Track and Field: Woodbury, East Ridge, New Life, Math and Science all look to reach state this season
The Woodbury boys' and girls' teams bring back veteran power to 2019 as there are plenty of seniors that are looking for one more strong season before graduating.
The boys have 14 seniors on their team, while the girls have seven. A handful of them were able to compete in the state meet last season, and their goal is not only to reach it, but to bring more of their teammates to state.
"We were able to make a strong run to state last season," said Andrew Kraemer. "We want to finish our senior year on a high note, but we also want to teach the younger runners what this program stands for in the future."
The boys' return senior Grant Wittman, who finished eighth in the 800-meter run at state in 2018. Wittman will be running at the University of Minnesota next fall, but his main focus is on helping the younger people and finishing on a high note for Woodbury.
Kraemer is also returning in the long jump where he jumped 21 feet, 9 inches at the state meet last season. Along with the long jump, he was part of the 4x400 relay with two other juniors and one senior that graduated last season and they finished ninth at state.
That relay team will bring back Kraemer, Wittman and Chase Robinson. The Royals are looking to bring back more than one relay team to state though.
"Our program is known for strong relay teams and we want to make sure that happens this season," said Sam Olson. "We've been working hard at perfecting relay teams to begin this season."
The girls' will also be returning a couple people from the state meet last year. Anna Muellner placed sixth in the 200, while Maya Cochrane finished fifth in the shot put.
The two girls are hoping to return again and have started on the right foot with their first invitational at Mounds View a week ago.
Alexandrya Paulson had a strong finish in the 100 with a fourth-place finish and a time of 13.55. Kathleen Vaske ended up in seventh place at the 400 with a time of 1:05.28. Muellner also started the 2019 season strong with a second-place finish in the 200.
The Royals also were dominant in the field events with a fifth-place finish in the triple jump from Ellen Joyce. Cochrane also finished in sixth place in discus throw and first place in the shot put to begin the season.
The seniors on both the girls' and boys' East Ridge track and field teams knew this season was going to rely on leadership.
There were many seniors that graduated last season, and the handful of seniors left on the team this season are committed to finishing their high school careers on a high note.
The good part is that the seniors all agreed that the Raptors continue to grow each day. They hope it leads to strong meets throughout the season and gets them ready for the most important meets, sections and potentially state.
The Raptors are bringing back some key returners. On the boys' side, Alec Wittman is returning to defend his state title in the pole vault. He's been focused this summer on perfecting his craft, and feels confident in his abilities this upcoming season.
The boys will also return two of the four sprinters in their state relay teams. The Raptors placed second in the 4x200-meter relay and Jerald Hall and Philip Gramer return for their senior years.
The 4x400 relay is the other team that placed third at state. Wittman and Gramer will be the returning two runners for that race.
The girls will also be bringing back some runners in their state relay teams as well. Two sisters, Mackenzie and Morgan Werner, will be the two returning from the 4x200 relay team that placed eighth at state.
There will be many unknowns to begin the season for East Ridge, but the seniors are hoping to teach the younger people the traditions and expectations of the program.
Raptor fans can expect to see many new faces, but the same level of talent as past years. Ultimately, they want to see themselves at the state meet at the end of the year and competing for a state title.
New Life Academy
A few years ago, New Life Academy had a large number of boys compared to girls on the track and field team. Now, that has switched with girls having more numbers than boys.
Either way, head coach Kristen Hawkins is excited about this season because she has seen these juniors and seniors develop since seventh or eighth grade when Hawkins took the position at New Life.
"It's been fun to see them grow each season and now they are juniors and seniors," Hawkins said. "Hopefully, they can reach their individual and team goals this season."
There are many upperclassmen on the two teams this season, but Hawkins also said there's younger runners behind them that will continue to make this program dominant.
She's hoping for many of the athletes to reach the state meet individually and could see the girls' team reaching higher scores during the season.
On the girls' side, the Eagles will be led by junior Hannah George, senior Emily Bakken, senior Robin Ahlquist and sophomore Cara Grohn. Those four had strong results to start the season at Faribault in its invitational a couple of weeks ago.
The boys may have a smaller team, but Hawkins said they have plenty of people that will be leaders and top performers for the Eagles.
Juniors Isaiah Avery and Alex Borner are two that will be looked at for the track events this upcoming season. The Eagles also have freshman Simon Swenson who placed second in the high jump at the Faribault Invitational and has continued to progress each day at practice.
Math and Science Academy
Math and Science Academy students always look forward to the track and field season in the spring. After the cross-country season comes to a close, that's the next season they always look forward to during the winter months.
Now that the spring season has hit, the Dragons are excited to get back outside and start working for another run to the state meet.
"We've had a strong turnout for kids this season and it's great to see the range of grades coming out for the team," said coach Heath Anderson. "We had a great season last year and we're looking to build upon it this season."
Tierney Wolfgram finished third in the 1,600-meter run in last year's state meet for the Dragons while the boys' 4x800 relay team finished first at state last season. Three out of the four boys graduated last spring, so junior Harris Anderson is the lone runner back from that team.
"We hope each runner achieves their individual goals this season," said coach Alex Brault. "We think many of these runners could make a strong run to the state meet with how hard they're working since the beginning of this season."
Along with a strong 2019 season, the coaches and runners are looking into the future with a strong program ahead.
"We only graduate a couple runners this upcoming spring," said Shannon Koperski. "It means that we can learn this upcoming season and continue to grow in the future seasons ahead."
The coaches and runners understand that this season will be tough with the invitationals they're competing in, but they also know it'll be the best competition for them heading into the last part of the season in sections.