East Ridge boys and girls track teams win Section 3AA True Team championsipsThis year, the Raptors made the section True Team meet twice as sweet as both the boys and girls teams won the section championship and qualified for the Class AA True Team state meet.
By: Patrick Johnson, Staff Writer, Woodbury Bulletin
Last year the East Ridge girls track and field team accomplished quite a feat, claiming the Section 3AA True Team championship.
However, this year, the Raptors made the section True Team meet twice as sweet as both the boys and girls teams won the section championship and qualified for the Class AA True Team state meet.
“It’s huge,” East Ridge boys team head coach Shannon Rainey said. “I can’t be more proud of these guys. It’s rare for a boys and girls team to win it from the same school. That makes it extra special.”
At this year’s Section 3AA True Team meet, held Tuesday, May 10, at St. Croix Lutheran High School in Oakdale, the East Ridge girls team qualified for a second-straight True Team state meet, scoring 551.50 points to edge second-place Visitation, which scored 544 points, and the East Ridge boys netted 433.50 points to top Hill-Murray’s 419 points and punch its first ticket to the state meet.
Last year, the East Ridge girls recorded 456 points to take top honors, besting Visitation by 29 points. The East Ridge boys placed in the middle of the pack in its sectional, coming in fifth with a team score of 318. St. Croix Lutheran took first with 458 points.
“Last year, I was really happy for the girls, obviously, but I thought it would have been really nice if the boys would’ve gotten there, too,” Rainey said. “We were decent, but I thought we were one year away. The whole year, I’ve been thinking about this meet.”
In True Team competition each competitor earns points toward their team’s finish. In individual events, the first place finisher is awarded 24 points, the second gets 23 points and so on. The 24th place finisher earns one point. In relays the first-place team earns 32 points, the second 28 points, the third 24 points down to the eighth place team which earns four points. This is East Ridge’s final year in Class AA before moving up to Class AAA.
Rainey said East Ridge’s championships were quintessential True Team wins, where everyone played a part.
“We definitely had some athletes that scored quite a few points,” Rainey said. “But, everyone contributed in a big way. The sprints probably contributed the most amount of points, but the jumps really stepped up big, too. Overall, everything was really good.”
In the boys meet, East Ridge was given a boost by its relay teams. East Ridge won the 800-meter relay and the 400-meter relay, finished in second place in the 1600-meter relay and took third in the 3200-meter relay.
The Raptors 800-meter relay team of seniors Dayo Idowu, Ali Elbasher, Connor Lyons and junior Dayo Ogundepo won the event with a time of 1 minute, 31.81 seconds — just over four seconds better than second-place St. Croix Lutheran (1:35.82). In the 400-meter relay, Ogundepo and Lyons teamed up with sprinters Ezekiel Okeleye, a senior, and junior Val Huerta to win the race with a 43.40 time — nearly two seconds faster than St. Croix Lutheran (45.39). In the 1600 relay, Lyons and Idowu joined senior Andy Guerra and junior Erik Jorgensen to take second place with a time of 3:34.88 — just back of Hill-Murray (3:34.71).
“The relay teams looked really sharp across the board — boys and girls,” Rainey said. “I felt like everyone was in the mix. The relays were really strong.”
Rainey praised the running of Lyons, who was on the top three of the Raptors’ four relay teams. Lyons was a baseball player as a sophomore, but first went out for track as a junior.
“I can’t believe what he has learned,” Rainey said. “Every meet he just gets better and better. He’s just a solid athlete and doesn’t really seem to get nervous, even though he’s new to track and he’s in big situations.”
‘EZ’ leads Raptors boys in individual events
“EZ” Okeleye led the way for the Raptors boys in individual events, taking first place in the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash and earning fourth place in the long jump. In the 100, Okeleye had a time of 11.28 to beat Simley’s Eric Johnston (11.37). Okeleye ran a 22.92 in the 200, to edge his teammate Ogundepo, who took second place with a time of 23.00. In the long jump, Okeleye leapt a distance of 19-07.0, finishing behind Idowu, who took third place with a distance of 19-08.75. Hill-Muray’s Jack Kangas won the event (20-02.0).
Elbasher had the East Ridge boys only other first-place finish, taking the top spot in the triple jump with a leap of 41 feet, 9 inches, beating St. Croix Lutheran’s Nate Haugen (40-05.0).
“Ali is one person who has been very steady this whole year,” Rainey said. “I like his attitude. He works hard at every single practice. He’s very versatile and did a very good job for us.”
Additionally, for the East Ridge boys, junior Kevin Ig-Izeubekhai took second place in the high jump, clearing 6-0 and fifth place in the triple jump (39-08.0), Huerta earned third in the 100-meter dash (11.41), Jorgensen finished in third place in the 400-meter run (52.86), junior Braedon Hyland was third in the 800-meter run (2:07.01), junior Jeff Kuss took fifth place in the 300-meter hurdles (44.48) and in seventh place in the 110-meter hurdles (17.12) and sophomore William Neuenfeldt was fourth in the discus with a toss of 115-03.
Ethier wins triple jump, 200-meter dash events
In the girls meet, Nicole Ethier led the way for the Raptors. Ethier, a junior, won the triple jump with a leap of 33-11.75, beating Holy Angles’ Lizzie Mattson (33-10.75) and the 200-meter dash with a time of 26.54, edging Visitation’s Beaner McManus (26.63) and earned second place in the 400-meter dash with a time of 59.18 — just back of Breck’s Malayshia George (58.09).
A pair of East Ridge freshmen also won events. Raptors’ freshman Caitlin Cheeseboro won the 100-meter hurdles and Bailey Ness won the 3200-meter run.
Cheeseboro had a time of 16.25 in the short hurdles, besting Breck’s Angelina Thomas (16.90). Ness won the 3200-meter run with a time of 11:48.79, edging Visitation’s Katie Moran (11:50.14). Cheeseboro also earned third place in the 300-meter hurdles with a finish of 50.37. Danielle Marzinske of St. Croix Lutheran won the event (49.36).
The East Ridge girls went 2-3 in the high jump. The Raptors’ Kelsey Schnabel took second place, clearing 5-02 and Laura Johnson finished in third place, going over 4-10. Breck’s George won the event (5-04).
Additionally, East Ridge’s Nicollette Brown took second place in the shot put (35-00.75) and fourth place in the discus throw (90-08), while the Raptors’ Liz Maata and Abigail Beissler took sixth and seventh places, respectively, in the 1600-meter run, Brianna Schmitt earned sixth place in the long jump, Anna Moyihan and Sarah Nesheim finished in ninth and 10th in the 800-meter run.
“We had key people that did score a lot of points for us, but what made it for us was that we got good points in a lot of events,” East Ridge girls team coach Lloyd Ness said. “There weren’t really any events that we did poorly in and didn’t score much and cost us. We did well in every event. That’s kind of the concept of the True Team event and really what won it for us.”
The True Team state meet will take place Friday, May 20, at Stillwater High School. The Suburban East Conference championships follow shortly after — with the prelims on Tuesday, May 24, and finals on Thursday, May 26, at East Ridge. The High School League section meet takes place Tuesday, May 31, and Wednesday, June 1, at Macalester College in St. Paul.
“I’m just trying to enjoy this moment,” Rainey said. “We’ll soak it in and get ready for state. The weather hasn’t been the best, but everybody is in the same boat. We’ll just go forward and see what happens.”