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Track and field: Expectations stay the same for Perham heading into promising spring season

The Perham boys and girls track teams are gearing up for a competitive track and field season in a new-look Section 6A field.

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The Perham boys distance runners, paced by Jakob McCleary, run around the track at Ted Meinhover Field on Apr. 4, 2022.
Jared Rubado / Perham Focus

PERHAM – Through the ever-changing landscape of high school sports, Perham track and field head coach Mike Peterson likes to keep things the same. His expectation for his athletes is not only to put their best foot forward each chance they get but to preserve the culture that's made Perham revered at the Class A level.

In 2021, the Yellowjacket boys took third place at the Class A state meet at St. Michael-Albertville last year. Through one indoor meet this season, Peterson was thrilled to see some of the early results.

"We had a lot of people do well. I don't think anybody had a bad meet," Peterson said. "Levi (Richter) breaking the school record was great to see in his first meet of the season. A lot of people had (personal records). Connor (Kostynick) hadn't thrown in a year and a half, and he had a 6-foot PR (in the shot put). Teagan Bennett had a 5-foot PR. All of our boys did great."

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The Perham boys hurdlers run through drills on Apr. 4, 2022 at Ted Meinhover Field in one of the first outdoor practices of the season for the Perham track and field team.
Jared Rubado / Perham Focus

Richter's pole vault of 14-feet broke his own school record set at the end of last season. He vaulted 13-feet, 9-inches at state last spring before committing to compete at North Dakota State University next year in track and field.

Jakob McCleary will run at the University of Minnesota following his senior season. First, he has some unfinished business. After winning the state championship in the 800-meter run, he's looking to go back-to-back in 2022. He's also eyeing a state title in the 1,600-meter run after finishing second at state last year.

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"We want the whole group to set their own tone," Peterson. "It's always been there that this is what we expect. Our expectations for how we want to compete are always high, so following through on that is the challenge we set out of them."

Last year, Willow Thiel, Maya Richter, and Danial Van Watermulen competed at state field events. This time around, Peterson hopes his balanced roster sends even more Yellowjackets to STMA in June.

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The Perham girls distance runners train in one of the first outdoor practices of the season at Ted Meinhover Field on Apr. 4, 2022.
Jared Rubado / Perham Focus

"The girls have been doing well," Peterson said. "We have a good variety of kids. It's a well-balanced team. We've got people that can score in a lot of different events. They're going to be really fun to watch this year. We'll see how it all works out, but I think there will be some stars that come out of there that will do extremely well."

Even though the Yellowjackets took home top-three team finishes in the team standings, Perham's focus at the Heart O'Lakes indoor meet was to get a feel for where a handful of athletes are at in the early part of the season.

"For us, we took it as more of a boredom breaker and a scrimmage," Peterson said of the HOL indoor meet. "We weren't going to get too whipped up about it–good or bad. We wanted to give ourselves a measuring stick to start the season. We didn't take everybody. We left about half of our team back, which is fine. We wanted people who could place and who were ready at this point in time. It was just good to get on a track again."

"As far as the team," you always wonder where you're at," Peterson said of the beginning of the season. "I think we're right where we need to be at this point and time. We did very well at our meet last week. There were a lot of good surprises. I'm happy with how things are going.

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Olivia Rosenthal runs through drills on Apr. 4, 2022 at Ted Meinhover Field in one of the first outdoor practices of the season for the Perham track and field team.

The Minnesota State High School League added a third class to boys and girls track and field. Perham is gearing up for a competitive Section 6A field after the state-wide realignment.

"The expectations for the boys and girls are always the same," Peterson said. "It hasn't changed in years. We're here to win the conference, section and get as many people down to state as possible. Then, we want to bring home as many medals as we can. It's always been that, and it's never going to change. You can throw true team state in there too."

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"Nothing changes for us at all," Peterson said. "All of the teams in our section are teams we see regularly in the conference or true team. I think it's probably given some people in certain events a better chance to get to state now. There will also be some events that are tougher. Just because it's Class A, it doesn't mean it will be easy. I think that a lot of them are looking at it like it's a good opportunity. We're sticking to the plan we have every year. It's gone well so far. We just need to get some warm weather."

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The Perham boys hurdlers run through drills on Apr. 4, 2022 at Ted Meinhover Field in one of the first outdoor practices of the season for the Perham track and field team.

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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