MSHSL State Meet Hamline University June 7-8
Belle Plaine sent seven athletes (two alternates) for six events and took seventh, out of the 78 scoring teams represented with 29 team points.
After her stumble in the 100m hurdles earlier in the day Saturday, Struck-Schmitz had to leave that behind her in order to focus on the 300m hurdle race ahead of her.
The defending state champion posted the top seed time in the prelims and got an early lead in the finals, clearing the first hurdle well ahead of the rest of the field.
After rounding the turn out front, Struck-Schmitz headed down the home stretch with a healthy but dwindling lead as Shaina Zinter of Concordia Academy began closing the gap on the final two hurdles.
Struck-Schmitz’s lead was too much to overcome, however, and she crossed the finish line in 43.11 seconds, for her second consecutive state title.
“After my fall in the 100s, I knew I had to push and give it my all in the 300s,” Struck-Schmitz said following her win. “I knew that to come back and get this I needed to let that all behind me. I knew someone was coming up on me, so I had that mentality to push harder and harder and harder to get where I wanted to be.”
After posting the sixth fastest preliminary time of Friday, June 7, Belle Plaine’s McKenna Herrmann entered Saturday’s final race in a solid spot.
When the gun sounded, the field of runners quickly flattened out, with Mesabi East’s Ava Hill pulling out in front in the latter stretch of the first lap of two.
Herrmann positioned herself well as she rounded the 500-meter mark as the field began spreading thinner in the front pack of which Herrmann was a part.
Down the home stretch, returning state champion Hill took a comfortable first place, but among third through fifth place, a battle ensued.
Grace Drietz of Canby/Minneota punched through the pack to finish second, followed by Milaca’s Bethany TenHaken, who was followed by McKenna Herrmann in fourth with a time of 2.18.39
Jaylen Struck-Schmitz is widely known as a top 300m hurdle runner, but the 2019 state tournament was her time to prove her pedigree as a 100m hurdler.
In the prelims, it looked like she would do just that when she posted a 15.36, the second fastest time in the field of state qualifiers, winning her heat.
When the finals rolled around, it looked like it would be a fight between her and Ailsa Gilbert, the top seed from Watertown-Mayer.
When the gun was fired, Struck Schmitz came out with every intention to make her mark on the race and quickly made it to the front of the pack to the first hurdle, but a stumble over it brought her to the ground and the rest of the field ahead of her. Struck-Schmitz recovered quickly, but every moment counts at the state meet, and she crossed the finish line in ninth.
Posting the fastest seed time, Belle Plaine’s relay team was poised to leave their mark on the state meet Saturday.
Leading things off, Struck-Schmitz gave Belle Plaine a healthy lead as she cleanly handed the baton off to freshmen McKenna Ziemke who marginally increased that lead down the first turn of her leg.
With a solid lead, it seemed like Belle Plaine might coast into first place, leaving Stewartville, Mesabi East and Pelican Rapids to battle for second.
Another crisp handoff from Ziemke to Herrmann further substantiated that possibility.
Herrmann fended off the field and gave freshman anchor Lizzy Schmidt some wiggle room to work with for the race’s final leg. But Maddie Guler of Pelican Rapids and Maia Peterson of Stewartville had other plans.
Schmidt held onto the lead solidly until the final turn of the race into the home stretch when Guler and Peterson flattened the field and bit at Schmidt’s ankles until they were 50 meters from the finish when Guler pulled ahead by a few feet.
At the finish line, Peterson let out a final push beside Schmidt who had given every ounce of her effort to the race and dove through the finish.
In the end, Peterson had done just enough to take second, leaving Belle Plaine in third. Final times for the top three finishers were divided by around a half second, with Pelican Rapids taking first with a time of 3:59.56, Stewartville in second with a time of 4:00.06 and Belle Plaine in third with a time of 4:00.12.
Despite coming excruciatingly close to a championship, the Belle Plaine team was thrilled with the finish, they said. And they felt the chemistry they have worked to develop all season shined in their final race.
“We worked on our hand-offs everyday in practice,” second leg Herrmann said. “It’s just about giving our all and trusting each other.”
With a jump of 16-07.50, Jaylen Struck-Schmitz took eighth overall.
Madi McGrane threw a 100-09, landing her in 14th place overall. McGrane fought hard but did not final.
Junior Drew Hastings, the sole male state qualifier from Belle Plaine, began his 1600m race in the run-middle portion of the pack.
Erik Wittlief of Pine Island got an early lead but gassed out early into the second lap as a pack led by champion Geno Uhrbom of Greenway/Nashwauk/Keewatin overtook the race. Hastings hovered in the midst of the back of the lead pack.
On the third lap, Uhrbom, the 2018 cross-country state champion, began pulling ahead along with several other runners.
Hastings solidified his place in 12th after Chase Baker of St. Clair/Immanuel Luther and Christopher Borash of Royalton passed him late in the race.
Posting a 4:40.83, Hastings made a worthy state appearance.
Track and Field Results
Thur., Apr. 4: Invitational B.P. Athletic Complex - Girls 1st, Boys 4th
Tue., Apr. 9: Quad, B.P. Athletic Complex - Girls 1st, Boys 1st.
Mon., Apr. 15: Meet @ St. Peter - Girls 1st, Boys 3rd
Tue., Apr. 16: MRC meet @ Le Sueur-Henderson - Girls 1st, Boys 3rd
Tue., Apr. 23: MRC meet, @ B.P Athletic Complex - Girls 1st, Boys 1st
Thur., Apr. 25: Invitational @ Delano - Girls 1st, Boys 5th
Thur., May 2: Meet @ Mankato East - Girls 1st, Boys 7th
Tue., May 7: True Team Sectional - Girls 4th, Boys 10th
Thur., May 16: Conference Championship @ Tri-City - Girls 1st, Boys 2nd
Sat., May 18: True Team State @ Stillwater
Thur., May 23: Subsections, B.P. Athletic Complex - Girls 1st, Boys 2nd
Sat., June 1: Sections @ Mankato West - Girls 1st, Boys 8th
Fri.-Sat., June 7-8: State Meet @ Hamline University-Girls 7th, Boys DNP