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And they're off ... spring sports begin

Polar League hosts annual indoor meet

With a snowstorm looming, the Polar League high school track season kicked off indoors Friday at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Although no team scores were kept, local track and field athletes impressed in both the boys and girls divisions.

The boys 60-meter dash featured some of the top local talent in the area. Esko's Koi Perich just nosed out Kaden Robbins of Moose Lake/Willow River to grab the win. Both Perich and Robbins were timed at 7.25 seconds with Jaxsyn Schmidt of ML/WR nabbing third place in 7.47 seconds.

Esko boys coach Gary Beaudot said he had hoped Perich would wait a little longer between basketball and track to compete, but said it gave his star sprinter a chance "to get a little gun start and drive phase mechanics work in."

"He wanted to run, of course, because he's Koi," Beaudot said. "It was his first race since his injury last season and a time of 7.25 was very respectable."

The 60 was Perich's only race Friday, and Robbins bounced back to win the 200-meter dash with a time of 24.19, good enough to beat Barnum's Gavin Reynolds in second and the Rebels' Schmidt at third.

"Robbins is a good sprinter and I thought Gavin ran a good race for us," said Barnum coach Rich Newman. "Gavin will be our main sprinter and he will be a strong runner for us this season."

Esko's Spencer Hipp cruised to a win in the 400-meters with Tommy DeChantel of Two Harbors taking second and Esko's Jake Randa finishing third.

"Spencer could run pretty much any race, and his 400 time of 57.68 was very respectable on the indoor 200-meter track," Beaudot said. "He did not hesitate to jump in the 4x400 when we needed a runner at the end of the meet."

Alec Halvorson won the 800-meter run in 2:14.01 with Elliott Wasche of ML/WR taking second and Barnum's Eli Berger finishing third.

"Alec was fired up to get a hard 800 run in, and he ran a smart race," said Beaudot.

Wasche came back to win the 1,600-meter run in a time of 4:40.46 with Carlton/Wrenshall's Jack Riley taking second and Phoenix Anderson of Cromwell-Wright taking third.

"I thought Jack really ran well to take second," said Kevin Olesen, co-head coach of the Raptors. "That was a fast race. Jack ran a blazing fast leg in the 4x8 and that might have taken something out of him here. Really though, Elliot (Wasche) just out battled him for the win. Both those guys will be a couple of the better milers in the section this year."

Barnum was impressive in the 60-meter hurdles, with Spencer Strohm taking the win and Keenan Head finishing third. Ben Schmitz of Esko was sandwiched in between, taking second.

"Spencer has really matured and is stronger this year and it really showed," Newman said. "He's exactly what you want in an athlete. He's coachable and he works hard. I think Keenan's best race this year will be the 300 intermediate hurdles, but he also ran well for us in the 60."

The Rebels won the 4x200 in 1:37.32 with Esko finishing second and Barnum third. Cromwell-Wright won the 4x400 while Cook County and Esko finished second and third, respectively. Carlton/Wrenshall ran away with the 4x800 relay with a spectacular time of 9:20.07, 12 seconds faster than runner-up Cromwell-Wright.

"We've won this race at this meet three years in a row, and it's something the boys talk about," said coach Olesen. "Jack Riley, AJ Olesen, Anders Erickson and David Tuttle did exactly what they needed to do for the win."

In one of the more exciting events of the day, Carter Woodhall outdueled Spencer Strohm of Barnum to win the high jump with a leap of 6 feet. Lucas Chesbrough of ML/WR came in third.

"Carter had a great performance," Olesen said. "We just got the mats out earlier in the week and he probably only had two practice jumps."

The Raptors coach explained that UWS doesn't allow athletes to jump in spikes.

"He only had his basketball shoes," Olesen said. "Once he figured it out, he was able to recapture his form. He cleared 6 feet, which I believe is a school record."

