The Minnewaska girls 4x800 relay team ran a 9:42.48 at the Section 6A tournament, and felt pretty good about that heading into the Class A state meet on Saturday at Hamline University.

Then the Lakers looked at state record times like the 9:21.36 that a group from Dover-Eyota-St. Charles set in 2011 and the top seed time this year from Luverne at 9:27.41.

“We’re thinking how do they do that?” Minnewaska junior Ellie Danielson said.

Now they know how it’s done. Danielson ran the anchor of the Lakers 4x800 with sophomore Bailey Schoen, eighth-grader Makena Thoen and sophomore Kristen Glover. They shattered their own school record by almost 13 seconds by finishing in 9:27.33. It was good for second place behind Luverne at 9:22.92.

“Our goal this year was to just beat it again,” Glover said of their previous record time in the 4x800. “We did that by 13 seconds, so we’re just so proud. We were just all so dedicated and determined to do this.”

Glover handed the baton to Danielson as the anchor from Albany (third place, 9:29.85) grabbed it from her teammate and the Lakers and Huskies competed for those second and third-place spots. The Lakers came in with the fifth fastest seed time, so Danielson knew they were in a position to move up once she gathered herself in the heat of the moment.

“I could literally hear my heart beat,” Danielson said. “I was really in a zone, and right away when I got the baton I didn’t really realize the place we were in. I looked ahead, and it was, ‘OK, there’s only one girl in front of us.’ Once we got to the last 300, it was like, ‘Sprint. Everything you have.’”

Saturday’s finish was the product of a lot of hard work. Schoen said the girls for this 4x800 team would get together frequently throughout the offseason to get runs in. It’s a culture that has been established within this Lakers program, and one that Schoen said starts from the top with head coach Jennifer Johnsrud.

“It’s all about dedication,” Schoen said. “Our coach is the most dedicated person I know, and it just pushes us. She’s the reason we want to work so hard.”

The Lakers have seen the benefits of all that hard work this spring. It paid off with a Class A state true team title earlier in the season at Stillwater and sending a dozen athletes in all to Hamline University this weekend between the boys and the girls.

“It’s been really crazy,” Thoen said. “We’ve had some ups and downs, but we’ve been getting so much better. This pushes us just so much more to be around these competitive teams to get a faster time.”

And the Lakers likely aren’t done. Minnewaska only has one senior on the whole team in Sierra Lindemann. All four of the 4x800 relay runners will be back again next year, and they’re already thinking of breaking records and winning titles.

“Taking first is my highest goal right now,” Danielson said of this group. “We were running a 10:20 in our first few meets, and now we just ran a 9:27. It’s unreal. First place was a 9:22, that’s definitely within our reach.”


Another young and talented Minnewaska runner finished with two all-state performances in the sprints on Saturday after freshman Emily Kaiser made the finals of both the 100 and 200-meter dashes.

Kaiser had a prelims time of 12.72 seconds in the prelims on Friday. She then ran a 12.75 in the finals to take seventh. In the 200 dash, she ran a 26.36 in the finals to take eighth after qualifying with a 26.50 in the prelims on Friday.