Track and Field: Alexandria finishes sixth at Class AA State meet; earn titles in 4x800m relay and 1600m
Alexandria's Emma Ecker, Giselle Jahner, Kasey Soderholm, Jaelyn Miller and Aleah Miller win state AA championships.
ST. MICHAEL - A handful of Alexandria athletes from the girls track and field team are heading back to Alexandria from the 2022 MSHSL Class AA State Track and Field meet as state champions.
In the first finals event of the day on Saturday, the 4x800m relay team of freshman Kasey Soderholm, sophomore Jaelyn Miller, junior Giselle Jahner and senior Emma Ecker earned first with a season-best of 9:26.31, while Aleah Miller won the 1600m run (4:59.57) later in the day.
Jaelyn Miller, Jahner, Ecker and Soderholm won the relay with Ecker holding off a late run by Central Lakes Conference and Section 8AA foe Willmar.
“It was so special for me and the team to get out there and run that race as fast as I possibly could,” Ecker said. “It was my last race and I was like, ‘I want to do this for the team. I'm just going give it my absolute all.’ And in that moment, I was like, ‘We need to get first; this is going to happen.”’
Alexandria’s time just barely put it ahead of Willmar’s time of 9:26.59.
“It was so special to see all the hard work we put in this season and for me all four years of my work,” Ecker said. “Just seeing it all being laid out here on the track was so special to see and it's still shocking to even think about and fathom that we did that. But I knew we could do it and it was super exciting to pull that off.”
Alexandria head coach Meghan Orgeman said that the setup of the first three legs of the race helped Ecker seal the deal.
“I thought that 4x800 was perfectly executed by every member of that team,” Orgeman said. “Kasey Soderholm is special and she doesn’t even know it yet. Then, to have Jaelyn come in there, who is a strong 800 runner, keep us in place and then Giselle, our third runner, ran out of her mind. It was such a beautiful strategic race.”
After the relay race, Soderholm was in awe of how things went down.
“Honestly, I couldn't stop crying,” Soderholm said. “It was such a wonderful experience.”
Soderholm being a part of a state championship-winning relay team caps a season in which Orgeman thought would be a breakout year for her.
“Before the season started, I was asked if there any freshmen that we need to look out for and I said, Kasey Soderholm,” Orgeman said. “She ran incredibly well and that set the tone.”
Ecker is going to the South Dakota State University track and field/cross country teams beginning in the fall.
“Emma is a very fierce competitor,” Orgeman said. “She was in a perfect position to do what Emma does. And she ran with so much heart and she was so smart.”
The Cardinals came into the relay with a seed time of 9:39.64.
Aleah Miller is another senior who ended her career by winning a state title. Aleah came into the 1600m race as the top seed of the event (4:56.16) but had been stuck in the middle of the pack of the race for the first 1500m.
But in the final 100m of the race, Aleah broke through the group to win the race with a time of (4:59.57).
“Aleah is a very smart racer; she has great race awareness,” Orgeman said. “She knows when to make a move, she knows when to position herself physically and where to position herself so that she can set herself up for the best possible chance to win.”
Aleah Miller finished 10th in 1600m run at state as a junior. She won the race by a full second over St. Paul Highland Park’s Luna Scorzelli (5:00.91).
“It was such a cool moment,” Aleah said.
Aleah will run for the North Dakota State University Bison in college.
“I knew going into that last lap that I would have to fight if I wanted to get that first spot,” Aleah said. “I was on the shoulder of a girl from Hutch coming into the final 200m and knew if I could kick it, I could just have it. I just needed to be strong the whole way. I could hear some girls behind me. I knew I couldn't let up and that I just had to power through.”
With this year’s meet being the first with a Class AAA, all Class AA records are now Class AAA records. So the champion in each Class AA event set a new class record at the state meet.
In addition to earning first as a part of the 4x800m relay, Jaelyn Miller earned sixth in the 800m dash (2:17.72).
Senior Hailie Kent wrapped up her career with an eighth place finish in the triple jump (36.00-50). She also finished seventh (16-04.75) in the long jump finals on Thursday, while Alison Krasky finished ninth (16-02.75).
With these finals finishes, along with the fifth place finish in the 3200m run by Ecker (11:01.56) and the eighth place finish by Amaria Sowada in the discus throw (108-07) on Thursday, the Cardinals earned 41 points and a sixth-place finish in Class AA as a team.
For seniors such as Kent, Ecker and Aleah Miller, the seasons end comes with a bittersweet feeling.
“There were lots of tears,” Orgeman said. “Aleah didn't want to take her spikes off because that meant the end of an incredible journey. Of course, they had dreamed of being champions, but for them, they’re feeling the emotion of being part of a family, leading the track family and leaving a legacy of what our culture is supposed to be. And so there's a lot of emotion for them.
"It meant a lot. They're really big into our history. And so to have these moments on the 50th anniversary of having a girls state track meet with this event down here. It's just a very special moment for all of us to look back into the past and then look at our present. They're already looking into the future and to the 100th anniversary if they can come. All these seniors have been incredible captains and incredible leaders.”
Orgeman said that on Saturday, she became the first-ever woman president of the Minnesota State Track Coaches Association. She had previously been the Vice President and the True Team President.
“It’s crazy that’s never happened before,” Orgeman said. “I and about four other women coordinated this event. We've had like 60 women from the 1970s here from that first track meet, and they're all sharing stories. And so when I look at that, and I look at what happened in the meet, I'm like, ‘this is so cool.’ We’ve come a long way.”