Coaches for the Alexandria track and field programs have preached a culture of togetherness for years, and on Tuesday night in Brainerd, the boys and girls teams got to share in a special moment together.
The Alexandria girls have made the last two state true team meets. On Tuesday, the girls secured a third straight trip to state by winning the 8AAA True Team meet. Right beside them will be the Cardinal boys team after they too won the section championship. It marks the first time since 1987 that both teams will advance to state true team together.
"Winning a track meet like this emphasizes the team concept within track and field and says a lot about the overall strength of our team," boys head coach Mike Empting said. "It means a lot because every place matters, and the team gets to enjoy this success knowing that every member had a direct impact."
Every finish is tallied in the team scoring in a true-team format, meaning the better the finish by every athlete, the more points they rack up for their team.
Alexandria scored 989 points on the boys' side. Moorhead was second at 910.5, and St. Michael-Albertville was third at 872.
The Cardinals racked up 1,089.5 points from the girls. St. Michael-Albertville was second with 1,020.5 points, and Brainerd was third (994.5).
"The boys scored very high in the sprint events and placed very high in all of the relays (4x100 and 4x200 were both first, 4x400 was second and 4x800 was fourth), which was very big, as relays score more points than an individual event," Empting said. "We also recorded some big improvements in the pole vault, which moved us up several spots, and Jaymeson Wolkow winning the discus was a big boost, too."
Wolkow had a high mark of 142-06 in the discus to gain 30 points for Alexandria and also finished fourth in the shot put (48-05). Nicholas Huss (11-00 finals) and Xavier Homelvig (11-00) led the pole vaulters in 10th and 13th place, respectively.
The sprinters for the Alexandria boys have been impressive all season, and nothing changed at true team. Senior Drew Olson (10.90) and freshman Kristen Hoskins (11.25) went 1-2 in the 100-meter dash, and Nolan Morical was sixth (11.54).
Olson and Hoskins duplicated that performance in the 200 dash, as well. Olson won in 22.32 seconds, and Hoskins was right behind in second at 22.85. Junior Derrek Piepho was then fourth in 23.38 seconds, while Ethan Schroeder paved the way in the 400 dash by taking second in 51.13.
Other top-five finishes came from Joshua Kietzmann in the 300-meter hurdles (second, 41.18) and the triple jump (fourth, 41-05 finals). Kietzmann helped the Cardinals score big in the long jump with a sixth-place finish (20-01), right behind teammate Cody Branson in fifth (20-01.75).
Depth shines for Alex girls
Alexandria girls head coach Meghan Orgeman said having both the boys and girls win this section meet is one of the most meaningful moments of her coaching career.
Orgeman emphasizes the team aspect of track and field all the time with her athletes, so to have an entire Cardinals program make true team state was a reward for kids who have bought in to that team approach.
"The format of the meet showcases the team culture that we aim to establish within our program every season," Orgeman said. "The girls and boys have worked exceptionally hard for this, even amidst challenging weather conditions, and couldn't deserve the trip to state more."
The Alexandria girls have depth up and down the lineup, and it carried them in Brainerd.
"On the girls side, the success really came down to how well rounded our program has become over the years," Orgeman said. "From the sprints, to distance, to jumps, to throws, we really didn't have an event where we were not able to hold our own."
Mya Lesnar (47-01.5), McKenzie Duwenhoegger (41.01.5) and Hailey Gill (38-01.25) went 1-2-3 in the shot put. Duwenhoegger (135-05) and Lesnar (133-03) then went 1-2 in the discus, while Christina Palmer was fourth at 116-01.
Like the boys, relays were important for the Alexandria girls. The 4x800 team was first (9:58.77), the 4x200 was third (1:50.29), 4x100 fourth (51.62), and the 4x400 second (4:09.56).
Senior Kaye Paschka had another big day in her standout career. She was third in the long jump (16-08), first in the triple jump (35-07.5), first in the 100-meter hurdles (15.21) and first in the 300-meter hurdles (45.21). Freshman Hailie Kent added a third-place mark in the triple jump (34-02.5). In the sprints, Erika Roderick finished fourth in the 400 dash (1:01.89).
The Miller sisters helped lead the way in the distance runs as Aleah Miller, a freshman, was third in the 800-meter run in 2:24.86, while Myah Kremer was fifth (2:27.90). Seventh-grader Jaelyn Miller (5:23.99) and Aleah Miller (5:25.75) finished fourth and fifth in the 1,600-meter run, and Caitlin Bright was third in the 3,200-meter run in 11:40.19.
Junior Bethany Miller rounded out Alexandria's top-five finishers by taking fifth with a leap of 4-feet, 8-inches in the high jump.
"In a true team meet, and this is true for the girls, you need athletes placing at the top. However, how your third runner, jumper or thrower places really has a significant impact on overall team points," Orgeman said. "It is a meet where every athlete contributes to the overall point total and the girls were fierce competitors, scrappy with points, and that made all of the difference."
The Alexandria teams will now take on the other deepest programs in the state when they head to Stillwater on May 17.