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Strong finish for Perham track and field at Class A Championships

Perham's Ashley Hokanson clears the bar at 10-6 in her third attempt. The sophomore eventually cleared 11-3, earning a third place finish at the Class A Championships in her first year of pole vaulting. Jason Groth/FOCUS1 / 2
Perham's Lacy Richter sprints towards the finish line on the front stretch of the 4x800 meter relay during the 2017 Class A Championships at Hamline University in St. Paul. Jason Groth/FOCUS2 / 2

It was a successful end to a strong track and field season for the Perham Yellowjackets during day two of the Class A Championships at Hamline University on June 10. Every Yellowjacket that competed came home with a medal of some form.

For Ashley Hokanson, it was a perfect end for her first season in the pole vault. The sophomore set the school mark during the regular season and set a new personal mark during the Class A Championships. Hokanson finished third, clearing 11 feet, three inches on her first attempt.

“It feels good just to even make it to state,” Hokanson said. “I wish our other two pole vaulters could have came with because they were so close this year. I wasn’t expecting third, I’m just so happy that I made it.”

Hokanson started the day well, but ran into some trouble at 10-6. She missed on her first two attempts, but corrected and cleared the bar on her third and final attempt at that height.

Hokanson sailed through the next three heights, clearing 10-9, 11-0 and 11-3 on her first try. However, she wasn’t able to clear 11-6 in her three attempts.

Staples-Motley’s Millie Klefsaas broke her own state record when she cleared 12-3 on her first attempt. She went for 12-6, but was unable to clear that height.

Hokanson said it was the best performance that she could ask for in her first season of pole vaulting, securing a personal best and a third place finish at state.

Perham Sophomores capture fourth

The Yellowjackets kicked the day off with a fourth place finish in the 4x800 meter relay. The team of Ashley Hokanson, Hailey Wegscheid, Caitlin Covington and Lacy Richter came in with a time of nine minutes, 46.26 seconds. The four sophomores all sported matching Cars backpack, saying the like to go fast, which they did during the championships.

The meet featured scorching temperatures with a strong wind. It made running down the backstretch and adventure for many of the athletes.

“The wind was a pain,” Richter said. “But, you have to do what you have to do.”

It was an improvement on last year’s 10th place finish, which was a motivating factor for the Yellowjackets after missing the podium in 2016.

“Last year, getting 10th kind of sucked because of no medal,” Richter said. “This year we really worked towards getting a medal and getting as high as we can.”

The four runners said they their camaraderie really helps them on the track.

“Our team is so strong, because we are so close and it helps us push each other,” Wegscheid said. “We know that we are doing it for each other and not ourselves.”

Covington fourth in the 1600

It was a bittersweet end to Brynnan Covington’s track and field career. The North Dakota State University recruit was tripped up on the final lap, where she went down to the ground. However, the senior got right back up and sprinted towards the finish line, finishing fourth overall.

“It’s really hard because it was my last one. It was kind of disappointing with how it went. It felt really good the first three laps. I thought for sure I had it in me with the last 200 to go and maybe win a state title,” Covington said. “I was so close and felt so good. I tripped and everything paused for a second. I was like did this just happen and got up as fast as I could to hold on to whatever place I was in. I just finished the last 200, but it felt longer than the entire mile itself. It was an awkward race and crazy to grasp onto.”

Covington quickly got back up after the incident and sprinted to a fourth place finish, ending with a time of 5:10.49. She said she didn’t know what place she was in at the time and was focusing on giving it all that she got. She said she knew she wasn’t hurt.

“It felt like forever in what probably was a split second,” Covington said. “It’s crazy and I don’t know how to describe it. I can’t believe it actually happened.”

It may not have been the ideal ending for Covington, but looking back at her career, she ends as one of Perham’s decorated athletes and will continue her running career with the Bison. She capped off the 2017 season with a pair of medals, finishing third in the 3200 meter run the day prior.

“Overall, it’s been amazing being a Yellowjacket and being able to come down here, represent my town and I know I was able to accomplish my goals as a younger athlete,” Covington said. “As a younger athlete looking up to who I am now, I’d be really proud of myself. It’s just kind of hard now with the situation I am in where I could have done better. It’s hard to accept that.”

Tierney Wolfgram of the Math and Science Academy was the eventual winner, finishing with a time of 5:05.00. Byron’s Taylor Kreitinger came in second place, while Triton’s Courtney West was third.

Other Perham Results

A dropped exchange hampered the Perham girls 4x100 meter relay but the foursome came home with a ninth place finish. The team of Sydney Bahls, Lizzy Lafond, Gabby DeBoer and Mesa Schultz came in with a time of 55.55 seconds, earning a spot on the podium.

As a team, the Perham girls finished eighth in the team standings. They earned 30 points towards their team score. Minneapolis Edison captured the team title, finishing with 48 points. Pequot Lakes was second with 41.50 points, followed by Belle Plaine in third and Byron in fourth.

The Perham boys team capped off the season, finishing 31st overall. They recorded 10 team points towards their score. Plainview-Elgin-Millville finished first with 58 points. Pequot Lakes was second with 42 points, followed by Pipestone Area and Ottertail Central.

Perham’s 4x400 meter relay team reached the podium, finishing seventh overall. The team of Logan Wallace, Adam Siira, John LaFond and Carson Speicher came in with a time of 3:30.94. Their time was slightly off the pace from their preliminary qualifying time, but that was the case most of the day with athletes battling the scorching heat and the strong winds.

Perham’s Hunter Kjelshus capped off his career with an eighth place finish in the 1600 meter run, earning his second medal of the championships. He reached the podium with a seventh place finish in the 3200 meter run the day prior. He finished with a time of 4:29.57. Speicher followed Kjelshus across the line. Speicher finished ninth overall, securing the final spot on the podium. The junior runner finished with a time of 4:32.07.

Martin LaFond capped off his junior season in the long jump. He qualified for the finals, but was unable to reach the podium, just missing out. He finished with a leap of 20 feet, 11.75 inches. His best jump came on his second attempt. He eclipsed the 20 foot mark in four of his six attempts.

Jason Groth

 Groth is a Minnesota Newspaper Association award-winning Sports Editor of the Perham Focus and the Wadena Pioneer Journal. Groth worked in Grand Rapids as the Sports Director at KOZY/KMFY radio for two years and prior to that he was the Sports Editor/Writer for the Grand Rapids Herald-Review for seven years. 

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