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Alexandria girls' track and field: Cardinals hope for more magic at state

The Alexandria track and field team will be in a familiar position today for a program that is no stranger to sending athletes to St. Paul with high expectations at the Class AA state meet.

Those high standards will be there again as the Cardinals feature a state title favorite and the depth they hope can rack up plenty of points. Alexandria's Megan Hasz will help kick things off today, Friday, at Hamline University as the 3,200-meter final gets things going at 9 a.m. The full day of finals will start on Saturday with the girls 4x800 relay.

Alexandria has finished second in the final team standings in each of the last three years. It will be hard to duplicate that with former distance star Jamie Piepenburg now at the University of Minnesota, but Alexandria still has high hopes with athletes representing the program in six events.

"The state meet is always an exciting experience because you never know what could happen," Alex head coach Meghan Orgeman-Crumb said. "I can't wait to see what the girls can do.  If you look at seed times, it looks like we have the potential to have some strong finishes...Also, looking at the meet participants, Lakeville South and Minnetonka look stronger than ever.  I'm not one to make predictions, but I'm hopeful that the Alexandria girls can bring home finishes that are among the best in the state."

Freshman Wensia Johnson is positioned to do just that heading into the meet. Johnson's natural ability busted onto the scene at Hamline University last year as she won the 200-meter dash as only an 8th grader.

Now she will try to do the same in a couple different events. Johnson has the fastest seed time of 12.03 heading into the 100-meter dash and has shown she is capable of running the 100 in less than 12 seconds. Hopkins' Taylor Anderson, the 2012 winner who set the all-time state meet record of 11.71 seconds last year, is also back to defend her title.

Johnson will enter the long jump as the favorite if she can match her leap of 18-08 at the section meet. That is more than three inches further than Prior Lake's seed mark of 18-04.75. Johnson would have also been a threat at repeating in the 200-meter dash if not for a false start that took her out of the race at the section meet.

"Wensia has had experience competing on a big stage, such as the state meet," Orgeman-Crumb said. "I hope that she can get on that track and do what she naturally does so well - fly!  She is tremendously gifted. Hopefully, those gifts fully come alive on June 7 and 8."

Johnson will compete in a third event as she joins three teammates in the 4x100 relay. Gaby Koel, Briquelle Bowden and Mady Urman join her with a seed time of 49.60. The Hopkins team of Dami Manuel-Moore, Elise Anderson, Siona Fitzhugh and Anderson have the fastest seed time of 48.58.

Urman and Bowden will each compete in individual events as well. Urman punched her ticket in the 200-meter dash with a seed time of 26.95, while Bowden will compete in the high jump as one of six girls with a seed mark of 5-04. Taylor Wiebke of Kasson-Mantorville and Caraline Slattery of Lakeville South both enter with jumps of 5-08.

The state meet is an opportunity to add to what has already been a memorable first year of head coaching for Orgeman-Crumb. She said she expected her girls to step up their games as the meets got bigger this spring. They did that last week by winning the section title by one point over Bemidji. Now the lights are even brighter as they head to St. Paul.

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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