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Patriots win 2 titles at state track meet

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The Pequot Lakes boys’ and girls’ track and field team again made history at the Class A state meet on Friday and Saturday, June 7-8, at Hamline University in St. Paul.

The Patriots’ had their first event champion two years ago when their girls’ 4x100-meter relay of Rachel Allen, Kendra Johnson, Nicole Traut and Vanessa Lane finished first. Last year, Nolan Michaelson won the Class A long jump to become the first individual to win an individual state title. And on Saturday, June 8, Pequot Lakes had its first female individual champion as junior Vanessa Lane won the 100 dash. The Patriots also had multi-champions in the same season as the 4x100 girls’ relay of Rachel Allen, Abby Palmer, Chloe Bermel and Lane triumphed.

As a team, the Patriots finished seventh out of 72 teams with 33 points. Pequot Lakes was actually just three points out of fourth place.

“We’ve overcome a lot of hurdles in the past couple of years, and now we have a great foundation for the future,” said Brian Kazmierczak, who is resigning as the Patriots’ girls’ coach to take a position this fall as principal at Barnum High School. “I hope now the girls realize how close they are (to winning state). Hopefully, with extra training over the summer they will get stronger for next season. We have a core group of girls who could really contribute to a state championship.”

The Pequot Lakes girls return most of their regulars, including Lane. The junior set a variety of records this spring, and qualified for state in the 100, 200 and as the anchor for the 4x100 relay.

Lane won the 100 in 12.53 seconds on Saturday after being the top qualifier on Friday. She defeated runner-up Haley Jensen of Martin County West with 12.65.

“(Jensen) beat me at the Elite Meet this spring when she was second and I was fifth,” Lane said of the Hamline meet that mixes Class A and AA athletes. “A couple girls were close to my time in the prelimins, so I knew (the finals) would be close. But I had more confidence this year.”

Lane advanced to state in the 100 as a freshman, but didn’t make the finals. Last year, she missed a trip back to state in the 100 after finishing third at sections. She did compete at state in 2012 in three relays.

“The way that Vanessa has been running all year, I had a feeling this would be a good meet,” said Kazmierczak, who added that Lane’s start was the key to her success. “She was working on her starts all year. And she had a great start in the preliminaries and in the final. When she has a great start, Vanessa will have a good race because her stride is longer than most runners.”

About one half our after Lane’s victory in the 100, the Patriots captured a second championship in the girls’ 4x100 as the relay finished in 49.54. Kazmierczak said the relay was a perfect mix between Allen’s maturity with four years running the first leg, followed by Bermel’s key contribution as an eighth-grader running one of the longest legs, Palmer’s experience as a senior, and Lane’s speed as one of the quickest girls at state.

“The relay was great,” Kazmierczak said. “They set the school record in the preliminaries and broke it again in the final. It takes a lot of work to get the (baton) exchanges down, and they were flawless.

“Rachel does such a good job starting the relay and has matured in the role. Chloe made it to state last year on the 4x400 relay, and was able to switch to the 4x100. Running the second (leg) is big for an eighth-grader since they have the longest distance. Abby worked hard for her spot, and her experience was important. And Vanessa was warmed up after just running the 100. When we get the baton to Vanessa, it’s a relief because you have one of the fastest girls at the meet.”

Lane enjoys sharing a state title with her relay teammates.

“I think I like winning more on a relay because it’s a team effort,” said, who was also a member of the 4x100 that finished third at state last year. “Rachel caught a girl ahead of her, Chloe picked up ground and Abby did a nice job. We were neck-and-neck with several teams when I got the baton. I knew we had (won) when I couldn’t hear anyone right behind me with 50 meters to go.”

Lane also finished fourth in the 200 dash in 25.85 seconds.

“Vanessa was a little disappointed with her time in the preliminaries,” Kazmierczak said. “She was a little tired (after running the other two finals), but she still finished with a great time.”

The Patriots also placed seventh in the 4x400 relay as Brittny Bzdok, Grace McGuire, Sarah Rudlang and Bermel finished in 4:09.88 in the final.

“Those four are a good mix,” Kazmierczak said. “Brittny had a great first leg and Sarah did a great job holding her spot. Grace is so steady and calm for a seventh-grader, and Chloe was pretty motivated coming off the 4x100 championship.

“It’s too bad the weather started to change, and they speeded up the meet. We didn’t have a good chance to warm up, and we found out how important that is.”

Tappe ties Class A record

Pequot Lakes’ junior Tyler Tappe finished second in the pole vault, but he does have part of the meet record with a leap of 15 feet, 6 inches in the final. Tappe shares the record with Grant Kreiger of Blake School, who reached the 15-6 mark on his first attempt to clinch the pole vault title.

“(Tyler) has vaulted a lot with Grant,” said Pequot Lakes coach Dave Guenther. “They are also friends, so for them to share (the record) is pretty cool. Grant is a senior, and he came up to Tyler and said ‘I will be disappointed if you don't get the bar over 16 feet next year.’"

Guenther added that Tappe’s performance at state was impressive since the junior had limited practice time this spring between the weather and the remodeling project at Pequot Lakes High School.

“After missing out on state last year, it was nice for him to come back (to state) and reach his personal best and set a school record,” Guenther said.

Tappe actually used the meets as a time to practice.

"I would do lower heights to get in more vaults," he said. "I also practiced vaulting indoors on Sundays during the winter because I knew I wouldn't have many (outdoor) practices this spring."

The Patriots’ Travis Jacobson was fifth in the shot put with 50 feet, 8.5 inches.

“His goal for the year was to break the 50-foot mark,” Guenther said. “That’s the magic mark. He was so close all year, so it was neat to reach his personal best at state.”

Pequot Lakes’ 4x100 relay of Cole Funk, Chris Haman, Isaac Allen and Tappe finished 13th in preliminaries in 45.59.

“They did all right,” Guenther said of the relay. “Chris is a ninth-grader who stepped up and was a pleasant surprise. Cole came out this year for the first time, and Isaac and Tyler have been on the 4x100 relay for three years.”

Class A state

Top girls teams (73 total teams): 1-Warroad and Milaca 42, 3-Blake School 41, 4-Plainview-Elgin-Millville 36, 5-Breck and Watertown-Mayer 34, 7-Pequot Lakes 33.

Individual finals

100 dash – 1-Vanessa Lane 12.53; 2-Haley Jensen (Martin County West) 12.65

200 dash – 1-Kaija Crowe (Milaca) 25.38; 4-Lane 25.85

4x100 relay – 1-Pequot Lakes (Rachel Allen, Abby Palmer, Chloe Bermel, Lane) 25.38

4x400 relay – 7-Pequot Lakes (Brittny Bzdok, Grace McGuire, Sarah Rudlang, Chloe Bermel) 4:09.88

Top boys teams: 1-Foley 62, 2-Murray County Central and Perham 40, 19-Pequot Lakes 15

4x200 relay – 13-Pequot Lakes (Cole Funk, Chris Haman, Isaac Allen, Tyler Tappe) 45.59

Pole vault – 1-Grant Krieger 15-6; 2-Tappe 15-6

Shot put – 5-Travis Jacobson 50-8.5