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Birkeland reaches podium in first state appearance

Perham's Liz Birkeland drives forward in the 3200m run during the Class A Championships at Hamline University. The seventh grade runner reached the podium with a seventh place finish in the distance race. Jason Groth/FOCUS

Competing on a big stage can be a daunting task for many athletes. Perham seventh-grader, Liz Birkeland, was not fazed by the large crowd at the Class A Championships when she earned her first career medal with a seventh place finish in the 3200 meter run at Hamline University on June 8.

After the race, she said she was sort of nervous but excited for the race. She said it was great and now is excited to take a break.

“It has been great,” Birkeland said. “I never thought this would happen. If I came here, I would never think I would medal.”

Birkeland dropped more than 30 seconds from section time when she crossed the line with a time of 11 minutes and 33.92 seconds in a loaded field. Birkeland set a new personal record in the race by 30 seconds.

Winona Cotter’s Lauren Ping finished first with a time of 10.29.77, while Math and Science Academy’s Tierney Wolfgram came in second at 10:34.17. Lauren’s older sister, Grace, came in third at 10:38.96.

“I felt great. It was nice to have competition and people to pace me,” Birkeland said. “It was good.”

Birkeland said at the beginning of the season, the 3200 race seemed kind of long, but she said it’s a lot of fun. Her plan for the championship race was simple.

“I was going to start out at a good pace and if people were starting to move up, I was going to go with them and save it for the end,” Birkeland said.

Birkeland was one of two seventh graders in the race which was dominated by ninth-and-10th graders.

“It was really nice,” Birkeland said. “The race went by so fast. It was just nice to have someone to pace you and not have to worry about it.”

Speicher moves on in the 800

Perham senior Carson Speicher patiently waited and then made his move on the backstretch to earn a second place finish in his heat of the 800m run to advance to the finals. Speicher finished with a time of 1:58.72.

Perham's Carson Speicher makes his move on the backstretch of the 800m run.

“It went really well. I knew I that I wanted to be right where i wanted with 200 to go,” Speicher said. “The first lap I was monitoring as there was a big pile-up with 100 to go in the first lap. I knew I just needed to stay with it. With 200 to go, I knew it was going to be my race. I stayed around the corner and the last 100 I kicked it in and had a real good kick. I just trusted it.”

Speicher said races can be won or lost on that backstretch of the 800 run and then kicked it into gear with a solid final kick on the front stretch to advance. Southwest Christian’s Jebadiah Merkle came in first with a time of 1:58.39.

“I knew I was going to make a move on that backstretch,” Speicher said. “If I want to compete for a state title, i have to stay with them on that backstretch. That’s what I did. I stayed with them and I needed to make it to that 100 to go point and once I got there, I knew it was my race.”

1600m relay closes strong

The Perham relay team of Logan Wallace, Chase Belka, Isaac Scheidecker and John LaFond are becoming quite familiar with the team from Wadena-Deer Creek. The four Perham runners were right on the Wolverines heels when they finished second in their heat with a time of 3:27.11 to qualify for the championships in the 1600.

Perham's Isaac Scheidecker runs alongside Wadena-DC's Chase Domier.

Wallace started things off well before handing it off to Belka. Belka was right on the heels of the second runner for Wadena-DC before handing the baton of to Isaac Scheidecker. The junior runner followed with a strong split before handing it off to John LaFond, who helped the Yellowjackets finish with a time that was more than four seconds faster than their section qualifying time.

The Yellowjackets will be seeded fourth overall for tomorrow’s championship races.

LaFond, Schultz compete in the jumps

Perham’s Martin LaFond and Mesa Schultz competed in the triple and the long jump, respectively on the opening day of the Class A Championships. Schultz finished in 17th place overall with a jump of 15 feet, 9.75 inches. She did not qualify for the finals in that event.

LaFond finished with a jump of 42 feet, 5.75 inches in the triple jump for a 12th place finish. He did not qualify for the finals as well.

Perham Individual Results

800m run-4, Carson Speicher, 1:58.72; 3200m run-7, Liz Birkeland, 11:33.92; 1600m relay-4, PER (Logan Wallace, Chase Belka, Isaac Scheidecker, John LaFond), 3:27.11; Long Jump-17, Mesa Schultz, 15-9.75; Triple Jump-12, Martin LaFond, 42-5.75.

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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