the first time in a long time.

"Last year, was Jerry's (longtime head coach Jerry Amundson) last year and he said it was the first time in his tenure they didn't send a boy to state," current boys coach Mike Empting said. "So it was nice to see the guys come back, especially the 4x100 relay team, which was kind of a dark horse coming into the section meet."

That 4x100 relay team of James Holmquist, Nathan Huss, Mitch Peck and Donovan Chock weren't on many people's radar for good reason. The section meet was the first time they ever teamed up to run the 4x100.

They showed that speed can sometimes trump experience in sprints by finishing second in 44.23 seconds. Now Peck, a junior, and his three senior teammates will get a chance to show what they can do against a field where the fastest seed time is 42.51 from Wayzata.

"Those guys have worked so hard, all four of them," Empting said. "Donny, this is his first year really back out for track, but the others have been out. Donny is a really good athlete, and he has stepped in and helped us out a ton. Nathan, Mitch and James have been with the program and worked so hard all the way. It's nice to see that it's paying off."

Empting believes that all his guys going to St. Paul today have an opportunity to surprise some people and make it to the finals on Saturday. Peck enters with perhaps the greatest chance to make some noise. His seed time of 39.97 in the 300-meter hurdles places him in a group of 10 guys who enter with qualifying times in less than 40 seconds.

"Mitch has really come on," Empting said. "His times have dropped. They dropped at conference. They dropped at sections. His training is hitting right, and if he gets a good day, I think he could run a great time again. I think he is in a super position."

Senior Zac Bartolomeo is another guy who Empting believes may have saved his best for last. He will enter the 800 prelims today with a seed time of 2:00.32. Bartolomeo will have to overcome 13 others who enter with times under two minutes, including Cal Lawton of Eden Prairie who qualified with a time of 1:53.76.

"There are some really fast times in that 800," Empting said. "But I think Zac is capable to get down there and be competitive. That's one thing with Zac I've noticed, he's going to go out and compete and the competition could bring him to another level."

Junior Colin Guetter will also have to be at his best to make the finals in the discus. He enters with a seed mark of 146-05. Lakeville North's Benjamin Krynski is the favorite after a throw of 171-11 at sections.

"Colin is going to go out there and compete too," Empting said. "There are some big discus throws out there. He's going to have to throw a personal best I think, kind of a big one to make finals. But you know what? He's going to go out and compete, so anything is possible."

That's the message Empting will deliver to all his guys as things get started with the 3,200-meter run at 9 this morning. A packed house will no doubt be there to watch them as the Cardinal athletes try to make something happen on the Minnesota high school track scene's biggest stage.

"Getting there is one thing," Empting said. "From there, we take it step by step. The next thing is get to the top nine, make finals. If you make finals, you're All State... then it's gravy. We go for whatever we can get. It's been my feeling that if you make All State, you make it to the finals, then we go for it and try to make something special happen. That's my hope."

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.

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