Cromwell-Wright's Dylan Nyberg placed first in the long jump with a leap of 20-feet, 6 ½ inches, followed by Esko's Dalton Spindler in second at 19 feet, 10 inches. Esko's Ryan Sturm placed third.

The Rebels went one-two in the triple jump with Micah Thompson winning by a quarter of an inch over teammate Evan Guenther, while Phoenix Anderson of Cromwell-Wright placed third.

Thompson also won the pole vault with a vault of 11 feet, with Alec Halvorson and Spencer Hipp of Esko taking second and third, respectively.

In the shot put, Esko's Joey Antonutti won with a toss of 45-feet, 3 inches, while Mark Hall of Barnum placed second at 43-feet, 2 inches.

"In his first season of track, he thought he would give the shot a try," Beaudot said of Antonutti, known more for his hockey skills. "Throwing over 45 feet in his first meet turned a lot of heads!"

Meanwhile Hall, who went to state in discus two years ago, also had a good start to his season.

"Our goal with Mark is to get him to around 50 feet this season, and he is certainly capable of that," Newman said.

McConnell gets a triple

In the girls meet, Esko's Kaitlyn McConnell won three individual events: the 60-meter dash, the 200 and the long jump.

"It was great to see Kaitlyn's smile after seeing all the work she's put in over the year to get back at a level she is proud of," said Esko girls coach Matt Peterson. "She ran motivated and I can't wait to see what this year has in store for her."

In the 60, Rachel Bopp of Two Harbors finished second and Esko's Whitney Hanson took third.

Barnum eighth-grader Isabella McCall took second to McConnell in the 200 and then won the 400 in an impressive time of 1:05.68.

"McCall has a very bright future," said Newman. "She is fast, has a quick turnover and is very impressive as an eighth-grader."

Sierra Getz of Silver Bay took top honors in the 800, followed by Brooklyn Wasche of Moose Lake/Willow River and Eilee Straub of Esko.

In the 1,600-meter run, Emaleigh Olesiak of Cromwell-Wright won by almost 20 seconds with Wasche finishing second and Sophia Schut of Silver Bay taking third.

Esko's Gwen Lilly took top honors in the 60-meter hurdles, finishing in a time of 10.93 with Ray Anderson of Marshall finishing second and Amaya Grinde of Two Harbors taking third.

"Lilly has been a rock in our program now for the past few years," Peterson said. "We can always expect Gwen to show up and show well."

ML/WR was impressive in the relays, taking first place in the 4x200, the 4x400 and the 4x800. Cromwell-Wright finished third in the 4x200, Esko was second in the 4x400 while South Ridge was second in the 4x800.

Liberty Clifford of Esko won the high jump with Grinde of Two Harbors and Bekah Voght of Barnum taking third.

"We are super-excited for Liberty," Peterson said. "We are hoping this is a springboard for success for her throughout the year in the high jump."

Esko's Whitney Hanson won the triple jump, with Macie Lind of Cromwell-Wright taking second and Holly Chesbrough of ML/WR finishing third. Hanson broke the school record in triple jump as an eighth-grader, then missed last year's track season as a freshman due to injury.

"I can't explain how excited we are to have Whitney back," Peterson said. "What a rollercoaster the last couple years have been for her. It is a true blessing to have her back: all her teammates missed her and I can't wait to see her compete this spring."

Barnum got an impressive win in the shot put by Annaka Bogenholm, who threw 33 feet, 10 inches. Reese Kuklinski of Esko was second and Malea Jerry of ML/WR was third.

"Annaka went to State last year," Newman said. "She has a lot of activities going on and hasn't been able to get as much time in so far this year, but when we get into the season we have high expectations for her."

The final event of the meet was the pole vault. Esko took the top three spots with Aleah Lindgren winning the event, Lucky Skifstad finishing second and Madeline Hipp taking third.

"It was very cool for coach Tate Olson because he's made the pole vault an exciting event for our kids to take interest in," Peterson said. "Aleah Lindgren is our top returner and she's made strides even after the first meet."