The Alexandria boys and girls track and field teams take pride in being one program with one culture, and that’s why Thursday was a special day for the Cardinals.

Both the Alexandria boys and girls won the Central Lakes Conference championship that was held in Sauk Rapids. The girls ran away with the title by scoring 170.5 points, well in front of second-place finisher Brainerd at 127.

The boys needed every last point to hold off a talented Willmar team. Alexandria beat the rival Cardinals by 0.5 point, finishing at 131.5 to Willmar’s 131.

“We have had some nail-biters, but this one tops them,” an excited Alexandria boys head coach Mike Empting said on Friday morning. “Every athlete and every event mattered, but it took the 4x400 relay team of Zach Gundberg, Jacob Kleven, Myles Sansted and Mason Teaser to know what they had to do to put us over the top.”

The Alexandria boys lost a talented sprinter earlier this season when junior Kristen Hoskins decided to quit track and field after competing in a couple of meets.

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Hoskins, a future receiver for the University of Minnesota who was recently at a Gophers camp, said he will be at the U of M a lot over the next few months, and he wanted to focus on football-related work while also playing AAU basketball.

The Cardinals showed off their depth in sprints by scoring big points in all the dashes at the CLC championship behind senior Nolan Morical and junior Jack Theien. Morical was first in the 100 dash, and second in the 200 and 400 dashes. Theien was first in the 400-meter dash, fourth in the 200 and third in the 100.

The Alexandria boys had three first-place finishes overall as Sansted, a junior, won the 1600-meter run in a time of 4:33.44. They added five total runner-up performances from the 4x200 relay team, the 4x400 relay team and Will Heydt in the triple jump.

“Willmar is a great team and the competition with them brought out the best of both teams,” Empting said. “It was fun to see and made this coach of 20-plus years very proud of our Alexandria athletes and coaches.”

Alexandria coaches work hard to make sure their athletes peak at the right time of year through their training. They saw that come to fruition on Thursday, with many examples of kids showing their competitiveness in a big meet.

“There were so many great performances, personal bests where kids outdid themselves and other performances that looking back on them you realized how important the effort was,” Empting said. “We had a 300 hurdler (Gavin Ashmore) who was running a great race, hit a hurdle and fell. He scrambled back to his feet, raced like crazy and finished the race in sixth place. Not his best time, but if he doesn't get back up and compete and finish that race, we lose those points. Significant. Myles Sansted's finish in the 1600-meter run, passing a Willmar athlete at the finish line was a remarkable effort by Myles and was a 4-point swing for our team. Significant. There were efforts like this all night long!”

Girls’ depth wears down the field

The Alexandria girls had five wins on Thursday. Sisters Aleah and Jaelyn Miller both had impressive falls in cross country, and they have continued that in the spring. Aleah won the 1600 run, while Jaelyn took the CLC title in the 3200.

Sophomore Elena Fuglestad is one of the many young talented athletes for this girls team as she was first in the 400 dash, third in the 100 dash and part of the second-place 4x100 relay team with Hailie Kent, Allie Randazzo and Lexi Cole. Myah Kremer added a first-place finish in the 800 run, and Kent won the triple jump.

Alexandria’s depth wears down most programs in the CLC. The best example of that on Thursday came in the 400 dash where the Cardinals had three top-five finishers as Miah Wessel (third, 1:03.11) and Marisa Rousu (fifth, 1:03.84) came in just behind Fuglestad’s winning time of 1:00.66.

“Sharing the night and the championship is especially rewarding,” Empting said of the boys and girls’ taking titles. “Coaches getting the chance to work with both genders and seeing our kids do so well across all events is an amazing feeling as a coach. Seeing 80-plus Alexandria athletes and coaches all celebrating together after the final results were announced after everything they have gone through the last 15 months was amazing, emotional, proudful. It was a good night.”

CLC CHAMPIONSHIP -- BOYS TEAM SCORES - Alexandria - 131.5; Willmar - 131; Brainerd - 107.5; St. Cloud Apollo - 93; Sartell - 75; St. Cloud Tech - 60; Sauk Rapids-Rice - 43.5; Fergus Falls - 34.5; Rocori - 26

GIRLS TEAM SCORES - Alexandria - 170.5; Brainerd - 127; Willmar - 106; Rocori - 89; Sartell - 62.5; Sauk Rapids-Rice - 43.5; Fergus Falls - 42.5; St. Cloud Apollo - 39.5; St. Cloud Tech - 17.5

ALEXANDRIA GIRLS TOP-SIX FINISHERS - 4x800 RELAY - Greta Oldenkamp, Emma Reineke, Kamryn Coauette, Emma Ecker - third, 9:59.44; 100 HURDLES - Lexi Cole - second, 16.50; 100 DASH - Elena Fuglestad - third, 13.13; 4x200 RELAY - Kaia Emter, Marisa Rousu, Jisella Haskamp, Miah Wessel - third, 1:49.57; 1600 RUN - Aleah Miller - first, 5:11.43; Taelor Dummer - fifth, 5:32.32; 4x100 RELAY - Hailie Kent, Fuglestad, Allie Randazzo, Cole - second, 51.02; 400 DASH - Fuglestad - first, 1:00.66; Miah Wessel - third, 1:03.11; Rousu - fifth, 1:03.84; 300 HURDLES - Cole - third, 48.15; Sophia Korynta - sixth, 49.93; 800 RUN - Myah Kremer - first, 2:23; Emma Ecker - sixth, 2:26.64; 200 DASH - Wessel - fifth, 27.53; 3200 RUN - Jaelyn Miller - first, 11:48.08; Brynn Kosters - sixth, 12:18.44; 4x400 RELAY - Randazzo, Kremer, Rousu, Aleah Miller - second, 4:09.56; SHOT PUT - Amaria Sowada - fourth, 35-03; DISCUS - Sowada - second, 109-04; Sophia Vinje - third, 106-07; LONG JUMP - Hailie Kent - fourth, 16-09.75; TRIPLE JUMP - Kent - first, 36-09; Ella Steussy - second, 34-02; POLE VAULT - Cole - t-sixth, 8-02

ALEXANDRIA BOYS TOP-SIX FINISHERS - 4x800 RELAY - Cameron Hochsprung, Torrey Olson-Rodel, Hayden Peterson, Riley Wagner - fourth, 8:59.73; 100 DASH - Nolan Morical - first, 11.25; Jack Theien - third, 11.42; 4x200 RELAY - Mason Teaser, Teagan Pfeffer, Nicholas Huss, Kelly Johnson - second, 1:34.87; 1600 RUN - Myles Sansted - first, 4:33.44; Bennett Wirth - sixth, 4:43.17; 4X100 RELAY - Will Heydt, Pfeffer, Huss, Christian Doumbia - fourth, 44.95; 400 DASH - Theien - first, 50.62; Morical - second, 51.23; 300 HURDLES - Gavin Ashmore - sixth, 44.78; 800 RUN - Jacob Kleven - third, 2:00.41; 200 DASH - Morical - second, 22.51; Theien - fourth, 22.97; 4x400 RELAY - Zachary Gundberg, Kleven, Sansted, Teaser - second, 3:34.15; SHOT PUT - Joseph Lanoux - sixth, 45-08; DISCUS - Zander Homelvig - fourth, 128-11; LONG JUMP - Pfeffer - fourth, 20-05.25; TRIPLE JUMP - Heydt - second, 42-07; POLE VAULT - Huss - third, 12-03