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Esko boys, girls rule Section 7A meet

Section 7A is one of the largest sections in the state for track, with 22 teams with boys and girls competing to qualify individually for the week's state track meet. A plethora of Carlton County talent was headed south to St. Michael Thursday through Saturday after the May 30 section meet at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Esko won top honors in both the boys and girls divisions with the Esko girls narrowly squeaking by Two Harbors by a point and the Esko boys with an easy victory over the field.


Esko has numerous athletes heading to State, including 100-meter hurdle champion Gwen Lilly, who also was on the second-place 4x100 relay team. Joining Lilly on the relay team are Reese Kuklinski, Kaitlyn McConnell and Whitney Hanson.

Hanson also will head to State in the triple jump, where she placed second. Also heading to State is Gianna Madill, who finished second in the high jump with a leap of 4 feet, 10 inches.

"I'm so proud of my girls, there are so many talented athletes and teams in Section 7A and winning the meet drives home our philosophy of sharing one another's successes and being willing to put the team first," said Esko coach Matt Peterson. "Every athlete who competed in the section meet had a hand in this team achievement."

The girls team has only two seniors on its roster, in Gwen Lilly and Kyra Johnson.

"While Gwen's senior journey continues for one more week, qualifying in the hurdles and as a member of the 4x100-meter relay, both of them influenced the team as leaders," Peterson said.

• Cromwell-Wright senior Emaleigh Olesiak was twice an individual winner on Thursday, by winning the 1,600-meter run in a time of 5:19.20 and then taking first in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 11:49.45.

"Emaleigh obviously had a great day," said Dave Foster, Cardinals head coach. "She won in two events and ran the fastest times in those two events in over eight years. We are looking forward to her adding to her extremely successful season next week at state."

Barnum also had a double winner in Annaka Bogenholm, who took first place in the shot put and the discus. Bogenholm tossed the shot 36 feet, 4 inches to narrowly beat out Esko's Kuklinski for first. In the discus, Bogenholm bested another Esko athlete, Maya Johnson, to once again take top honors.

"Annaka has put a lot of time into her career here in Barnum as a thrower," coach Rich Newman said. "She went to State last year and is on her way again, and that is quite an accomplishment."

• Moose Lake/Willow River will send its 4x200 girls relay team, which placed first with a time of 1:49.38. Heading to state for the Rebels will be Jocelyn Mundell, Maddie Volk, Jorja Jusczak and Tyler Orvedahl.

"I think everyone did well," Mundell said. "Everyone has worked so hard this season, and it really showed in this meet and past ones."

• Carlton/Wrenshall had a number of good performances, but only one girl, Brielle Simula, will head to State. Simula placed second in the 800-meters with an impressive time of 2:26.65.

"Our star performance," said Carlton/Wrenshall co-coach Kevin Olesen. "Brielle has run so well this season that this wasn't unexpected. She's one of the best runners I've coached. I'm excited for her to get to run at State."


The Esko boys led the way with state-qualifying performances in eight events.

Esko coach Gary Beaudot called the day "incredible."

"Winning the section championship for the second year in a row was truly a team effort, with too many (personal records) to mention," he said.

Spencer Hipp and Ryan Sturm each qualified for State in three events. Hipp was second in the 400, second in the pole vault and part of the 4x400 relay team. Sturm was also on the 4x400 relay team along with Jacob Randa and Dalton Spindler. Sturm also qualified on the 4x100 relay, which finished second. He was joined on that relay team by Dalton Spindler, Jace Stewart and Jacion Owens.

"Spencer Hipp and Ryan Sturm qualifying for three events each was amazing," Beaudot said.

Koi Perich won the 100-meters for Esko and was also second in the long jump. He had to pull out with an injury on the top-ranked 4x200 relay.

"Braedyn Male showed his consistency by qualifying in the high jump again this year," Beaudot said. "It was an emotional rollercoaster of a day for all, but it ended with many smiles."

Barnum athletes also had a big day with a number of them qualifying for the state meet. The Bombers were led by Spencer Strohm, who won the 110-meter hurdles, with his teammate Haden Charboneau finishing second. Strohm also took first in the high jump with a leap of 6 feet.

"Spencer Strohm had the best day of a Barnum track athlete in a long time," said Barnum coach Rich Newman. "It was simply a great performance."

Barnum also has a pair of throwers going to state with second-place finishes: Jacob Liimatainen in the shot put, and Mark Hall in discus.

• Cromwell-Wright has Dylan Nyberg and Phoenix Anderson at State. Nyberg was second in the 200-meters and Anderson was second in the 800-meters. Both Nyberg and Anderson were on the winning 4x800 relay team with Braham Jordan and Lane Gervais.

"Dylan was very busy at the section meet," coach Dave Foster said. "He medaled in four events and qualified for State in two events. Dylan is a rare breed of athlete who can qualify in a sprint race and a distance race on the same day."

• Carlton/Wrenshall will be represented at State, with Jack Riley winning the 3200-meter run. He was also a part of the Raptors second-place 4x800 relay with Dave Tuttle, AJ Olesen and Dylan Manning.

"Our boys ... had a great day," said Raptors co-coach Kevin Olesen. "Bringing a relay to State is so big for our team because of the number of kids who get to be a part of the experience. And then Jack closed out our section's day with a dominant win in the 3200."

• Moose Lake/Willow River's Kaden Robbins, Layne Radczak, Chase Clausen and Jaxsyn Schmidt will all attend State in two events. The group won the 4x100 relay and then took second in the 4x200 relay.

"It was a great day for me and my teammates," Robbins said. "We ran some good races, but know we can only do better at the state meet."

The Rebels also had a first-place finish by Elliott Wasche in the 1600-meters.

"Elliott has been focused and determined all season and will be bringing his best to the state meet," said Rebels coach Noah Jurek. "The excitement of qualifying for State is past this team. They have been here before, podiumed before, now they want more. Look for this team to bring another level this week."

• South Ridge has one state runner in Alex Burckhardt, who was second in the 3200-meters.

The state meet begins Thursday and runs through Saturday at St. Michael-Albertville High School, west of the Twin Cities area.

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