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Humble and hungry

Osakis girls’ track and field coach Lee VanNyhuis has said he doesn’t know if his girls know how good they are. That’s probably part of the reason they are so successful.

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That humility helps them keep striving for more and never settling. Osakis has won every meet it has competed in this season except the Class A state true team meet. The Silverstreaks took second in that, falling just three points short of winning the title in a close contest with Luverne this past Saturday.

“It was kind of surprising for us, but in a good way,” junior sprinter Hannah Szech said after practice on Tuesday. “We came into the season and thought we would be strong, but after that, it showed us just a whole other level that our team is at. It really just boosts our confidence for upcoming meets and years, too.”

The Silverstreaks have been dominant in some of their biggest meets this season. They won the Prairie Conference title by 94 points over Long Prairie-Grey Eagle. The Section 6A True Team meet was won by 76 points over Montevideo behind a roster that is as deep as any team VanNyhuis has had in now his 16th season as Osakis’ head coach.

“The quality of depth is just tremendous in each event,” he said. “That’s one of our focuses, is not just having good sprinters, a good distance, but trying to get kids into different events, and it’s really paid off with some good team stuff.”

The Osakis girls had already established themselves as a strong program in the past. The Silverstreaks have relay state titles and conference and true team section titles to show for that, but this year’s team has stood out because of that depth.

“I think we’re really lucky to have so much depth on our team,” sophomore sprinter and jumper Abby Stroup said. “We know if one event doesn’t go well that we have a lot of events backing us up and that helps a lot in the team aspect of things but also individually. We have a lot of trust in each other, and we trust our coaches.”

The performances of many young athletes have made an already good team even better this year. Freshman Kayla Sorenson racked up 47 points herself in the high jump and 100- and 200-meter hurdles at true team state.

Seventh grader Tianna Stanek was eighth in the 100-meter dash and part of the winning 4x100 relay team. Fellow seventh grader Samantha Jones was second in the 800-meter run at true team state and part of the winning 4x400 team.

Eighth grader Lauren Savageau was fifth in the 1,600-meter run and seventh grader Jordyn Stroup racked up points with a seventh-place finish in the 3,200. Freshman Jessica Bliese led the throwers by finishing eighth in the shot put and 15th in the discus. The entire team features just three seniors who are also a big part of this roster in Brooke Sorenson, Makayla Hoglin and Taylor Kraemer.

“Honestly, no I didn’t,” junior distance runner Paige Gabrielson said when asked if she expected those kinds of results from all the young athletes at the varsity level this year. “But they’re just amazing. They keep pushing harder and harder, and that really helps me push myself. We’ve grown so much as a team.”

Team is a word that resonates a lot with this group. VanNyhuis and his coaching staff don’t focus on any individual stuff with their athletes until after the state true team meet.

Early invitationals serve as warm-ups for the Silverstreaks until they get to team meets like the conference and true team sections. There, they don’t worry about where individuals place. It’s all about moving the kids around to the events they feel will let them rack up the most team points possible. The athletes say it’s easy to buy into that approach, and it made Saturday’s finish at state true team all the more rewarding.

“We have some very talented girls, but it’s not just one specific person,” Gabrielson said. “We just encourage others to give their best and push themselves so everyone is going at their top performance. That helps round us all together.”

The Silverstreaks will now shift their focus to fitting individuals into their best events as they try to advance as many athletes to state as they can. Osakis has already accomplished big things in the team portion of the season. That’s driving them to reach even higher over the next two weeks and into the seasons to come.

“We’re always working toward the next thing,” Abby Stroup said. “It pushes us even more to want it next year and keep working for it. We’re not going to settle for anything, and we want to keep getting better every year.”

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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