Track and field: Perham brings back a bus full of hardware from Class A state meet
The Perham track and field teams brought a bus full of hardware home from the Class A state track and field meet at St. Michael-Albertville High School.
ST. MICHAEL – A half of a point can mean different things in different sports. At the Class A state track and field meet, it meant Nova Classical Academy Knights were boys state champions.
Perham finished with 47 team points after Thursday and Friday. It was less than a point away from Nova's state championship-winning total of 47.5. Despite a frustrating end, Friday's finals gave the Yellowjackets more than enough to celebrate.
The Perham girls finished in 12th place with a score of 23.5. Perham sent a bus full of athletes to compete in 17 events at state. Here's how it shook out.
Gracie Morris is busier than most eighth-graders.
As a prominent varsity athlete in cross country, gymnastics and track, Morris has to make time to practice in her running and field events. Between offseason camps and morning practices, she ensured her time was well spent with a second-place pole vault finish.
"I'm also a distance runner, so my whole season, I had to do all of my running practices in the morning," Morris said. "I did all of my pole vaults after school. It was a lot. I did camps for it in the winter too. It was just a cool day."
Her mark of 11-feet crushed her personal record set earlier this season.
"I got it by like six inches," Morris said laughing about setting her new personal record. "I kind of thought I was going to get fifth or something because my first two vaults, I was nervous and freaking out. I didn't believe (the coaches) when they said I had a chance to win."
In the week leading up to state, Morris felt more dialed in on the pole vault with a more pointed practice plan.
"I think what helped a lot was being able to focus more on the pole vault before state," Morris said. "I was still in the 4x400. I can handle doing both distance and the pole vault. When I have full energy, I think that helps a lot."
Morris was one of two girls and three Yellowjackets in total to pole vault at state. Natalie Rooney finished in seventh place at 9-feet, 6-inches.
"When I get freaked out, (Rooney) helps me keep calm," Morris said. "She's older, so she has more experience. It's also just a lot better because when you don't have teammates, you don't know who to talk to before you go."
Levi Richter made it to state for the second year in a row in the pole vault. He cleared 12-feet for a 12th-place finish.
Morris has four more years of varsity competition left.
"Uhh, yeah," Morris said when asked if she's motivated to return to state in her freshman season. "I want to get like 12-feet next year."
For the first time in her career, Lauryn Rustad had to prepare for postseason track meets, which says a lot for a hurdler who broke the Perham school-record four times.
After losing all previous seasons to injuries and COVID-19, Rustad finally got a chance to compete with the big dogs. She finished in eighth place in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 16.30.
"I've dealt with a lot of injuries," Rustad said. "Now that I'm here, I'm thankful God got me here. I was happy to be here for the experience and hopefully make it back for my senior year… I'm proud of the work that I've put in."
"I had stress fractures in cross country my junior year. In basketball, I struggled with some ankle injuries and the same stress fractures. I've been hurt for every single track season I've ever had. To be honest, the only real experience I had was a little bit at the beginning of last year before I got hurt. I had two or three meets before it was over."
Rustad broke her own school record on Friday with a time of 15.90.
"It took a lot of hard work and a lot of courage," Rustad said. "It takes perseverance. On a personal level, all my teammates and coaches have helped me with many things in my life, not just track. It's a very supportive team atmosphere. I'm so thankful for the coaches that I have."
The best of the rest
Senior Connor Kostynick wrapped up his high school throwing career with two medals.
He took third in the discus (158-01) and seventh in the shot put (49-feet, 2-inches). Kostynick's shot put mark was the best of his career. He competed in his first state tournament after missing his sophomore and junior seasons with a torn ACL and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Perham's 4x800 boys team of Bjorn Anderson, Micah Thompson, Caden Doll and Blake Swenson took fourth place with a time of 8:19.05. Anderson also ran in the 3,200-meter race in 9:47.01. The 4x400 team of Thompson, Aiden Kennedy, Blake Swenson and McCleary took fifth with a time of 3:29.00.
The team of Liz Birkeland, Caidyn Breid, Ella Hendrickson and Leelou Novotny took 10th place in the girls 4x800-meter relay. The 4x400 girls team of Lola Pulver, Morris, Novotny and Jaden Hackel finished in 12th place with a time of 4:11.04 in Friday's prelims.
Hackel snagged a third-place finish with another personal best in the triple jump. She recorded a mark of 36-feet, 7-inches.
Full results from all three days of the Minnesota state track and field meets can be found here.
The story of Jakob McCleary's two state championships can be found here.